UK, August 24, 2006 - Need for Speed Carbon was taken out for a spin during Electronic Arts' press conference at the Leipzig GC, with developer Black Box showing how the next-gen street racer will spew exhaust fumes in the face of its rivals when it rolls onto the tarmac this winter. A brief downhill race - or canyon duel as they're known in the game - demonstrated the advanced car physics and hyper-realistic graphics employed in NFS Carbon, but when the public viewing came to an end, IGN was invited for a beneath-the-bonnet look by Michael Mann, producer at Black Box.
Let's start by talking about the cars…
Michael Mann: There are over 50 licensed cars and all are completely customisable. There are specific parts for each of the three car factions, so the type of ride a player chooses determines the car parts they have access to. We've also introduced a new physics system that's specific to each type of car, so a modded Mustang will handle very differently from a custom Golf. The cars are broken into three categories which are tied to a curve progression. So you'll start in different areas of the map depending on whether you choose a muscle, tuner or exotic car. There's rivalry between crews too and you need to build up your team before you can send them out to race against other crews and attempt to take their turf. Certain tracks suit certain cars, which is why the player must use his crew and choice of cars to make the best decision. A car that doesn't handle so good will be hard to race on the canyon tracks, so players will have to customise their cars to suit the tracks they're racing on.
After a player has picked their car how much can they customise it?
Michael Mann: When Need for Speed Underground came out it was at the forefront of car customisation - there were hundreds of different car parts and ways to use them together. So over the last two years we thought about what we could do to take it to the next level and what we came up with was 'morphable' body parts - sections of the cars that can be pulled, pushed and twisted to create an almost limitless number of ways to customise a car. Each car is broken into ten zones that can be changed, so a player can alter the size and shape of anything, from adjusting the size, depth and angle of spoilers down to small details like changing the number of spokes on the rims. At the moment these modifications are purely visual, they don't affect the handling or performance of the car, but we are looking into how we could incorporate it.
t's not just body shaping that's been improved either, right?
Michael Mann: We've also introduced vector-scoping for Carbon, which allows the player to put decals on any part of the car, not just certain sections. They can be scaled, rotated and merged together, plus there are over 900 to choose from, as well as 90,000 paint combinations, so a player really can create any look they want.
The races take place across a city. How is it divided?
Michael Mann: Each of the four areas of the city are broken down into four or five sub-zones, which are split into street, drift and canyon duel races. That's a total of eight - the number of races in each depends how important the area is, so if it's a boss challenge there could be five or six. A player has to take over half of these to challenge the boss to a canyon duel. But while a player is going after new turf they're also being targeted by rival gangs, so there's a constant balance between getting new territories and protecting existing areas. Each of the four major areas are split into four or five sub-zones, so you're looking at over 80-plus tracks to race on. For each of the major areas there are bosses that a player will come up against, plus there are sub-bosses that must be defeated to move on.
Can we expect new race modes?
Michael Mann: For starters we've reintroduced drift races from Underground. This time we wanted to get the mechanics as precise as we could so we spoke to experts and checked out drift events for ourselves. The car's handing is a lot more accurate now, much more pure. The scoring system is improved too: a player scores points for speed and the faster they enter a corner the more points they'll get. Secondly, a player's score depends on how much the ass of their cars slides out as they go around a corner - the more it drifts, the more points are awarded. And finally there are modifiers and bonuses for drivers who link drifts together by sliding from one to the next.
You also mentioned canyon duels…
Michael Mann: Canyon duels originate from street races in Japan and take place in two stages. In the first, the player must drive as closely to their rival as possible, without crashing through a barrier and wrecking their car. For the second leg it's the opposite, attempting to keep the lead while the rival racer tries to overtake. If the trailing car takes the lead, whether it's the player or the rival, they win the race. But because these races take place on winding, twisting mountain roads there's always the danger of pushing the car too hard and crashing through a barrier. If this happens it's the end of the race and the player has to start again. We did think about writing off the cars when they went off the edge of a cliff but thought it was too harsh after someone has spent hours customising it! It's possible to ram the other car off the road too, plus they make mistakes because the canyon duel is all about driving right on the very edge. There's also a canyon drift mode, where the player drives down the mountain course sliding and tricking to build up their score, rather than racing mano-et-mano with a rival boss.
Finally, what can we expect in terms of multiplayer from the next-gen versions?
Michael Mann: The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions will both have multiplayer modes. I can't go into the exact details at the moment but gamers can expect gang races, mano-et-mano and the canyon battles. Xbox Live has made it a lot easier to implement multiplayer and both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 provide the perfect environment for racing online.
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