I say, this Need For Speed business is a spot of all right.

I have a friend who is a big fan of the racing genre and who has made several attempts, over the years, to hook me as well.

He has succeeded only once, thus far, with the absolutely brilliant Flatout: Ultimate Carnage, a game that kept me – to abuse a cliche – glued to a controller for a good couple of weeks.

I suppose that it really wasn’t a proper racing game, however, as the general idea in racing is not hitting other cars and fences and such, while the general idea in Flatout:UC was that driving a car through a shopping mall was a grand idea.

Need For Speed: Carbon, then, to get back to the subject of this post, is something of an oddity in that it represents the first time I’ve gone and sought out a racing game on my own, and also in that it’s more or less a proper racing game in that the goals in it are all organized around beating other cars to a finish line rather than beating them into submission.

There is a certain degree of destructive glee involved in running through bus stops and knocking over traffic signs and the like, I will admit, but it really isn’t the focus of the game.

I will admit that I am rather unqualified to judge it as a racing game. From a brief search around the Internet at large, I am given to understand that it is actually held in a certain distain by fans of the series, often pointed out as the point where the series Went Wrong. I cannot comment on this, nor will I look too critically at the plot, which revolves around your character – a once-infamous street racer, fallen prey to some as-yet-unspecified scandal, seeking to regain his reputation through a series of, uh, it’s a racing game so YOU guess how he needs to regain his reputation.

What I can say, however, is that it is quite pretty, even if somewhat mired in 2006-era graphical shortcomings like a lack of support for widescreen resolutions, and that being able to purchase a virtual version of the car I drive on a daily basis and drive it, again virtually, in ways that would get me arrested or – more likely – killed in real life, is a great deal of fun and well worth the meager price of admission.

In this, too, I suppose it differs somewhat from the traditional racing game career, where you start off with a terrible car and use it to earn as much money as possible so that you can buy a better car and repeat until you are eventually driving the sort of car that graces the bedroom walls of 12-year-old boys worldwide.

With this game, I started with a Mazda RX-8, drove it until I had the $30,000 needed to buy the Mazdaspeed 3, and plan to see how far I can get with it.

Oh, I did put flames on the side. That represents my sole concession, thus far, to the needs of my inner 12-year-old.

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