Need for Speed Carbon
Game Review

Need For Speed Carbon
Company: Electronic Arts

Price: $39.99

This is actually the second time I have written this review. You never read the first. The first few weeks of playing Need For Speed: Carbon was done using the keyboard as the controller, and in truth, it sucked. Need For Speed: Carbon (just Carbon from this point on) is a racing game and, like any other racing game, really requires a good controller to play it. While a keyboard and a mouse may be perfect for a WarCraft type of game, it really does not work well for a racing or driving game.

So in my original review, I spent a lot of time complaining about the controls. No need to complain now that I am using the XBox 360 Wired USB controller on my Mac thanks to Colin Munro’s Pref360Control software that allows it to be used with a Mac. If you have need for what I consider one of the three best game controllers out there, check out the Mac drivers at

Now on to Carbon…

First, I am a casual fan of racing games. My preferred racing games over the past few years have been the Midnight Club games. While Need For Speed usually had better graphics than the Midnight Club games, I prefer the more free-for-all and city designs of the later games. While I had tried a few Need For Speed titles, they were rentals, and none moved me enough to buy. Carbon has changed my mind.

Playing Carbon on my iMac with its 24″ screen is amazing. Vibrant colors, fast action, and great driving dynamics make the game graphically stunning and engaging. The level of detail in the city itself, the backdrop to your racing activities, makes the player feel as if they are in a real place. The world in the game has a real feel to it, much more so than any other racing game I have played. The only other games that had a “real” feel to the world for me was the GTA titles; Crackdown, Saints Row, and The Godfather. (Hey, EA, how about bringing The Godfather to the Mac?) While the traffic in the game feels natural, it’s never a burden to the gamer.

The object in Carbon is to win races and take over territories in the city. There is a story line here, but I usually skip past the entire well-acted dialog and get to the actual game play. Some players will enjoy the story as it develops, but I just want to customize my ride and race.

Customizing your car is fun! You start out with a pretty plain vanilla ride, and as you win races, you win money that you can use to increase the potency or decor of your car. At first, it’s all about getting the Nitro boost, better tires and suspension, a better engine, and the like. But you’re also able to upgrade your paint job, graphics, tinted windows, spoiler, and much more. You car really becomes what you want it to be.

Getting around the city in Carbon is as easy as driving from one event to another. You can use the Map in the game to jump directly to different events, thus saving you the time from driving there. (This can take a little time, as this is one BIG city.) Personally, I enjoyed driving myself.

The actual racing is a blast. Going flat-out, careening around hairpin turns, hitting the Nitro at just the right moment, and screaming across the finish line in first place is a joy. But unlike most other racing games, here you can have a partner in another car in the race whose only purpose is to help you win. This is done by you giving your teammates directions and orders, such as “Block that guy” They also give you hints and clues about how best to win a race, so listening to them is important.

The music in the game is not bad, but I found myself turning off the music and simply starting up my own playlist in iTunes instead. While the techno-like tunes are fine and lend themselves well to the atmosphere the game is trying to create, I prefer my own musical selection. So thanks to EA for letting me turn off the game music, without also having to kill the rest of the games audio.

An important aspect of Carbon is learning the city and different shortcuts while racing. This is particularly important for time trials, in which you have to get from point A to B in under X seconds. Your teammates will also be of help, as some of them are designed to do just that; find shortcuts in any given route or race. Other teammates are used to block the other drivers, which can be helpful in tight races.

While not the most realistic driving experience out there, Need For Speed Carbon has what you really want from a racing game: a lot of fun!

Pros: Fun racing action. Not heavy-duty system requirements. Online play.
Cons: Poor menu design, no daytime driving.

While I have not played everything, I think that this is the best racing game on the Macintosh. Rating: 4 out of 5

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