Alright... here is the bonus post that I promised a while back. Sorry for the delay. I'd been spending so much time with TDU.
Over the holiday break, I pulled out Need for Speed: Carbon and caught up on my playing.
Damn. Carbon is an arcade-y racer, and it does it near flawlessly. This game and Burnout really defines what I mean by "arcade-y". High speed. Drift all corners. Slamming into walls is not a big deal. Other cars even less.
What sets Carbon apart is that it only occurs at night. This allows for the use of lights to dramatically alter the experience. Lots of neon, color washes, and blurs as you smash the nitrous button. The techniques in Carbon come down from the Need for Speed: Underground series, where they brought in some high talent for the game. Lots of things were changed to enhance the notion of speed: sound, physics, and most importantly: light. The light poles on the street are spaced out much further than in real life, so that you have patches of light and dark to flip through. The technique really works well.
The gameplay in Carbon is quite neat. The city is divided into regions, with larger groups of regions held by several different gangs of drivers. This is where the Risk style of gameplay comes in. In each region, there are several races that you need to win the majority of to take over that region. When you win all the regions in a group, then you drive in a race against the gang boss. Win that, and you then have to do a "canyon race" against the boss.
Canyon races are quite hot. The boss takes off down the curvey road, down the canyon. You have to stay as close as possible, gaining points proportional to how close you can stay near him. (and shoot: if you can pass him and hold it, then you automatically win) Once that race is over, then you take the lead and the boss tries to keep up with you, but deducting points on the way down. You have to cross the finish line with positive points to win. Great concept, and meanwhile you're trying to avoid falling over the edge of the road -- no guardrails here!!
Other gangs will try to take back their areas, so occasionally you need to defend your territory by driving in a race. Meanwhile, you're doing more racing, tuning up your car, tweaking out the paint and decals and other parts, and more. The tuning is much better in this game. It is less about what vendor's parts you install (and which vendors paid to be in the game), and more about the visuals. All the performance parts allow you to select between a couple choices: handling vs performance, or torque versus top speed, or whatever. But the visuals and the new "autosculpt" feature really allows for personalized cars.
Lastly, see my previous Need for Speed: Most Wanted post to learn more about the cop play. The cops are way smarter this round. It makes for a very exhilirating game trying to lose those boys.
Need for Speed: Carbon is one of my top picks. The racing is awesome, and the basic gameplay is attractive. I'm nowhere near completing it (not one achievement yet!), so I'm not sure how long or replayable it will be near the end. Graphics, sound, and feel are top-notch.