Typically when multi-console games came out for the Nintendo Wii they were stripped down versions of what was offered on the PS3 or Xbox 360. Not anymore. With the release of the Wii U, Nintendo can finally offer an experience equivalent with its competitors. We’ve seen other games such as Batman Arkham City and Darksiders II come out enhanced for the Wii U long after they’ve been released on other consoles. Now EA does just that with Need For Speed Most Wanted U. Sure Criterion has taken the unique things the Wii U offers and improved the game, but it is enough with other console versions being on the market for nearly six months?
The name of the game in Most Wanted is accumulating Speed Points and getting to the top spot on the Most Wanted list. You do this by competing in various races, events and driving as ‘over-the-top’ as possible. The gameplay can best be described as a mash up of NFS and Burnout. Regardless of how they are named, the events are the standard NFS types. Points are earned and upgrades determined by how well you fare in these events. Speed Points are also earned by pulling off various Burnout-inspired moves such as big drifts, driving into oncoming traffic and weaving through tight traffic without making contact. The only issue I have here, which isn’t exclusive to this version whatsoever, is that upgrades are earned for each car individually. This is great if you just want to focus on upgrading one or two cars but getting 100% of everything will require dozens upon dozens of hours trying to upgrade all of the cars and find the various collectibles hidden throughout the city of Fairhaven.
Among the new Wii U exclusive features, the one with the most impact is the Co-Driver mode. This cooperative mode allows one player to use the Wii Remote or Pro controller to play the game. A second player uses the GamePad to tweak various gameplay elements such as turning traffic on or off, toggling between day and night, or disrupting cops when there is a pursuit. This mode is perfect to give younger gamers who may not yet be fully able to play a game like this a chance to interact with it and affect gameplay. Being a parent whose child is already taking an interest in what daddy is playing and who is nearing that age where they are going to want to play games, I really appreciate this.
Even when playing solo with the GamePad the Co-Driver options are available for use. This allows the player to tailor the difficulty level on the fly. For example, I was able to simply turn the traffic off as I looked to set as high of a speed as possible using the Bugatti Veyron through a speed trap. I got the score I wanted and then turned the traffic back on. This is done via the GamePad’s touchscreen without entering a pause menu. The same thing goes for being able to switch between day and night on the fly. Night racing bugs me from time to time, especially when I’m gaming during the day and the room is bright. I found this option really convenient.
Where Most Wanted U falls short of its Xbox 360 counterpart is the control. Since I don’t own a Pro controller for the Wii U, my playtime was exclusively with the GamePad. The majority of my gaming is done on the Xbox 360 so it is a bit of an adjustment for your right hand to make sure your thumb is covering the buttons for handbrake and boost. More bothersome is the fact the GamePad’s triggers don’t have any analog play. The brake isn’t that big of a deal since you rarely do more than tap it to induce drift but the on/off nature of the throttle is what I found bothersome. I should note though that you can also play the game using the Wii Remote, Wii Remote and Nunchuk, or the Wii Classic Controller.
Most Wanted U also comes with the full Ultimate Speed Pack, which released back in December for about $15 on the other consoles. This pack-in DLC adds five cars to the game’s roster, 25 new events and over 70 new milestones, all for no extra cost. Most Wanted U also features full online play and Autolog 2 implementation. The only issue here? Finding friends to play with. This train has sort of left the station since the vast majority of friends I play online with already own it for another console.
Criterion touts Most Wanted U as their best looking console game to date. If the are improvements over the Xbox 360 version they are subtle at best. I wasn’t able to notice any despite playing the Xbox 360 version quite regularly. That said this game does look fantastic. NFS games have typically had a less-than-perfect framerate. Most Wanted U isn’t perfect but it is the smoothest NFS game I remember playing. There’s a ton of detail, especially when it comes to the particle effects. With the frantic pace of events there is little chance to take in the sights. It is worth taking a moment or two in between events or when searching for collectibles to look around with the right trigger.
Generally I think EA games sound pretty good in general. Most Wanted U is no different. The default balance of music to in-game sound is skewed too heavily towards the music side of things for my liking. Turning the soundtrack down a little bit really brings out the sounds of the cars and action. Engine notes for the various cars may not be as painstakingly recreated as those found in a game like Forza but most have a distinct note to them. That being said, I could swear the Gallardo and R8 sound exactly the same though. Effects such as the screaming echo of your engine through a tunnel or the sound of your tires protesting a loss of grip as they scrub against the pavement really add to the drama.
The Wii U version of NFS Most Wanted U sacrifices nothing from other console versions and adds some good features that improve the game’s accessibility. These new elements that the Wii U version brings are slightly hampered by some minor control issues though. Still, with extra features that expand the potential audience and a $15 DLC pack thrown in for free, if you haven’t already picked up this game this is the definitive Most Wanted experience.