Need for Speed Nitro Review
By Gaetano Prestia
Need for Speed Nitro is the well overdue NFS Wii exclusive. As opposed to other iterations on the console that were merely ports of other console versions, Nitro is tailored specifically for the Wii, a trait that ultimately helps distance itself from other titles in the franchise. While its focus is undoubtedly that of an arcade racer, a fact that will inevitably have it compared to the likes of Mart Kart Wii, Nitro is a great first-round effort for the franchise, a game that is good enough to make us forget completely about the series’ other appearances on the Wii.
EA’s focus with Nitro was to make an accessible and fun arcade racer, one that didn’t aim for realism, but instead wanted to provide gamers with a quick racing game experience coupled with the typical NFS customization options that have the made the franchise so popular. Nitro offers several great control schemes (across all four of the Wii-compatible controllers, including the Gamecube controller), all of which work very well and have no major nuisances or issues. Which one you use is going to depend on whatever one suits you best, and you can easily change the scheme your using without much hassle. As this is an arcade racer, cars don’t control as accurately within their weight as they would in a racing sim like NFS Shift, but that shouldn’t deter you, as all of the cars you’ll drive have their own strengths and weaknesses, depending on their style and how you’re actually driving them. A muscle car for example isn’t going to be as quick off the mark as a Lamborghini, although it might handle drifting a bit better.
On the customization front, it’s been stripped down a bit from previous iterations, which is a bit disappointing. You can’t customize your cars performance parts, with the game only allowing you to change up the appearance based on what you unlock through the career mode. It’s not a major downside, but it would have been nice to add a few new extra performance features to a specific car that you enjoy. You can just upgrade your car to a faster one with better performance stats, but it takes away a lot of the fun of mix and matching specific parts with others. This style might be more suited to the gamer that doesn’t know much about cars, but NFS has always been known for its performance upgrades and not so much its appearance ones. Still, there’s a wide range of cars to unlock and even though you won’t be using one specific car for long before you upgrade, the game at least encourages you to try out different vehicles, as opposed to sticking to the same one and changing it up over and over again.
The career mode is almost identical to that of Shift’s, having you progress through the ranks by achieving stars based on your performance. The deeper into the game you get the more you’ll have to do during an event to earn the required number of stars. The game starts of fairly easy, having you simply finish in a minimum position to progress, but you’ll soon have to finish first or withing the best possible time, as well as take specific short-cuts and drive a particular way to earn the right amount of stars. The difficulty increases as you progress, which is great, but you can still complete the game without finishing every single event or earning every single star. You’ll need a minimum amount to progress, but to achieve 100% completion you’ll need to earn every single one, which can be quite the challenge.
You can race your cars in several different racing modes, including the typical Drift and Circuit races that are accustomed to NFS titles. While not all of the modes are that challenging or enjoyable (Time Attack comes to mind), everything you’d want from a racing title is there. Nitro is best experienced when you’re going up against other racers, as the speed factor is definitely one of the game’s biggest selling points. Nitro is clearly heavily influenced by the Burnout series, as your Nitro boost is increased with every crash you cause during a race. Things can get incredibly fast once you hit the boost and thankfully the controlling doesn’t lose any of its accessibility once the speed cranks up a bit. You won’t be spinning out all over the place the faster your car is going and you’re not really punished for clipping walls or passing traffic, which helps define this game as a true arcade racer. You can flip-out and write-off the car though, although this normally happens when the sometimes-moronic police AI chases you down once you’ve acquire a wanted level.
Along with its arcade controls, Nitro also has a distinctively arcadey look about it, with overly bright colours and environments, as well as weird yet strangely fittingly designed vehicles. The presentation definitely takes a lot of inspiration from old-school arcade racing games of the late-90s, and fans of the Burnout series should love how well the similar gameplay to that franchise is coupled with great arcade visuals, licensed vehicles and accessible and fun gameplay.
The Final Verdict
Need for Speed Nitro isn’t perfect by any means, but as an arcade racer and the first NFS title built specifically for the Wii, it’s a fantastic effort. It can actually be a lot of fun and while the police AI can ruin some of the races and the lack of performance customization hurts the gameplay a little bit, there’s enough accessibility and depth here to please casual gamers, arcade racing fans and fans of EA’s Burnout series.