Friday, December 29, 2006

Need for Speed™ Carbon

Today, I bought a new gamepad with analog triggers, to cure my lead foot. You could say it's a belated Xmas gift for myself. I've been playing Need for Speed™ Carbon for a while now, and using a digital button for throttle just wasn't cutting it anymore. It was nearly impossible to hit the sweet spot and get a perfect start, or even to accelerate out of a curve. The wheels would just spin like crazy, and my car would end up in a frontal collision with the nearest obstacle.

Still, I think I did pretty well. Above is my first car, an Alfa Brera. The cars in Carbon are divided into three tiers, where tier 1 consists of cars that are merely cool, while tier 3 has the insanely awesome cars. As you play the game, you gain cash rewards and unlock better cars. I decided to scrimp and save on my first car, only spending money on upgrading its performance. The idea was to have lots of money to buy a good tier 2 car. Besides, I really like the look of Alfa Romeos; they're so simple, distinguished and yet slightly terrifying.

The game started out by piquing my interest with some full-motion video. Yes, apparently I missed the return of FMV. It still bears a slightly awkward stigma from the 90s, but it's pretty well executed and I daresay rather engrossing this time around. The intro makes references to the previous game in the series, Most Wanted, which I should admit to not having played. Apparently it too featured FMV with the same stylistic flair, but took place in the daytime, while Carbon only has nighttime levels, much like the Underground parts of the series. Since I didn't understand the references, the plot felt unusually non-patronizing in assuming that I would be smart enough to catch the names of the characters and follow the rapid turn of events. Learning that this is merely a sequel and not an "after the fact" mystery inspired by Agatha Christie was actually somewhat of a disappointment.

As it turned out, I didn't have to save up for a new car; I won the tier 2 car of a defeated boss. The world of Carbon is divided into territories owned by rivaling street racing gangs. The car above is an Aston Martin DB9 that belonged to Wolf, the boss of the TFK gang, until I rolled into town, took over their territory by beating them race by race in their own backyard, and proceeded to defeat their boss in two one-on-one races. To cement your domination over a territory, you first need to win a regular street race against the boss, and then defeat them in a canyon duel. The duels are both frustrating and exhilarating, and involve tailgating the boss as best you can without falling off the canyon, and then trying to shake him off as he tailgates you in the second round.

My third car, a Mazda RX-7, is the result of overtaking Kenji of the Shinobu gang in a canyon duel, a move that leads to a near instant win. The Aston Martin just flew past like a cannon ball; the only problem was actually slowing down and not flying straight down the canyon wall. At this point, I was still using my old Logitech Wingman, and the game felt rather easy; the way I like it. I actually didn't race the Mazda at all. The Aston Martin became my mainstay, and I used it to beat the third gang, 21st Street, and their boss Angie. As you can see above (skip the Mazda), I decided to pimp it by painting it gold chrome. It ended up looking like an autobot about to transform, or maybe the steed of a modern day paladin. Either way, I think it's awesome.

The fourth territory is where I ran into trouble. Suddenly everyone's racing around in tier 3 cars, and you have to beat them to unlock tier 3 and get something raceworthy. Suffice to say that this is where morale takes a big hit. Sure, my golden autosteed looks cool, but it handles like a refrigerator. Was that a curve? Bam. OK, now that's a wall. Lost again.

Luckily, I had already ordered a Thrustmaster with analog triggers and force feedback, and with it I finally managed to unlock a Plymouth Hemi 'Cuda. This is a muscle car, by which they mean something that acts like it has a rocket up its behind and flails wildly all over the road. By racing the muscle car, I miraculously unlocked a tuner, a small Nissan 350Z that has great potential and handles like a god. This car in turn immediately left a few racers in the dust and unlocked the current love of my life.

Behold, the Lamborghini Gallardo. It's an exotic, which means its speakers blare hip-hop (as opposed to the tuner's trance and the muscle's stoner rock), and it's a real racer. It handles really well, although not as well as the Nissan, and it accelerates with a roar. I found a great body for it, and I settled on a dark purple chrome. The only problem now is to keep out of trouble, as the heat is high in the fourth territory. This means there's a lot of police activity, and they keep butting into every race, chasing me around after I've won. I usually shake them off, but even I got busted once, which means my poor Gallardo has incurred an impound strike. Three strikes and the car is lost. The heat is rising and those cops really seem to be after my ride.

Oh well, if they take this one I can always sell my crappy and ridiculously overpriced Plymouth and buy something even better. I must say, this game really got me hooked, and that's not an easy feat.

No comments: