Need for Speed: Nitro Wii Review

EA have made some interesting steps with the Need for Speed franchise on the 360 and the PS3. The recently released SHIFT took the series from the streets and placed it into proper racing circuits, whilst also attempting to make the handling more realistic. Those who haven’t really taken to EA’s new mindset with the series on the more powerful of consoles, will most likely be delighted with this Wii version.

Need for Speed: Nitro is EA’s first game in the franchise that has been specifically built for the Wii. This is more familiar of the Need for Speed of recent years: the tracks come in the form of public roads, the handling is delightfully arcade-y and the police also like to get in on the action, as well.

You may be back on the streets, but what Nitro isn’t is an open-world racer. The tracks have their different roads to take, though they’re closed in, meaning you don’t have the liberty of driving and racing around sizeable cities. Racing locations include the likes of Cairo, Madrid, Dubai, Singapore and Rio De Janeiro, which results in plenty of globetrotting and the angering of the local police as you take your dangerous speed to their streets.

Races are speedy and fun, and the game can be played with an impressive five control schemes. It’s possible to race one-handed with the remote, alternatively by using the remote and nunchuck, whilst the Wii Wheel is also supported. If you’d prefer, there’s also the option to use the GameCube or Classic controller, and there’s enough variation in each scheme to ensure that everyone will eventually find something that suits their needs.

The game is one of those drift-happy racers, where going around big corners without going sideways would be just rude. The handling is tremendously satisfying and the speeds very fittingly fast for a game with the moniker of “Need for Speed”, speaking of which: doing dangerous stuff will add juice to your nitro bars (two of them), you’ll then be able to go even faster when you activate your boost. It’s not all arcade perfection, though, as the game only has one camera view, but even worse is that said camera view sometimes proves to be too close to your vehicle, making it difficult to see what lies ahead on the track. This is the cause of frustration if you hit something as a result of your view being obscured by your very own motor.

Moving on, tracks are littered with gold pick-ups, though with only two there’s no great variety. The wrench pick-up can be used to carry out repairs on your car, and whilst motors can’t be completely written off, your nitro gauges will soon refuse to fill up, perhaps leaving you to merge with the public traffic rather than a part of the racing field. Finally, the badge pick-up gives you the opportunity of reducing how much the police are currently interested in you for doing bad things, and if there happens to be an opponent ahead of you, police heat will be cheekily transferred to them, leaving you to pass on by whilst the boys in blue swarm all over your unfortunate opponent.

Police heat is drawn to yourself by causing damage and driving dangerously, whilst being out in front will also attract more attention (perhaps they just have their sirens on to stop you for an autograph). Obviously, the more heat you have, the more aggressive the police will be, though in truth they’re not really too difficult to deal with in any given situation.

Speeding through the tracks in the lead will have you tagging sections, resulting in portions of the environment being defaced by your very own customisable graffiti, which is in the matching colour of your current racing vehicle. This isn’t only pretty stylish to watch in motion, but it also earns you style points as well. Obviously, if an opponent takes the lead through a section, he’ll be the one doing the tagging.

The game includes a pretty lengthy career mode, in which you’ll be racing in eliminator events, speed cameras, drift and time attack challenges, as well as drag racing. Eliminator has the driver in last position being ejected from the race, whilst the Speed Camera Challenge involves you putting your foot down and activating your nitros, as you race past each of the three speed cameras in your attempt to set an impressive overall speed. Drift and Time Attack surely need no explaining, as they’re pretty obvious in their nature. Finally, the drag racing has you truly pushing your machine to its limits: shifting at the optimal moment and activating nitro when you feel the time is right. In the career, you’ll also have your eye on three trophies, will make money to buy new motors and will eventually be able to upgrade to the faster vehicle classes. It’s just a shame that you’ll be racing in every single location and in every possible event in the very first cup, wouldn’t it have been better for EA to mix things up a bit?

Like SHIFT, the game includes a stars system. You earn stars for speedy lap times, finishing in the top three positions and accumulating a style points (these are rewarded to you for drifting, using the slipstream of opponents and tagging the environment, amongst other things) target. These stars unlock new events, city racing locations, vehicles to purchase and customisation options.

Remaining on the subject of customisation, with the Wii remote this works very well indeed. It’s no surprise that the instruction manual suggests you to use the remote, and only the remote, to customise your vehicles, as it just couldn’t be any easier. Pointing at the sections of the vehicle that you want to alter and then pressing a button to carry out the work. It’s even possible to morph and shape certain areas of your motors, and obviously you can paint them your favourite colour and decorate them with all manner of things. For those wanting to get involved in tuning and performance upgrades, this just isn’t your game and keeping things simple definitely seemed to be EA’s intentions, undoubtedly in a bid to attract as wide of an audience as possible.

As far as other options go, the game’s multiplayer is limited to local play (it’s inevitable that we’ll see online features in the future if this is to become a series) for up to four players. Multiplayer is played via split screen and, whilst there’s the occasional slowdown, the game remains fast and loses little detail. It’s possible to play with others in the arcade mode, and even the career mode isn’t out of bounds for those who enjoy multiplayer, with support for up to four players.

As the first Need for Speed game specifically built for the Wii, Nitro is a most enjoyable beginning to what is most likely a new series for Nintendo’s current console. Being an arcade racer, this is aimed at those who like to have plenty of fun driving their racing vehicles, and Need for Speed: Nitro, whilst not perfect, has the fun, the speed, the bright and appealing visuals and the fantastic arcade-y vehicle handling. With all the latter said, EA already have something great to build upon for future Need for Speed games on the Wii.