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Need for Speed: Nitro - Wii Review

Game Info
Need for Speed: Nitro

Wii | EA | 1 Player / 1-4 Players (local multiplayer) / 2-4 Players (co-operative play) | Out Now 
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk; Wii Remote (sideways); Classic Controller; GameCube Controller; Wii Wheel
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13th June 2010; By Murat

From fast rides to exotic locales, Need For Speed has delivered an unforgettable street racing simulation with new installments year after year. Players have adhered to thousands of races and torn through millions of vehicle designs to fit their tastes and show off their rides. With the Need for Speed franchise struggling to thrive on the Wii, can Nitro be the definitive rejuvenation of this adrenaline-filled arcade street racer? 

    The story follows a young street racer from the streets of Rio de Janeiro, hoping to escape into the world of street racing. During your trips and travels, you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of the law. You’ll have to go through the most notorious racers in glamorous locations such as Singapore, Madrid, Cairo and Dubai. Before entering new cities you’ll watch an animated video clip showing the elite racer of that city. Well-animated videos are used to introduce the game's characters with a vibe that resembles that of Punch-Out. These characters present themselves as boss-like characters of individual destinations and usually tag along to events you participate in with different vehicles. Each victory you obtain will get you closer to unlocking new cars, vehicle parts, events, and more. Naturally, there isn’t much to the story, since the racing does most of the talking.  

    You’ll work you way through three different cups: Bronze, Silver and Gold. As you unlock new cups, you'll gain access to new sets of cars. To get the most out of Nitro and push you beyond your limits of driving and drifting, the game presents you with a star system. These play an important role throughout the campaign in unlocking new upgrades for your vehicle, tracks, events and more. You can only achieve stars through events and completing challenges. The game will present you with a list of objectives for every race. Typically there are 5 stars to earn: 3 points for finishing in first place, one for collection above the required number of style points, and another for beating the best time for the track. It's a nice inclusion as it'll especially motivate hardcore gamers to achieve every star and obtain as much money as possible. 

Without a doubt, the collection of vehicles in Nitro is quite impressive. The game places you behind the steering wheel of some of the world's most exotic vehicles from the 1960’s to present date. With a library of 30 licensed vehicles ranging from vans to sports vehicles, you’re bound to find a vehicle which best suits your taste. However, being able to optimize your cars would’ve been nice. 

    Further on the idea of appealing to your style of play, EA Montreal has done wonders in supporting as many controller methods as possible. Nitro supports the Wii Remote, Nunchuk (attached to the Wii Remote), Wii Wheel, Classic Controller and the Gamecube Controller. 

    One of the new features to the Need For Speed franchise is the addition of power ups. The first one is a repair wrench which mends any damage your vehicle has sustained. Take too much damage and the nitrous tank will eventually stop working. In almost every race you will be chased by the cops as you break the speed limit, crash into civilian vehicles, or drive recklessly. Your heat meter can go up to five badges at which point the police will escalate the pressure as you continue to resist their arrest. Using the second item, the police badge, you can transfer two heat symbols onto the car in front of you or knock off one badge from your felony if you’re in first place.

As you dominate over your competitors, graffiti tags will appear on walls and buildings you pass by, and this is really gratifying. There are millions of custom tools you can use to pimp out your ride and tag the world the way you want to. The whole procedure of designing a car is immersive. Holding the Wii Remote to point and A to spray paint is pretty realistic to the real experience and you can make millions of combinations with the available accessories. The game doesn’t charge you for purchasing vinyl, paints, body kits and other accessories. This just gives you more creative freedom in making the type of car you’d want to drive. You can also undo or redo stickers or paints you added to your vehicle which is really helpful. The creative freedom is all yours and the customization tools in Nitro have never been done so well in any other racing game to date. 

Nitro comes packed with tons of game modes, including the usual circuit, drift challenge, drag race, elimination race, and speed camera challenge. On top of these, the game also introduces a team race (four on four, red team versus blue team) and time attack mode. Sadly, team race is only in arcade mode so you won’t come across it in the campaign. In time attack challenge, there are police cones spread through a small track and you must use your driving skills to avoid knocking them over. I found this mode to be a lot of fun.

    With so many features to witness, Nitro sure has enough content to keep you interested. The single-player campaign will grab your attention for a long time. The AI is remarkably challenging with cops and opponents becoming more ruthless as you progress, ensuring your presence isn’t a comfortable one. The split-screen cooperative play and head-to-head modes are geared towards both casual and hardcore players and it brings a whole new arcade experience to the playing field. Even when playing cooperatively, the stars and money earned by the second player will go into your central pool, which is satisfying. Leaving the campaign and trying out the arcade mode felt slightly empty, though, and more could’ve been done to improve on it. I wanted to be able to set up a small circuit or tournament of events for friends who pop in, but sadly, I wasn't able to do this.

In the graphics department, Need For Speed: Nitro has seen a complete makeover in comparison to previous installments. The game boasts a cartoony vibe to the entire experience which has worked out pretty nicely. I didn’t notice any edgy textures or outlines throughout any of the races. All the environments have been polished to a satisfying standard and although there are a limited number of tracks, the map designs are perfect and create some dramatic scenes. You’ll even come across a sunset every once in a while which looks really beautiful. The menus are presented nicely with an urban touch, and good navigation.

    Nitro runs outstandingly smooth at 60 frames per second. I experienced no frame drops, slow downs or any other issues during and outside challenges. The sense of speed is thrilling once you let loose of the speed that’s been building up in the nitrous tanks. Driving at 200mph looks and definitely feels like it should, unlike many other driving simulations. The sense of speed feels somewhat similar to the well-known Burnout franchise. Even in split-screen mode, the speed was fast, furious and mostly relentless. Unfortunately, I did experience some issues with the in-game camera. After getting slammed into other vehicles or walls at high speed, the camera would often vibrate around the car which often left me confused. Occasionally, you'll be wrapped in a tail spin facing the opposite direction. The problem arising here is that the camera goes haywire for a few seconds. This could’ve easily been fixed with a few adjustments. 

The soundtrack is relatively small, but good. The list is filled with a variety of great artists and genres ranging between rock, hip hop, funk and more. Just like any Need For Speed title before it, the soundtrack is complete with a great line-up and it’ll take a while to get bored of every single song in there. You can also listen to every single track in the extras menu and even select which tracks to play throughout the arcade and campaign mode. I personally liked this feature as I preferred certain tracks over others. Even the car engine noises were done to perfection and sounded different with each vehicle.

    One of the major letdowns with Nitro is that there aren’t any online modes to challenge opponents worldwide. Although I’ve played other Need for Speed games without online for months on end, online is becoming more and more important for Wii games like this. I mean, who wouldn’t want to take a vehicle they designed online and race for pink slips or exchange vehicles with other players through an exchange mode? For these reasons, if a sequel were to be developed, the developers would need to introduce an online mode to allow audiences to show off their driving skills.

Besides the lack of online play, empty arcade mode and camera issues, I also had problems with the controls. Thankfully, this applies only to a few controller options. I’ve tried all five controller methods and found it hard to adjust with the Gamecube and Wii Remote & Nunchuk. However, I had a blast with the Wii Wheel and quite enjoyed driving with the Classic Controller. The accelerate button on the Classic and Gamecube Controller is assigned to the R button while the brake button was assigned to B. Here’s the problem: They’re in the wrong place. Mario Kart Wii has the accelerate button as B, while the power ups are used with the R. It would’ve been better if there were options to customize controls to make them less of a pain. 

    This is the fourth Need For Speed title, but the first exclusive to hit the Nintendo consoles. Moving forward, there's no reason not to include any online features and emphasize on the current build of such a rewarding experience. Visually the game is brilliant, driving and drifting has been executed to near-perfection and there’s a hefty amount of replay value to keep you and your friends coming back for more. If you’re a Wii-only owner and want an arcade racer, Nitro is definitely strongly recommended. Although there are some speed bumps along the way, Nitro offers a pulse-beating package from start till finish. 

22/30 - Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Great diversity in game modes, wide variety of controller support, challenging AI, lack of control customization, limited maps
Presentation 8/10 - Astonishing at 60FPS, fantastic locales, small yet nice selection for soundtrack, camera issues
Enjoyment 3/5 - Cooperative campaign is highly addictive, Arcade mode could’ve been better, overall very fun gameplay mechanics
Extra Content 3/5 - Replay value solely due to star system, heaps of unlockables, pretty good single-player campaign, no online

Equivalent to a score of 73% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by Murat
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Need for Speed: Nitro
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