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Need For Speed Carbon

At EA's recent Studio Showcase 06, we got a glimpse of the future of one of the most popular racing franchises in gaming history (next to Gran Turismo, of course). The tricked-out racing rides of Need For Speed are back and even more customizable than ever - with hyper-tense, high stakes tracks to match.

To start, EA has added a new feature called Auto Sculpt that blows the doors off of the term "vehicle customization." Instead of simply strapping on pre-formed after-market parts to your sleek speedster, you'll be able to shape and deform each part to your own maniacal specifications. By tweaking sliders you can alter an inconceivable number of part dimensions - whether that be flaring out side skirts, dropping the front bumper to near pavement scraping depths or widening the roof scoop into a gaping maw of air intake-age, it's all within your grasp.

And while the traditional city races remain, the big stakes hinge on the incredibly dangerous canyon races where one false jerk of the wheel could put you in the hospital and out of the race. We witnessed a white-knuckle follow-the-leader charge down an oppressively dark mountain run... until broken guard rails were all that were left the car we were watching. It didn't appear to be a game-ending, career-destroying, pull-the-memory-card-before-it-can-save kind of event though, because you can always restart the race in true Need For Speed fashion. But that didn't detract from the tension one iota. Other races are slightly more pedestrian and feature the familiar kind of point-based events like drift races to complete the stable of nitro-burning activities.

A brief chat with Executive Producer Larry LaPierre (known for his work on past NFS titles and SSX) yielded that the PS3 version (and by extention, all other versions as well) is approaching very early playable stages, and he reckoned it'd be ready in about nine months - though we stress that this is an extremely rough estimate. That seems like quite a ways off, but from what we saw at EA's plush Redwood Shores digs, it'll be worth the wait.