There hasn’t been a Criterion game on a Nintendo system in more than a decade. That game was Burnout 2 and it was awesome. Now, Criterion are the masters of the Need for Speed domain and like Burnout 2 on the GameCube, don’t release anything sub par. Need for Speed Most Wanted U was delayed four months to make sure the Wii U got a great port and it shows. Most Wanted was already a good game, it’s even better on Wii U.
Most Wanted takes place in Fairhaven, the city is not only your playground but your race track. The entire game takes place out of full screen menus and picked from the Easy Drive menu which can be brought up at anytime. You can choose to drive to an event or warp right there, each race takes place in a different part of town – but you don’t have to follow the roads to get from A to B.
Different types of events will require different driving styles, the mini map will be your friend until you learn the city layout and multiple locations will be used in different races. There’s no story here, no cheesy cutscenes – just the loose goal of topping off the most wanted racers. This does mean that the game feel a bit vacant at times, once you start and you’re introduced to the game that’s it, you’re left on your own.
The cops will be in your way the entire time, this is of course Need for Speed after all. Luckily you have a selection of some of the most powerful and expensive cars in the world at your disposal. Aston Martin, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Ford, Dodge, BMW and more are all here, the names you haven’t heard of too – they’re usually the fastest as well. Each of the cars is hidden around Fairhaven in jack spots, find them and own the car from then on. Each car is different and is upgraded independent of the others, you’ll need to win races in each car to get the best out of them. Some upgrades are pure speed and handling updates but others will help you drive off road or re-inflate your tyres.
Cruising out the city can be fun as well, there’s tons of speed camera leaderboards to top, billboards to smash and all of these are connected to Autolog. That means all of your friends’ scores are right there ready to be broken live and online. Of course you can post to Miiverse at anytime for bragging rights as well, hold the record on a billboard and your Mii will adorn it until someone smashed that record – literally.
As always, nothing is ever too serious in the world of Need for Speed but with Criterion behind this one you know the racing is to be fun, but not overly easy. Each car handles in its on own way, it’ll be up to you to figure out how to drive each one and what control setup suits you. Most Wanted basically supports every input method you could think of, the GamePad, Pro Controller, Wii Remote, Wii Remote with Nunchuk and even the Classic Controller are supported here. The only real problem with the controls would be the inclusion of digital triggers on both the GamePad and the Pro controller. It’s all or nothing, you aren’t able to subtly squeeze the brakes or accelerator, you’ll have to tap away to get the same effect.
The Wii U version though comes into its own with benefits the GamePad brings. The Off TV play naturally is here and easy to switch on or off. The real showcase though is the new co-driver feature. Not only is it a helpful map on the touch screen, it allows for a second party to help you out by distracting cops, turning traffic on or off and even changing the time of day. You can also switch cars on the fly with the GamePad. It’s something different at least, it can be abused though to make the game quite a bit easier.
Online multiplayer makes its way to the Wii U as well with only the minor concession of the max players at anyone time reduced to 6 from 8. Apart from that, everything is as you would expect from the other versions of the game. Online is played out much like Burnout Paradise was, you join a ‘lobby’ and drive from event to event. Some events are races, some are burnout competitions and others will test your ability to make a car fly. Voice chat is available through the GamePad although no one really wanted to speak when we tried talking to them.
When Criterion took the wraps off the Wii U version of Most Wanted they promised that it would be the best looking console version and they weren’t wrong. The game looked good already on the other consoles but on the Wii U it’s almost another whole league. Textures are sharper, the action is more consistent and the lighting effects just look great. One downside is that the HUD on the GamePad and even on the TV can be hard to read, it’s really small – it would have been great to be able to see some of the HUD moved to the GamePad separate to the co-driver.
As you would expect from Criterion and a Need for Speed title, the game’s soundtrack is appropriate enough with a good mix of modern songs and remixes of older ones. One problem I had is that while you can skip over songs playing, you can’t disable some songs all together, nor can you put together a custom playlist. If the music doesn’t suit your tastes then turning off the music is an option as well as the car’s sound realistic and meaty, especially in tunnels. It really gets you revved up.
Need for Speed Most Wanted is a fast, fun and beautiful title, everything a Wii U game should be. Every third party title on the Wii U will be compared to Most Wanted going forward, Criterion took their time to deliver a unique Wii U experience on top of an already great game.