|System: Wii U|
|Dev: Criterion Games|
|Release: March 19, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p||Alcohol Reference, Comic Mischief, Violence|
by Josh Wirtanen
I was first introduced to the Need for Speed series back in the 1990s with Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit for the original PlayStation. While I haven’t done a thorough job of keeping up with it since then, it’s a series I still feel inclined to check up on every now and again. What I’ve noticed through the generations is a weird evolution that, for the most part, has been pretty positive.
That evolution culminated last October in Need for Speed Most Wanted, which I reviewed all those months ago. I gave it a score of 4.7 out of 5, so obviously I liked it quite a bit.
Still, I’ll admit that I was a little less than enthused when the Wii U version slid across my desk and landed in my “To Review” pile (a pile that is admittedly metaphorical). See, reviewing games that you’ve already reviewed once is sort of weird, since the magic of that initial playthrough has worn off and you know, for the most part, exactly what to expect. This was compounded for me in Most Wanted, as I actually played almost half the game about a month before review time, then started from scratch for my review. So I wasn’t sure that I wanted to jump back into a game I’d already played through 1.5 times already.
But after I got Most Wanted U installed (I got a digital copy rather than a physical one), Muse’s “Butterflies and Hurricanes” started playing during the game’s opening cinematic, and I felt like I was returning to an old friend. (I suppose that’s a testament to both the game and the song.)
That’s not to say that Most Wanted U is the exact same experience as the original version. See, back in October when I wrote my initial review, I praised the way it allowed players to explore Fairhaven City however they wanted. But I almost feel like I have to take back a few of the things I said back then, because what felt open and free back then feels smaller now that I’ve played the Wii U version.
I mean, in the original game, players were free to explore the city as they saw fit, basically doing whatever they wanted to do in just about any order they wanted to do it in. But with Most Wanted U, players are given an almost godlike power to change the city into the city they want it to be. Okay, so that’s a pretty huge exaggeration, but the GamePad features definitely give players far more control over what happens here. For example, with a quick tap, players can change the scenery from night to day or vice versa. With another tap, they can make all the traffic in the city disappear or reappear.
And this isn’t the only positive use of the GamePad. One of the things I wasn’t so fond of in the original game was the way you switched cars. See, you could switch to any car you’d already jacked at any time, but you would be returned to the specific jackspot for that car. Most Wanted U makes the transition between vehicles so much smoother with an easy-to-use touchscreen menu, and it also lets you swap cars without teleporting to some far off location. It sounds like such a small thing, but trust me, it makes the game immensely more enjoyable.
Even so, you don’t necessarily have to use the GamePad, as the Pro controller is fully supported. In fact, there’s an additional control scheme designed for two players that makes use of both the GamePad and the Pro controller simultaneously. The person driving holds the Pro, while the GamePad player can navigate menus and even distract the cops if they’re giving chase.