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Publisher: Electronic Arts    Genre: Sports
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: Intel @ 1830 MHz    RAM: 999 MB    Hard Disk: 6000 MB    DVD-ROM


Need for Speed: Carbon
October 22, 2007 | Jacob Beaton
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Background
Need for Speed Carbon is a fun and entertaining street racing game that is currently the latest installment in the venerable Need for Speed (NFS) series from Electronic Arts (EA). The original NFS debut for the PC and consoles in 1995. Since then Mac users have been relegated to the sidelines as 12 subsequent titles came and went. We did get a teaser back in 2000, when Aspyr announced they'd be bringing NFS: Porsche Unleashed to our platform, but unfortunately that game fell through and we were left on the sidelines yet again. The sidelines has been a tough place for Mac gamers to be, since NFS was and is an extremely popular series on consoles and the PC. Each version has introduced fresh and sometimes revolutionary concepts to the racing genre, including (in no particular order) licensed detailed car models, open racing circuits, cop chases, and more recently street racing and drifting.

NFS is no ordinary car racing game. In addition to introducing new ideas to the genre, this franchise is known for its depth of content, long gameplay, replayability, good graphics and sound.

When Steve Jobs announced that EA would be bringing some of their latest and greatest titles to the Mac, his announcement was met with excitement and bated breath. Many gamers were excited to hear NFS was finally coming to the Mac, but how would it get here and how would it run on our machines? We learned shortly after the announcement that the games were being ported to the Mac using Cider, an exciting and controversial technology that promises quick ports at the cost of not actually re-writing any of the game's code for Mac (and as a result limits all Cider ports to Intel-only Macs). Cider titles have been met with mixed reviews, and the jury is still out on the technology. So, how does NFS: Carbon run on Macs? Is it worth your hard earned pennies? Read on to find out.

Install and First Impressions
NFS: Carbon arrives in a box that looks almost identical to its counterparts on the other side of the fence, with the exception of a "for Macs with an Intel processor" tag in the upper left hand corner of the cover. What I found immediately disturbing was the lack of system requirements on the box I received. I could not see the requirements anywhere on the outside or inside of the box, including the skimpy manual that comes with the game. Curiosity immediately struck me and I wondered if this game could run on ALL Intel Macs including those with integrated graphics? A quick Google search later turned up the answer: NO. This game will ONLY run on Intel Macs with a dedicated graphics card such as the X1600. If you are wondering, this includes most Intel iMacs, all Macbook Pros, and all Mac Pros. If you have a Mini or MacBook, this game WILL NOT run on your system.

I am very disappointed that the system requirements were not clearly labeled on the box or packaging as they are on EA's PC games. I am hoping that my early box is an anomaly and subsequent boxes and manuals have the Mac system requirements clearly posted.

Installing the game was very Mac-like and easy. I was greeted by a window which instructed me to drag the NFS: Carbon application to my applications folder. A couple minutes and 5.12 gigs later, the install was complete. Once you open the game, all Mac niceties disappear and it is obvious that you are playing a mac port of a PC port of a console game. The game opens with some introduction video and a safety warning video telling you to keep your racing moves in the game and off the road. You can skip both videos using the return key after the first run.

On both my test machines the game set my screen resolution to a default 640x480, and the interface was very slow and unresponsive. In gaming terms the interface seems "laggy." Based on this first impression I was afraid that the game would be too slow to play. I'd like to jump the gun and tell you all right now that this is not the case. The game plays very well on both my machines, but the menu interface remains slow on both of them for some reason. In fact, I've turned the graphics and resolution up to medium-high levels on my first-generation Intel iMac and the game runs really well. I don't see any reason why the resolution needs to be as low as 640x480, the frame rates remained playable at both 800x600 and 1024x768 on my iMac.



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