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WiiTalk at EA, Part 3 - Need for Speed: Nitro

Written by FooFan on Sunday, 23 August 2009One Comment

If there’s one thing that the Wii is still lacking in terms of game genres, then it’s racers. Take away Mario kart and there isn’t a lot on offer for any avid racing fan, and nothing at all for those looking for a half-realistic driving experience. So perhaps the best way to start this preview is to quash any hopes that Need for Speed Nitro would provide the realistic driving simulation that it’s offering on the other next gen consoles. No, NFS:N is unashamedly an arcade racer and looks to offer fun rather than realism. That’s fair enough and even something we’ve come to expect when it comes to driving games on the Wii, but has it got enough to offer for both racing fans and those that are just looking for a pick up and play title?

The first thing I noticed about the game was that graphically it looks pretty impressive. The game has been developed exclusively from the ground up for the Wii and the car models look very good along with the lighting effects on them, which are fluid and realistic. It’s got a slight cell-shaded comic book style to it that makes the cars look more ‘pimped up’ and ‘Hot Rod-y’, which adds to the presentation of the game as one for the boy racers. There are 35 fully licensed cars in the game split into 3 different categories(A, B, C) which include models from manufactures such as Chevrolet, Ford and Audi. All the cars are good representations of their real-life cousins, but the style of the game adds to their presence in the game as almost cartoon versions. We saw 2 tracks from the game and played one of them. The first, Cairo, was very impressive visually with the racing taking place at dusk which allowed for very nice lighting effects on the cars, buildings and viewpoint. It was certainly a pleasant surprise to see such visuals in a racing game on the Wii and offered a glimpse of the potential for a decent racing game to be developed at some point. The second track, Rio, was not as impressive and it was unclear whether this was due to the early build that we were playing, or just the designer’s lack of ambition. The textures and buildings were a lot blander and, with the time of day being midday this time, the lighting effects not as impressive. It’s unfair to pass judgement on the overall design of the tracks though, as we were being shown an early build and only 2 tracks. Having said that, the potential shown in the first track is enough to hope that the majority on offer are as impressive.

So NFS:N is a racing game and like most racing games the goal is simple, finish first. To do this you’ll have to make good use of your Nitro, which may also be referred to as ‘Boost’. There are several ways to charge up your Nitro and most of them involve the style in which you race. Pulling off Drifts is a good way to build up your style points and Nitro. There are also various power-ups that can be picked up to help aid you on your bid to get pole position. These include a wrench to repair your car when it gets damaged (Yes car damage is included in the game and has quite a big effect on your car’s performance, get too smashed up and you will soon find yourself slipping down the order), a Police badge which allows you to pass your ‘Heat’ onto another driver (You get ‘Heat’ from racing dangerously or generally breaking the rules, get too much and the police will start to chase you. It’s their aim to spin you off the course and they do a pretty good job of it!) And a general Nitro booster, which does exactly what you think it does!

There are a plethora of control schemes to choose from ranging from using the Wii Wheel, to just the remote pointing at the screen and twisting left and right to turn. Also included is Gamecube and Classic controller support, so you are sure to find a control scheme that suits you best. The cars handle fairly well and the key to this game is getting your drifts right and keeping your Nitro filled. My personal choice was the Wii remote on its side minus the Wii Wheel and I was happy with how responsive it was along with the button placement. The game boasts 4-player split screen local multiplayer and we got to try out a mode called ‘Elimination’ which is basically a last-man-standing mode where if you are last when the timer hits 0, then you are eliminated from the race. The timer keeps getting reset until the last player has been eliminated. The twist on this is that if you are eliminated, then you are instantly put in control of a police car and you can spend the rest of the race hunting down and ruining your friend’s races. Kind of like the Bomb in MK64, it’s a nice idea and it keeps everyone interested and active. We didn’t notice any slow down at all in the Frame rate and it made for quite a fun experience.

Perhaps where NFS:N comes into its own is in the ‘Showroom’. Basically it’s here that you can totally customize your car to how you want it to look. If you’ve read the Spore Hero preview I did the other day, then you’ll probably recall how impressed I was at the creature editor in that, well this is basically the car equivalent! It’s not just a case of changing the colour of your car here, no it goes a lot deeper than that. You can choose from a variety of Graffiti effects to put on your car and adjust the size of each one to get the exact look you’re going for. You can change the colour and finish of each bit you add to make it totally unique to you. You can also add body parts to the car which can be adjusted to the size that you want at the click of a button. It’s worth noting that these body parts don’t affect the performance of your car, they’re simply for presentation. So you really have the tools to mould your car into your own and I find that any game which gives the player an option to customize their character or vehicle, instantly adds a level of personalisation that improves the overall experience. You can also design your own Graffiti tags and these play a bigger role in the game itself. Basically, whoever the lead player is in a race, it will be their tag and colour which will appear across the buildings and on the racetrack as you’re racing. So you can tell who is in the lead by their tag. This is a very cool idea and lends itself to the style of the game very well. The tags appear on the buildings as you drive past them, so the environment around you is constantly changing depending on who is in the lead and where they were overtaken.

The soundtrack reflects the locations you’re racing in and is very urban, don’t expect any driving rock classics here, it’s all about Hip Hop and it fits in with the presentation of the game nicely. Perhaps where NFS:N is most disappointing is in the amount of variety on offer. In total there are only 15 tracks, spread across 4 cities. I know we can’t expect the triple figures that the likes of Forza 3 will offer, but even Excite Truck(Which was a Wii launch game and still remains one of the best racing games available) has more than that and more locations. There are a total of 8 game modes, which sounds like plenty, but only being able to try one out, I can’t say what the others are like. When it all comes down to it, NFS:N is an average racer with some very nice style and customization features. The gameplay won’t show you anything new and the length of the game is questionable with no online and so few tracks. Having said that, I think this is the kind of game that will appeal to younger boys who want a solid arcade racer which they can play with their mates and have a blast with the Showroom. If you’re looking for a fairly realistic racer with hours of gameplay, then I don’t think there’s going to be much here for you, but if you’re looking for an easy pick up and play racer with a unique style and impressive design features, then this might be worth keeping an eye on.

Need for Speed Nitro is released in September.

One Comment »

  • biddenden_sue said:

    I think I’d actually enjoy this game, if it weren’t for the music. If it’s all hiphop and rap, that has alienated me completely.

    If they had only allowed MP3 tracks to be selected from the SD card, like Excite Truck.

    I wonder how many other gamers might feel the same way as me.

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