The city of Fairhaven welcomes U.
It's been nearly 10 years since the efforts of Criterion Games last graced Nintendo hardware. Burnout 2: Point of Impact released on the GameCube in 2003, and despite a slew of great racers reaching it and successive consoles in the years that followed, few were as technically daring as Criterion’s work. Thankfully, the streak ends later this month when EA and Criterion bring Need for Speed Most Wanted to the Wii U.
Unlike most games, Most Wanted’s races don’t run along linear, independent tracks. Instead, its events take place across the fictional city of Fairhaven. Every road, alley, and bridge is just another path to the finish line. Of course, what’s the benefit of having the keys to the city if you can’t tool around at your own leisure? In Most Wanted, there’s no need to enter race after race—exploring the city is just as encouraged. The game includes 41 vehicles you can commandeer, the majority of which are strewn about the fair city, hidden in plain sight. Each car carries its own set of optional challenges and races. By completing these, you unlock modifications for the vehicle, allowing you to build a car suitable for each situation. Criterion doesn’t care for pulling players out of the world it’s created. With that in mind, Most Wanted lets you go online, find races, and make modifications in real time with the GamePad’s D-pad with a feature deemed EasyDrive. You can access each feature with a few taps, never slowing down the onscreen action.
When players enter Fairhaven, their objective is clear: to become the most notorious driver in the city. Unfortunately, much like No More Heroes’ Travis Touchdown, they encounter a few “obstacles” along the way. 10 elite racers compose the Blacklist, and after earning enough experience (known as Speed Points) from the game’s various races and challenges, the option to take on these drivers opens up. By defeating those on the Blacklist, players unlock some of the game’s best vehicles for their own use.
Online, Most Wanted becomes another beast altogether. Players can go up against up to seven other players, and take part in the challenges and races thrown your way. Meeting points are arranged by the host, and players tear their way across the city to get there first. Only when the drivers arrive do they learn the objective, which can run the gamut from catching the most airtime off a ramp, to a King of the Hill-style event where one must hold his ground while others attempt to turn his car into scrap metal.
The Wii U’s iteration of Need for Speed Most Wanted includes a variety of additions and improvements over other console versions. Criterion has noted that following the original release of Most Wanted last October, it focused its attention on making the game the best it can be on Wii U. Criterion's Alex Ward told GamesRadar that simply porting the title over would “be a crime."
Due to the Wii U's extra memory, Most Wanted makes use of the improved textures used in the PC, and also provides a better draw distance.
Most Wanted supports Off-TV Play, but Criterion is also making use of the GamePad in the title's Co-Driver mode, internally referred to as "Father and Son" mode. Here, the player with the GamePad can provide a helping hand to a second player (who can play with the Wii Remote, Wii Remote and Nunchuk, or Pro Controller). Criterion likens the GamePad to a driver's ed car, as it can serve as a second set of brakes, gas, etc. However, the GamePad can also provide boost, spin-out or remove pursuing police cars, change the time of day, alter the appearance of the car, provide the vehicle the other player wants to drive, manipulate traffic, and display a map of Fairhaven and its various collectables.
Ward says the studio’s aim with Most Wanted on the Wii U was "bringing people together and sharing the game experience."
Miiverse is implemented as well, and works hand in hand with Criterion's Autolog, a service created by Criterion to share details among the Most Wanted community. After completing a race or achieving a noteworthy goal, the game suggests posting the info to the Miiverse, and displays any related comments from your friends. Autolog also tracks your best times, recommends new friends to race with, and provides the records of your friends’ races and challenges. Miiverse and Autolog seem to complement each other well, and should help create a stronger sense of community among Most Wanted owners.
Need for Speed Most Wanted is expected to release March 19 in North America and March 21 in Europe.