Need for Speed: Carbon reimports a high number of gameplay assets from Need for Speed: Most Wanted but also introduced several features new to the franchise, including the ability of creating crews, canyon duel racing and Autosculpt customisation. It continues the plot from Need for Speed: Most Wanted but takes place in a night-only setting.
Need for Speed: Carbon was first released in autumn 2006 for the PC, GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox platforms, as well as for the newer PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360 platforms. In the following year, it was also made available for Macintosh.
Similar to Need for Speed: Most Wanted 5-1-0, a handheld spin-off title - entitled Need for Speed Carbon: Own the City - for the GameBoy Advance, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable and Zeebo platforms was released.
The career mode is centered around the fictional Palmont City setting, which is made up of four distinctive districts and the surrounding canyons. Each district is occupied by several rivalling crews that the player must take on with their own crew. Players will take over a district after challenging and defeating a crew boss, from whom they may also select Boss Bonus Cards that contain bonus rewards. Territories that were successfully gained by players may also be randomly attacked by smaller crews.
- Circuit - Lap-based circuit races
- Sprint - Point-to-point races
- Canyon Duel - Distance-based two player mode
- Checkpoint Race - Time-limited checkpoint races
- Drift - Drifting-focused circuit races
- Canyon Drift - Drifting-focused sprint races
- Pursuit - Open world police chases
- Free Roam Challenge - Random encounter sprint races
- Pursuit Knockout - Multiplayer pursuits within a circuit
- Pursuit Tag - Multiplayer pursuits within a district
The Challenge Series puts the player into various events of a certain type and difficulty level. Unlike Need for Speed: Most Wanted, players may start with any event type although they are restricted to bronze tier events first. After winning Gold Tier events, players will receive new aftermarket parts and cars if they are playing on the Collector's Edition release.
Players may create custom race event within Quick Race mode. A higher career mode progression is required for unlocking new tracks, event types and vehicles.
Reward Cards are a series of unlockable vehicles, aftermarket parts and vinyls.
Need for Speed: Carbon is the first Need for Speed title to feature a large quantity of classic American muscle cars. The garage can be filled up with six cars independent of tier and design class, although they can be up to nine if the bosses' pink slips were rewarded. All cars are categorised in performance tiers and car classes;
- Tier 1 - Low performance capabilities
- Tier 2 - Moderate performance capabilities
- Tier 3 - High performance capabilities
- Exotic - Highest top speeds
- Muscle - Quickest acceleration
- Tuners - Best handling
Players can purchase individual upgrade parts that are divided into three classes with fine-tunable elements available before final purchase. As each vehicle is only competitive with other vehicles of the same tier, players cannot upgrade their performance tier.
Need for Speed: Carbon offers a bigger range of customisation items and options than Need for Speed: Most Wanted; the Autosculpt feature allows players to visually modify custom vehicle exterior parts. Decals and vinyls are no longer fixtated to certain areas and may be moved and reshaped by players.
The Collector's Edition is a limited special release of the standard game. It has an alternative cover art and is packed in a metallic package.
The Collector's Edition includes three new challenges, six additional race events, four exclusive vehicles, multiple pre-tuned vehicles and ten exclusive vinyls.
A making-of DVD is also included. All of these features are included in the Mac release of Need for Speed: Carbon as standard.
The digital release of the Collector's Edition also includes two ancillary cars and the Ultimate Performance Kit.
- All stock cars are available in Quick Race mode once the player reaches 100% completion.
- Need for Speed: Carbon re-imported the option for players to drive with a manual clutch.
- There is an additional district known as San Juan, which is used for tutorials at the beginning of the game and for three race events in Quick Race mode. It is not accessible in Free Roam mode within normal gameplay.
- Palmont's Downtown, Silverton, Fortuna and Kempton districts can be seen on the last leg of the final showdown against Darius in the "Eternity Pass" Canyon Duel event.
- Need for Speed: Carbon is the last Need for Speed title to be released for the Nintendo GameCube and the original Xbox. It is also the last to support the Windows 2000 and Windows ME OS, and the only title to be released for MacOS X.
- A newer model of the Subaru WRX Impreza is featured in the Nintendo DS release, which is not made available for gameplay.
- The Wii release has the most limitations of any console release; the Lexus IS 300, Lotus Europa S, Plymouth Road Runner, Porsche 911 GT3 RS and Toyota MR2 are only available in their respective Challenge Series events and have no Reward Cards. There are also several locked aftermarket parts that are impossible to unlock without cheats.
- Sergeant Cross may appear in Heat Level 5 pursuits despite not being intended to do so.
- A police officer may consult dispatch about a street racer named Clarence Callahan as Need for Speed: Carbon uses a large amount of audio assets previously utilised in Need for Speed: Most Wanted.
- There are some billboards and ads advertising the 2006 Mazda MX-5 although it is not included in the game.
- The Tuner crew - Rotor 4 - only utilises tuner cars with a similar livery to that seen on the Group C #55 Mazdaspeed Mazda 787B racing car.
- The song Staggered Injection by Ekstrak, which is played when a race is led by an AI opponent using an Exotic car, reappears in Mass Effect 3 as a remixed version. It can be heard in the Purgatory club onboard the Citadel space station.
- Players can unlock a special Mazda RX-8 for use in Quick Race events by visiting and purchasing it from a Mazda Dealership found in the Billings District of Downtown Palmont.
- ↑ Prima Official Game Guide - Need for Speed: Carbon, p.68 (not mentioned in the heat level summary)
|Need for Speed Series|
|Games||The Need for Speed • II • III: Hot Pursuit • High Stakes • Porsche Unleashed • Motor City Online • Hot Pursuit 2 • Underground • Underground 2 • Most Wanted (2005) • Carbon • ProStreet • Undercover • Shift • Nitro • World • Hot Pursuit (2010) • Shift 2: Unleashed • The Run • Most Wanted (2012) • Rivals • Need for Speed (2015) • Edge • Need for Speed (2017)|
|Handheld||Underground Rivals • Most Wanted 5-1-0 • Carbon: Own The City • Hot Pursuit (iOS) • No Limits|
|Compilations||The Need for Speed Collection • Collector's Series|
|Films||Need for Speed|