This year we've seen a significant stage in the evolution of the Need For Speed franchise, its now grown to such a level that one game simply can't please all and so the decision was made to break the franchise up enabling a wider range of experiences. This also gave the opportunity to focus those experiences to directly suit the target customer. Barring that in mind the decision was taken to separate the Wii version from the other NFS titles, aimed at a slightly younger audience this will represent yet another new step into virgin territory.
Kicking off with a brief presentation we went straight into a hands-on session and graphically the title is very nicely presented, sharp and bold while running at an impressive 60fps, backed up with a fantastic feeling of speed. The first thing that strikes you about Need For Speed Nitro is its striking artistic approach, combining a well implemented fusion of design, colour and general feel. Cars are all based on real models but altered to fit this slightly surreal racing universe. Featuring a comprehensive car design garage, the colours and designs painted on the car actually alter the environment around you, so whenever a player takes the lead the environment changes to match the colour of that car. You also design your own design / graffiti style which literally paints the town as you drive along. Its a great effect and really makes it worth while when you take the lead and begin overwriting the previous race leader, giving a real urge for competitive racing.
Note how the players car colour and design are reflected in the local environments.
As for handling the game is a complete arcade racer, with car control being basic but effective, simply drive fast, turn in and hit the brake with the car gliding in a very Ridge Racer esque on rails style. So no realism here though there is a car damage system, which racing damage will affect the performance of your car so keep an eye out for the giant floating spanner pick-ups dotted around the course, these are vital to your survival. The other pick-ups you'll see are giant police badges, grab one of these and you can redirect the heat on to a competitor, so while the cops bash them about and damage their car in the process you'll be able to make a few places, of course that swings both ways to prepare for a bumpy rides and some very aggressive cop action. Of course the distinctive art style leads on well to the games many environments, all based in major cities around the world but with a Nitro twist, we look forward to seeing more in the final release including more details on the many vehicles available.
The Wii remote has two forms of implementation, you can either race one-handed then twist the remote from side to side or use the nun chuck to steer, suffice to say I did better with the latter, being rubbish at the twisting motion and feeling like I was straining my admittedly powerful wrists. The game also features some fun 2 player split screen modes, demoed was the Eliminator mode. With the car in last place turning into a cop car and then chasing the field, every 30 seconds another player would become a cop until it all became too much for the front runner, always an exciting mode but the cop element that players always had something to achieve despite being eliminated.
Overall the game looks solid enough, great graphics combined with gameplay carefully tailored to the Wii audience means that this new direction could be the best way forward and demonstrates the quality of EA's support of Nintendo. The length or depth of the game could be its only true weaknesses but as ever EA tend to have these things worked out and Nitro looks like it has the potential to be another Wii winner this Christmas season, Nitro is due out in November with a full review in due course.