Although it’s relatively low key on Wii, Need for Speed: Nitro smacks of something born in focus groups and marketing meetings. This year you’re going to be into ‘taking ownership’ of ‘your media’ so here’s a racing game that’s all about you.
The idea is that after you’ve painted some logos and stamped your car with emblems, these designs appear on the scenery in the otherwise drab game world when you take the lead in a race. It’s a nice visual effect. As you speed along the road it looks like you’re surfing a wave of paint, brightening the streets with your garish colorscapes and cartoon skulls. We’re sure we’ve seen something very similar done in TV ads before but this is a first on Wii.
The backgrounds that appear on buildings are selected from a preset list, and personalized designs can be painted directly onto the vehicles using a range of unlockable freehand brushes. While it’s obvious that a lot of effort has been plowed into the presentation, it’s all too predictable to find that Need for Speed: Nitro can’t really cut it on the road. Beyond the promise of the jazzy visual effects lurks a game that brings to mind Midway’s creaky old San Francisco Rush.
Actually it’s barely up to that sort of standard. The handling is so basic all you need to do is tap the handbrake button to powerslide mechanically around practically any corner. It’s almost as if you’re driving on rails, and we can’t see why anyone would ever need to activate the assisted steering mode that’s included.
The challenge comes from avoiding damage at the hands of the police cars that dog you throughout every race. If you crash into too many roadblocks or get shunted into too many walls you’ll lose your turbo power, and possibly the race, unless you can find a spanner icon to repair your car. A second powerup icon makes the police leave you alone for a moment and swarm towards one of the other racers.
As well as the normal circuit races there are drag races and a mode where you have to drive through checkpoints as quickly as possible. The game supports every type of control method you could think of, including one where you point at the screen and twist the remote to steer. It’s slick, it’s polished, it’s utterly professional. Unfortunately it just isn’t all that exciting.
Nov 18, 2009