Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Need for Speed: Most Wanted U (Wii U) Review

This next review is of a game that is fundamentally fantastic gameplay and presentation-wise. If that's the case, then why do I hesitate in recommending Need for Speed: Most Wanted U? Find out with this review.

Do U Have the Need, The Need for Speed?

Need for Speed: Most Wanted released in 2012 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. Well, technically the second iteration of Need for Speed: Most Wanted released in 2012, while the original game of the same name but with different content released in 2005. You still following me? Well, no worries. Just know that the Wii U port of the 2012 game released in March of 2013. It was sadly damned from launch thanks to the Wii U port being full retail price while the other versions were already budget price by the time. Throw in the publisher's disinterest in further creating games for the Wii U, and you have a recipe for disaster. That said, the end result of Need for Speed: Most Wanted U is a port from a third-party that smartly uses the Wii U and its features in an intelligent and entertaining way that makes it worth looking into.

Don't mind me. I'm just
soaking in the sun.
Welcome to Fairhaven City. Your objective is very simple: race and win against ten of the most wanted racers in town. That's the limit of the motivation the game provides you with in order to accomplish your task. While some may find that off-putting, I found that Need for Speed: Most Wanted U's simple premise made it so I didn't feel obligated to focus on winning races or anything that like that. It gave me freedom to explore Fairhaven on my terms and whenever I wanted.

Do you mind? I'm trying to change lanes
at a dangerous 109 mph!
Driving through Fairhaven is a lovely experience. You have your downtown and park areas in the center of the map, your industrial areas to the west, and your mountainous region to the north and northeast. There's a wide array of terrain to drive upon, and it makes exploring Fairhaven a fun and variety-filled place to burn rubber in.

If you want, you can just roam freely about Fairhaven without much issue. Of course, speeding an exorbitant amount higher than the posted limit will get the cops on your tail. Then it's a rush to get out of their zone, hide in a less traveled space, and hope to goodness that the po-po (as the kids call it) don't see you, lest you wish to start the pursuit all over again, which isn't that bad considering how fun running from chasing cops is in Most Wanted U.

All a police barricade says to me
is "Time to test the body on this baby."
The Wii U version's Easy Drive function allows you to use the GamePad in a myriad amount of ways. You can turn traffic on and off with the tap of a button, mess with every citizen's mind by changing between day and night on a whim, change cars (though you can still discover jackspots at your leisure-- i.e. places where you can switch between the car parked there and the one you're currently driving instantly), designate the GamePad screen with a helpful map, or make pursuing cops spin out with one push of your finger.

The place on the left is great
for auto repairs (and losing the cops).
With the Easy Drive function, you can also select events immediately rather than drive to its starting destination. Different events earn new parts for your given vehicle, pending on which place you come away with, such as off-road tires, a stronger chassis to ward off crashes, and nitro to boost like a bad mother--watch your mouth.

Change Fairhaven from day to night
with a press of the GamePad's screen.
There's a small selection of different event types to choose from, but what is there tends to be entertaining. Whether you're getting involved with circuit or sprint races, trying to achieve a high maximum average speed along your path to the finish, or trying to lose the boys in blue that want nothing more than to take you in, you earn Speed Points simply for completing them.

Have car, will travel. Have race, will win.
In fact, Speed Points can be earned for doing a lot of things within Fairhaven. Having a lengthy and successful hot pursuit with the Fairhaven P.D. earns points, as does flying though special billboards plastered throughout the town. If you ever wanted to crash through a billboard with EA's pompous and obnoxious little logo on it, as if saying, "Suck my bumper, EA" right to it, then you'll have that chance, finally! There's also speed cameras that record your top speed as you zoom by them, security gates to destroy, and the aforementioned jackspots to uncover.

Take THAT for making Dead Space 3
less horror and more generic!
The really cool part about all of this-- the races, the events, the collectibles-- is that everything is put on a multitude of leaderboards between you and your friends. It's an asynchronous type of multiplayer where you can see your friends' top times and scores on each event and collectible doodad (such as how far you car traveled in the air from a ramp, through a billboard, and onto the ground) and try to outdo their times and stats. It's a miniature competition of sorts, which nets you Speed Points for besting a given friend's time or statistic.

Destroyed billboards will be replaced by
pictures of the Most Wanted in Mii form.
What good are Speed Points for, though? Other than being yet another way to compete with friends without them being online at the same time (but don't worry-- there is online multiplayer to be had), as you earn more and more Speed Points, you get the opportunity to race against one of the Most Wanted. These one-on-one races usually have the police on your tail, trying to ram you off-course and showing little regard to themselves or anyone else for that matter. Once a race has been won (you can challenge any Most Wanted opponent or do over any event you want), your final goal is to shut that racer's car down. A nice takedown is in order in the form of smashing your car into theirs until it can no longer function.

One word of warning with races in particular is that when you're going at such fast speeds, it can be mighty difficult to see what is coming up ahead until it's too late. Be prepared to crash and moan each time your car slams into even the tiniest obstacle until you learn the city and each race's path well. It's especially so since the crash animation seems to mock you with how long it takes to finish.

Get ready to see the word "crashed"
appear a lot more than you might be used to.
Another issue that is far more severe with the Wii U port of Need for Speed: Most Wanted is how the game can occasionally (i.e. more than I would like) freeze the Wii U system into a hard lock, with the only course of action is to unplug the system from the back. Sadly, these very serious freezing issues will never be patched, it seems, due to EA pulling all support from Nintendo's system. It's a shame, as this game would be much easier to recommend were it not for these hard locks.

As mentioned earlier, Need for Speed: Most Wanted U allows for friends and total strangers to ride online and compete or cooperate with one another for some multiplayer mayhem. To be more specific, up to six players can participate in a Speed List, a customized schedule that shows what events players and their rides will be thrust into. Speed Lists can make multiplayer rounds go as long as an hour, so be sure to have the required time to fully enjoy these. Such Speed List events can be king of the hill-type matches, simple races, and so much more. The built-in microphone of the GamePad additionally allows for fun smack talk and cooperative chatter to occur while speeding through Fairhaven.

My eyes... They can't handle all the beauty...
Fairhaven is a spectacular looking city, and the Wii U does it supreme justice. The city's details such as signage, building architecture, and more all are heavily detailed, offering a personality to Fairhaven that few racing games can match. By far, though, the winner here is the gorgeous lighting and the many effects coming from it. Seeing the sunset shine and sparkle off a wet city street is just jaw-dropping in how beautiful it looks. Car models also benefit from looking tried and true to their real-life counterparts. All in all, Need for Speed: Most Wanted U is a fantastic game for the eyes to view.

A game so pretty that you'll want to
make as many Kodak moments as you can.
Outside of the immensely disappointing freezing and hard lock issues tied to the game (which are a big detriment to the overall package for me), Need for Speed: Most Wanted U is what I would consider a definitive version of the original 2012 game. It comes with a lot more features, many of which are entirely optional and don't harm the overall experience if not used. Fairhaven itself is a joy to explore and simply cruise around in, too. What makes the game brilliant, however, is both the simultaneous and asynchronous multiplayer modes that benefit both friendly and unfriendly rivalries online. Need for Speed: Most Wanted U is a fun and fast racing game on a system with next to none to call its own.

[SPC Says: 7.5/10]

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