Getting Into Gaming: Need For Speed Carbon
I’m going to be honest: my driver’s license was my 21st birthday present to myself. Yes, it took me that long to get it. I didn’t exactly consider myself a bad driver, just overly cautious and a little fatalistic. Since then, however, I like to think I’ve made good progress and I even drive faster than the speed limit on a regular basis. So imagine my joy and delight when I was given free reign over a car I could drive as fast as possible and crash into as many obstacles as I wanted without it even mattering! And then imagine my frustration when I was told that that wasn’t really the point…
Need for Speed wasn’t exactly what I’d envisioned. I think I expected it to be more like what I’ve seen of GTA and less like being tied to a car, pushed down a hill and told to steer it with sheer willpower. I used to play a lot of casual racing games when I was younger and I actually got pretty good for a while. I haven’t played in a very long time, but I thought it would be one of those things you never really forget how to do…
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The first time I realised I might not have maintained my skill as a virtual driver was when, after a good five minutes of confusing cinematic cut-scenes and macho dialogue I was suddenly told to “Get Away from Cross”. For those of you who may not remember or be familiar with this: it’s the very first objective of the game. I however, had been sucked into trying to work out what the hell was going on in the cut-scenes and it took me at good few seconds to realise that I actually had control over my vehicle. Shortly after that I had collided head on with the side of a mountain while Cross hovered menacingly nearby until I ran out of time.
I don’t think it’s a lot to ask that a game give you the option of a tutorial before making your drive for your life! Having never played a Need for Speed game before I didn’t even know how to accelerate, let alone escape the homicidal maniac on my tail!
However, once I got the hang of it I managed to out run Cross (barely) in four attempts, with my car in decidedly poor shape by the time I totalled it breaking through a road blockade at the end of the route. Then I got a tutorial(-ish) about how to use my accomplices (minions) and then I was forced to race again! I mean honestly!? Do they think I’m playing the game to win or something?
Having come fourth out of four in that race, but successfully and stylishly outrun every cop car in the city I eventually worked out how to go to free run mode, and proceeded to break just about every bus stop I could find! It really did take me a long time to get used to steering with an analogue stick, but I refused to be entirely useless so I kept driving around the city, causing havoc on the highway and constantly having to hide from the police until I could successfully handle a series of corners without crashing every time.
THEN, I was ready to race! Oh but first Neville! I liked Neville, I must say. Yes he’s over-weight, Elvis-haired and Hawaiian-shirted, but he was damn good at ramming people off the road when I needed him too! It’s a weird sort of psychology that gets consolation and reassurance from a set of pre-recorded phrases played on repeat, but it was genuinely nice to feel like I had someone on my side when three other people were trying to kill me at once. And occasionally his advice was actually quite useful. Plus, I liked him more than Nikki’s sass which did little to improve my driving ability or my gamer’s rage.
I managed to get fairly decent at steering after a while, but as my boyfriend so kindly pointed out it was going to take a lot to get Nikki to sleep with me, no matter how mysterious and silent I was. I managed to claim the first territory fairly easily after all my practising, but the learning curve very quickly got the better of me and it was back to breaking bus stops and cardboard lamp posts… and coming last, a lot. But I gave it my best shot and, despite a lot of instances of sudden onset Tourette’s, I managed to put up a decent fight.
I could see myself playing Need for Speed occasionally to pass some time, but the game didn’t exactly captivate me. I did get a little bored with the repetitive game play and, although the acting was surprisingly good, the story line wasn’t going to win any Oscars. I appreciate that it’s a little dated now, but the newer ones don’t seem to be all that different. The franchise has been running since 1994, and apart from better graphics and various small improvements like car body customisation, I can’t see that many changes. And while I was impressed to read that it’s the most successful racing game franchise in the world, I can’t really understand why someone would need or want 21 versions of the same game…
So, yes I enjoyed the game, I got a laugh out breaking the city and it did give a good sense of satisfaction every time I won a race, but I honestly had more fun tearing up the city than actually racing people and I occasionally had to stop and take a break from playing because I was a bit bored or losing focus. I’m sure part of it is that I don’t know anything about cars beyond the very practical, every day stuff, like how to open the petrol cap, or change a tyre. So choosing between a good top speed, acceleration or handling was much of a muchness to me. I will happily admit that I know I’m not the target audience for games like Need for Speed and I’m not taking anything away from those who are, but I personally don’t get the excitement around the games and I can’t say I’d go out of my way to play the game again.