Two muscle cars posing
Leader of the pack?
There are very few serious driving games of note on Wii - the machine is undoubtedly missing its Forza Motorsport, Gran Turismo or Race Driver: Grid - and EA's latest in the Need for Speed franchise does little to address this problem. Whilst 360 and PS3 owners can play the generally well-received NFS: Shift, Nintendo gamers are being given a very different racer in the form of Nitro, a less serious take on the genre that combines familiar elements from the series into a new, more accessible title for the Nintendo market.
We played with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo, although Wii Wheel support is also in. You steer with the control stick and activate your boost by shaking the Remote - although it seems a little old-fashioned to play a racing game with the control stick, it does generally give you much tighter control over your racer, although the gimmick of shaking to boost is even more old-fashioned. Classic Controller and Gamecube pad support is also confirmed, giving you the widest possible choice of control methods barring a car with a built-in Wii.
Generally the races are standard fare against a pack of up to seven other racers, although to spice things up you can collect Police badges that act as weapons, allowing you to unleash some justice on your rivals with a quick push of the Z button. Of course, other racers will be looking to do this to you, so it becomes a matter of arrest or be arrested as the Police cars zoom around the track, getting in your way and generally trying to stop your crime-causing behaviour. Your car can only take a limited amount of damage before you have to retire from the race, but you can pick up repair power-ups handily dotted about the track, although CPU drivers can pick these up too so you'll often find yourself jostling for the pick-ups when in the middle of the pack
The track design is nothing out of the ordinary, although you can boost over the occasional ramps to speed past your opponents, gaining points that convert into extra nitro for your boost. You can also gain points for drifting and drafting, so skillful driving allows you to build up nitro ready for a race-winning burst of speed. The game however does look very polished, with some nice lighting effects and a very smooth frame rate, and certainly keeps up with other racers on the system.
We only had a short time to get a hands-on with Need for Speed Nitro and although it's not an unmitigated disaster it does come across as a little uninspired. Hopefully some further playtime will show the game in a more favourable light, but on this evidence it looks like the wait for Wii's champion racer continues.