Before HD television sets and quad core processors, I remember sitting in front of my state-of-the-art Pentium 133 MHz PC and burning up the tracks of the original Need for Speed.
Back then, things were simple: there were only a handful of cars and tracks and the graphics were as blocky as a bucket of Lego. Since then, the Need for Speed franchise has enjoyed a great amount of success and has undergone numerous makeovers throughout the years. From exotic cars to illegal, street racing, players have seen it all. The latest incarnation has, once again, taken a new direction especially for the Wii.
It's no secret that the Wii does not possess the muscle of its competitors, thus EA has built a completely fresh title from the ground up for the Wii and the DS. The end result was Need for Speed Nitro, an unassuming explosion of colour and light-hearted, high-speed racing.
From the get-go, Need for Speed has always leaned more on the serious side, requiring a certain level of skill to fully enjoy. However, Nitro is a no-holds barred slugfest of a racing game ? it is unabashedly bold and loud.
EA has positioned this title especially for the casual gamer and the gameplay is accessible to nearly anyone. What's great is that Nitro is not a mere port, but rather a totally fresh creation ? it doesn't try to adopt a typical graphical realism or attempt to recreate a million cars to the tee. Instead it provides a fun and fast-paced racer.
There is also a strong emphasis on style, typified by some real psychedelic designs. These designs are evident from the beginning customisations down to the DNA of the tracks. As with most EA games, players will get to customise and essentially pimp their ride. And when I say pimp, I mean it! Everything from the colour to the bodywork can be tweaked with specialised tags being the cherry on the top. These tags can be arranged rather easily and add a whole lot of personality to your speedster.
It doesn't end there: players can even tag the city with their graffiti design of choice, and as long as they are holding first place ? entire street blocks will be "vandalised" with their trademark insignia.
The main premise of the franchise remains: race against other speedsters, whip their asses and leave the police eating your dust. The police in Nitro are psychos, they really go aggro about shutting down your joy ride with two or three trying to take you out at a time. If only the SAPS were as zealous.
Fortunately for noobs such as myself, the developers have made it very easy to spin your car in the correct direction in case the police or your competitors get the better of you. This is but one of a few aspects which have been tweaked for a true casual racing experience. Another is the drift, which is highly stylised for powerful, arcade-like manoeuvres ? you?ll either dig it or be put off, however it does take a bit of getting used to.
Accessibility is the name of the game, and Nitro sports a host of controls suited for every one. The steering wheel motion control is the first which comes to mind where you control your car by wielding the Wiimote like a driving wheel. Then there's the Wiimote/Nunchuk combo for a more typical experience. The Gamecube and Classic Controller option provide a traditional scheme. And finally, a unique one-handed system has been created for the real lazy slouches out there ? I rather enjoyed this new option...
The courses are further stylised with the inclusion of power-ups which allow you to gain the upper hand, whether it be through keeping your car in tip top condition or torching the competition. These icons are dotted around the level and can be picked by merely speeding through them. You see, the more you bash into others or gain attention by driving aggressively or leading the pack, the more your damage and heat you take on. However, with the help of the aforementioned power-ups you'll be able to ditch these buffs.