Criterion's Need For Speed races onto Wii U - but is it our Most Wanted or does this port stall on the line?
Published on Mar 25, 2013
Ports. They’re what every Nintendo fan bleated about for the entirety of Wii’s life – the lack of proper, full-fledged third-party support from the big studios and their biggest franchises.
With Need For Speed: Most Wanted U, it seems those dark days are done. Criterion’s latest racer is properly good, and this is the full PS3, Xbox 360 and PC experience, with GamePad-shaped bells on.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted GamePad
From the moment your Lambo wheelspins off the line, stretching a skidmark across a shining strip of tarmac as the sun’s amber rays shine down, it’s obvious Most Wanted is every bit the game Wii U needs: a beautiful graphical showcase which takes advantage of the system’s unique capabilities.
Most Wanted hands you the set of keys to a pile of gleaming motors and an entire city-shaped vehicular playground, then asks you to race, outrun and ram your way to victory – while hunting for fresh cars and moving up the ‘Most Wanted’ list.
This is done by racking up event wins, setting best times and making take-downs. Soon enough, you’ll be running up the numbers and challenging the fastest cars in the game for the chance to nudge them into a wall, take their car for yourself and become the most notorious driver in Fairhaven City.
Need For Speed: Most Ported
The Wii U version takes the PS3/360 game – flaws and all – and runs it in earnest. There’s still a delightful sense of speed as you screech round corners, nailing the apex and trying to outrun the cops. The subtle yet stonking rock/urban pop soundtrack still wails from the speakers.
The open city – from the waves crashing against the docks to the wending, winding mountainside drives, still pops with detail and is still littered with hundreds of collectibles – from speed cameras to trigger to gates to smash and cars to find.
Events still require a heady mix of skill, patience and a dash of luck. There’s point-to-point and circuit races, speed runs (which require you to keep your average speed above a certain number) and pursuits (which see you shaking off the five-oh as quickly as you can through speed, aggression, evasion or all three).
Most Wanted U Handling
It still has the same flaws. Cars still twitch like crazy and oversteer or understeer so hard they feel like they’ve got a grand piano in the boot.
Little traffic and cop glitches can still see you rammed to bits at a moment’s notice. Random pillars, poles and bollards can still stop your car dead in its tracks, and police can still annoy between events when they won’t stop bloody chasing you when you just want to explore the city in peace, forcing you into a five-minute pursuit just to win the right to be left alone.
What has changed are the control options. The Wii U version is played primarily with the GamePad. You can either play the whole game on the telly, using the GamePad for support, or you can ping the action down to the pad to play off-TV.
Need For Speed: Off-TV Play
Off-TV works very well. It’s the full game, running on that 6” screen, with a decent volume and framerate. Though it can get tricky to see some hazards in the distance, for the most part it’s a perfectly viable way to play. You can’t really complain about the drawbacks of the smaller screen play when it’s an optional extra anyway.
But when you have got the main screen to play with, the extra options are so powerful they almost feel like cheating. Using the GamePad, you can switch traffic on or off, flip between day and night at will and ‘disrupt’ chasing police cars by hitting a screen icon.
This sees cops swerve off and slam into the trackside during pursuits, while the traffic button literally switches off all civilian cars – a mighty boon when you keep ploughing into generic passer-by vans on the same corner.
Most Wanted U Co-Driver
This Co-Driver mode is advertised as being for co-op play (i.e., to let your mate mess with these options while you use another controller), but you might prefer to use the pad and trigger these support options at the same time yourself. Well, you can.
But you can also use a Wiimote and nunchuk, or a Pro Controller, or even a Wii Classic Controller. Or if you really feel like it, you can use a Wiimote and Wii Wheel. Criterion has done a bang-up job getting every possible control option working. Are you watching, other third-party studios? This is how it’s done.
Online and Autolog is all present and correct, too. You can flip open the menu with the d-pad and change cars, events and make mods, as well as jump online and find games with mates or strangers.
All your friends’ times are also integrated right into the game, with Autolog making recommendations on which pal to pulp on the track, and speed cameras log everyone on your friend list, like PS3 and Xbox 360.
Call us old-fashioned, but it is nice to see all these modern, extensive online features working seamlessly on a Nintendo console – with Miiverse fully integrated into the game, too – the icing on the online cake.
In most ways that matter, Most Wanted U is the best-looking console version – running textures taken from the PC and pushing out draw distances and lighting that may well best the PS3 and 360 games, if only slightly.
The title also comes with the other consoles’ Speed Pack DLC – though considering this is releasing several months later, we would expect that. Here’s hoping Criterion continues to support this version with updates and fresh DLC, too.
In all, the masters of arcade racing have come up trumps with their Wii U port, showing an attention to detail and a level of quality in the Nintendo version that puts other studios to shame.
This is the exact same (cracking) game as the PS3 and 360, with better graphics, extra DLC, tons of control options and off-TV Gamepad support.
It’s easily the best third-party port on the console right now, and as a result, should be racing to the top of every Wii U owner’s most wanted list.
Version Tested: Wii U
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This is the PS3/Xbox game, with tons of added features, extra content and better graphics. It's the definitive way to experience Criterion's latest racing effort, on the TV or the GamePad.