The gameplay in Carbon should be familiar to NFS fans. The handling (at least in the race events) feels exactly like it did in Most Wanted, which is a good thing. Carbon introduces the concept of teammates during races that you can order to take out opposing drivers. An interesting concept and it is easy enough to use, but I would much rather have the focus entirely on racing.
Drift races are a completely different animal than before. Unlike in NFSU2 where you had complete control over how and when your drift started, in Carbon your car loses traction almost immediately when you try to turn. Your first race will probably be a disaster, but once you get used to it and realize that subtle movements and being smooth are more important than just slamming your car sideways ASAP, the drifting is a lot more enjoyable. Is it better than the drifting in the Underground series? Id have to say no. One of our favorite ways to play Underground 2 was to hook up a couple of steering wheels and really feel like we were drifting, which was insanely fun and satisfying. I dont think that is going to really be possible on Carbon because the controls in drift mode are so loose that it would be incredibly frustrating to try and use a wheel. During races, Im sure a wheel will be fine, but not during drifting. Well have to see how the final product handles before we come to a solid conclusion, though.
One aspect of the game that is absolutely amazing is the customization feature. Each part of the car front and rear bumper, side skirt, hood, exhaust, and wheels can now be morphed and molded any way you want. It is incredibly easy to use and will allow you to make a truly custom car now. Just being able to make custom wheels is a dream come true for me. I spent months just making new cars in NFSU2 long after I was tired of the racing, and it seems that this aspect of Carbon will keep me hooked just as long.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics and sound in the demo were ok, but they likely arent fully representative of the final product. It looks ok, but Im not crazy about having all of the races at night. The sound is typical EA licensed music and typical engine noises.
Need for Speed Carbon introduces some new ideas and it can be pretty fun, but I have some concerns. The racing isnt different enough (although well have to see how the team aspect really influences the game) and the drifting is too different from before. The presentation also doesnt seem to be much of an improvement over Most Wanted. The customization aspect is much better than what we had in Most Wanted, though, so at the very least we have that to look forward to. Need for Speed Carbon is currently scheduled to ship to stores on October 31st.