Need For Speed: Carbon - hands on

The big deal in this iteration is supposed to be the late night canyon races where one false move would send you flying over the edge of a cliff. How can this not end up incredibly annoying? You are allowed very little margin for error in a canyon race, which means you're going to have to restart them over and over again until you've memorized each particular track. If you're going up against a boss racer, you need to complete at least two canyon runs in a row without soaring into oblivion or you'll have to race both all over again. The unforgiving nature of the canyon races applies some tension, but ends up feeling mostly tedious and frustrating.

Your run-of-the-mill street races tend to ape the kind of gameplay found in Need For Speed: Underground. That's not necessarily a bad thing (because Underground was fun), but it's also not very next-gen to employ the same gameplay from a game released years ago. The addition of your racing crew seems to be a modest improvement, but we didn't find many occasions to implement them. Also, you must progress through a significant portion of the game before you can start hiring more crew members, so you won't have access to the bulk of the crew maneuvers from the get go.

The graphics don't appear to be a significant improvement over last year's Need For Speed: Most Wanted on the 360, but there's a ton more motion blur thrown in. As the game takes place exclusively in the late night hours favored by real illegal street racers, there's a degree of accuracy, but it comes at the expense of the variety of racing in the day time (or at dusk or sunrise, our personal favorites).