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The Need For Speed juggernaut rolled on as popular as ever in 2006 with its tenth instalment Carbon appearing in various guises on more than a dozen formats. Lacking the pyrotechnics of its HD counterparts, NFS Carbon: Own The City remains a solid and playable PSP racer with a few novel twists, but is let down by some technical frailties and a lack of variety in its race setups.
Taking inspiration from the likes of Gone In 60 Seconds and The Fast And The Furious, Carbon places you in a moody, permanently-evening cityscape tasked with winning street races. Along the way you'll get to buy and tune cars, ruin them with silly wings and ill-judged luminescent paint jobs, and capture 14 sections of turf held by rival city gangs. To add a little spice, the narrative sees you cast as a guy who has lost his memory after a crash that killed his brother. With an ever-increasing band of allies, you're tasked with getting to the bottom of who was behind the incident, beating everyone until you quite literally own the city. The premise is interesting enough, even if the plot is clichéd and poorly articulated, in short scenes that seem more like vague summaries than coherent dialogue exchanges.
Still, Carbon's not about storytelling, it's about racing and in this respect it's rather more assured. Street races typically see you battling with three other A.I. controlled cars, and due to the nature of the city, there's a multitude of routes that make full use of its locales. Only first place yields prize-money and progress, but you have 'wingmen' on hand to help. Up to two allies can aid you, each with their own special ability available for deployment at the touch of a button. There are three different types of wingman; Brawlers who plough into opponents, clearing the road ahead; Assassins that lay down spike strips with much the same effect; and Drafters, who create an exaggerated slip-stream vacuum you can drive in to gain extra speed. This wingman gimmick is not a bad idea and adds an element of tactics to the proceedings, though the dubious A.I. makes its usefulness limited. Your wingmen quite often crash when or spear into you, and they are prone to getting caught up in battles with other cars, meaning that they sometimes take an age to catch you up. Likewise, the fact the Brawler and Assassin moves can only be used on cars ahead of you is strange and drastically reduces their participation in comparison to the Drafter move.
The handling is okay on the whole, though it tends to wander quite a bit meaning quick jabs on the D-Pad are preferable to the analogue nub. Skilled cornering and ample use of the brakes aren't high on the agenda; it's more about speed and nerve, though EA's efforts to turn it into a kind of open-world Burnout (something Burnout later achieved itself with Paradise) runs into some problems.
Whilst the city is well realised, the free-roam function feels tacked-on. There's little incentive to use it, firstly because all of the cities challenges can be accessed directly from the pause menu and secondly because the locations feel weird and empty without the spectacle of a race. The roads are so lifeless that it's actually quite jarring when you do come across the very occasional, single vehicle drifting along, and they never seem to come in pairs or groups. Other than route-mapping, the only purposes of exploring the city is to find some bonus crates and to start a police chase, whereby escape rewards you in currency and reputation bonuses.
Despite there being several event types, they're surprisingly samey. Circuit and Sprint are virtually the same except the former takes place on a connected loop of road whilst the latter is point-to-point. Elsewhere, Lap Knockout is the same as Circuit only the last placed driver gets eliminated at the end of every lap. Escape and Delivery both give you the illusion of choice as to the route you want to take to reach your destination - though in truth it's always quickest to just follow the marker arrow. Knockout is the one really different game mode as it involves wrecking a set number of opponents by crashing into them, spinning them round, squeezing them against barriers and so on. The crashes are pretty weak - opponents just flash and disappear when their damage threshold is reached, but it's a good bit of fun anyway and the collisions are pretty convincing.
The racing itself is decent with some blistering speeds and fun wheel-to-wheel battles that remain engaging thanks to a smartly judged difficulty curve. With nearly thirty cars (half a dozen of which are exclusive to the PSP version), there's plenty to cater for all types, from the Mazda's and Pontiac's you set out with, to big-hitting manufacturers such as Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Lamborghini which become available at the business end of the game. The tune-up options genuinely make a difference and thus accumulating money yields palpable rewards, and it's a bit of a modder's dream as you can tinker with paint jobs, wings, rims and even windscreen tints to your heart's content.
Unusually for EA though, there are some bugs that mar the experience a touch. Own The City has a nasty habit of having a graphical layer fail to animate midway through a race; four or five times the road and barriers simply vanished, leaving you with the hopeless task of guessing where to position your car to avoid an inevitable collision with something invisible, failing, and having to restart. The faster races also became a bit jerky, even with the relatively modest field of cars. The city looks pretty good, with some nice environment details and generally lovely presentation. Surprisingly, it's the cars that are the graphical weak link; they look simplistic, with the various paint-jobs accentuating the overly pointy, angular texturing.
As is the way, NFS Carbon: Own The City has its own licensed soundtrack, and produces a customarily odd mix of fairly standard hip-hop and processed dance tracks. A moody remix of Goldfrapp's "Ride A White Horse" and Gary Numan's electropop classic "Are 'Friends' Electric?" are the most notable songs to appear, though the rather meagre track listing means you'll hear the same tunes rather a lot.
It has its shortcomings, but on the whole PSP fans will be pretty happy with NFS Carbon: Own The City. Whilst its race setups are unimaginative and technical foibles prevent it from making the richly detailed city as compelling a location as it should have been, a lot of work has clearly been invested in make a quality product. It's stylishly presented, features a dynamic range of cars and the hundred or so race challenges ensure an enduring challenge that you won't finish in an evening, even if it doesn't adapt to the small-screen as smoothly as Ridge Racer.
I find the Need for Speed series a bit hit and miss, because they're not all that original, but Own the City is still a lot of fun even if it doesn't reinvent the wheel. It's a game that offers up a sufficient challenge, while not being repetitive and laborious like a lot of racers; there's enough to come back to while not being cumbersome.
The main bulk of the game will see you playing the game's story races, where you have to attempt to take the city from the grasp of other players and "own" it through your exceptional driving. It's hardly clever or nuanced, but then when has a racing game ever REALLY had an engaging narrative? Once you're through with that, there's a Burnout-esque sandbox mode where you can just cruise around, and if you want, start smashing stuff up.
The PSP gets a lot of stick for its one-stick control scheme, and while it often impacts FPS games most, it is fine for racers like this. The PSP's layout isn't the best for racing, but after a few minutes you'll be totally set, even if it isn't really very intuitive.
Visually, this really pops; the texture work is particularly impressive for the PSP, with the vehicles looking very realistic and also having robust physics when you crash. The environments are similarly well rendered, especially impressive given the more expansive, open-ended nature of this game's world. Aurally, it's got some fun music, and rather excellent is the option to add your own songs via memory stick (although only for the menus, sadly).
Own the City offers plenty of options and fun gameplay to make it a worthwhile racer despite not being very original. Still, it'll keep avid racing fans occupied for ages as there's so much to do!
Need for Speed Carbon for the PSP is a game in the Need for Speed series and is based on the console versions of the game it was made by Electronics Arms and released in 2006.
The game is set in the fictionally city Coast City and has a different story to the version on the consoles and includes a few new cars the Audi TT and the Chevrolet Cobalt SS for you to play with.
As in all the games there is plenty of different game types for you to choose from with the main one being the story mode where you have to win races to advance through the ranks and become the most wanted racer.
There is plenty of cars to choose from and each one can be customised a bit to your liking.
The music is pretty good with decent soundtracks on it, the audio in the cut scenes and game play is good.
The controls are simple to learn and easy to use, these should cause you no problems, as with all the Need for Speed games the graphics are pretty good with the landscape being fairly detailed but the game runs fairly smoothly though.
The game is pretty slow to play and advance but it is not hard to complete as even on the harder levels the computer players are not really that quick and do not take much practice for you to beat.
Value for Money
With plenty of cars to choose from and different race types you can keep on playing this game and each time it will be slightly different, the game is pretty addictive at times and you can easily play it again once you have completed it.
My rating 6 out of 10
This game begins with you in hospital, with severe memory loss, and the news your brother had been killed in the same accident which put you in hospital in the first place.
You then must complete different racing missions and challenges throughout the city, as you try to, own the city and seek justice for the loss of your brother.
This is basically a scaled down version of the same title for the XBOX 360, but for the size of the console, I think it fares very well and should not be discarded in favour of the bigger game.
This game has great graphics considering, and the choice of available cars, which, is a big influence on the quality of a game, is really spctacular. With some carefully won prize money you could be drifting 'round the city in the wildest pimped Nissan you could imagine was achievable. You could also go for the retro 'Evo' if you prefer the handling option, or evern an Aston DB9 if excessive speed is what you desire.
Basically a really good game which offers great entertainment and will add real excitement to any racing collection.
Unlike some of the other versions of NFS, this game revolves around a main storyline where, during a street race, you and your brother (Mick) are competing in a race, before something goes wrong, leaving you in hospital with a total loss of memory, and your brother dead. You take control six months later, back on your feet, determined to find what exactly happened in the accident, and who was responsible for the death of your brother. You start to compete in different races against different people from around the city, winning respect, and also gaining new people to your crew - which can be used as wingmen.
Wingman can be used in some of your events to give you an advantage over the other cars at winning, coming in the form of Brawlers (can knock opposing cars out for a few seconds), Assassins (can lay down spikes on the road to slow opposing cars down) and Drafters (can race ahead giving you a slipstream, hence making you faster). My two preferred Wingman are the Brawlers and the Drafters. This is because drafters can take out the car in front without slowing you down (unlike assassins which can temporarily take you out if you drive over their spikes), and also Drafters, as they enable a quick get away when you're in front. I do however find the Wingman to be annoying in some races when they get out of your way... you could be coming second place, then you send your wingman to take out the first placed car (which he does successfully), and then you crash into him, ending worse off than you were before (This can be easily prevented though by keeping an eye on where you wingman go ahead of you.).
On working through the game, taking over new districts (by beating the leaders), you get awarded with more and money, allowing you to buy new cars and modify them, giving a bigger chance of beating your rivals.
The game works around Coast City, with several different districts, in which you can roam around freely at any time you wish. Occasionally, you can compete against rival crew cars in a race, or even make quick getaways from cops.
The districts are unlocked one at a time, after beating each boss. To take on the crew boss, you have to beat their crew, which is done through a series of different events. These events are circuit races (a number of laps around a track), Sprint races (one end of the city to the other for example), Knockout races (3 laps for example, with the last car being knocked out after each lap), Escape events (where you have to escape from rival crews before the time runs out), Crew takedowns (you have to chase a given number of crew cars and collide with them to earn takedowns), and delivery events (where you must get to a specific delivery point before any of your rival cars). My most favourite events have to be the Crew takedowns (because they are new, and really get your heart pumping when you have two more cars to take out, and less than 10 seconds to do it), and also sprint races (as the whole way through the tack is different, compared to circuits where your constantly coming across the same pieces of track).
Cars in the game are very vast, varying from exotic cars, to muscle, which can all be modified in different ways. The online mode I found to be quite good, with plenty of people always online, however, I found this to lag a little, with most people you race choosing the best cars in the game (which you only had access to if you had unlocked it).
Game play isn't up to standards either, as when driving at fast speeds, I found my car to be jumping around the track a little, which wasn't very good in terms of realism. Handling of the cars is probably the best part of the game, with the car moving around the track much more realistically than previous racing games I have played.
Compared to previous NFS versions, I don't particularly find this to be one of the best, but it does provide many of hours of fun. The newly added wingmen are pretty cool, and the soundtrack isn't too bad, but the lack of drifting modes and the lag you get at fast speeds both a downfall.
Other than that, if you like fast cars, and/or modifying cars, they I would certainly give this game a try.
What starts in the city is settled in the canyons as Need for Speed Carbon immerses you in the world's most dangerous and adrenaline-filled form of street racing. You and your crew must race in an all-out war for the city, risking everything to take over your rivals' neighbourhoods one block at a time. As the police turn up the heat, the battle ultimately shifts to Carbon Canyon, where territories and reputations can be lost on every perilous curve. Represent your car class, your crew, and your turf in Need for Speed Carbon, the next revolution in racing games.