The stylized graphics and fun gameplay help make this Wii game a quality title.
After a few poorly received ports, EA went back to the drawing board with Need for Speed: Nitro. Developed by EA Montreal, Nitro is made specifically for the Wii, with a unique art style that takes advantage of the system's strengths, tons of control options, and some solid split-screen multiplayer. It is arguably the most arcade-like a Need for Speed game has ever been. But it doesn't go full force into the world of arcade racing, making it a weird mix of the two racing genres that is still the best entry in the series on Nintendo's latest console.
The art style is the first thing you'll notice in Nitro, and it's an overly cartoony style with exaggerated cars, characters, and locales. It is silky smooth and aesthetically pleasing, with a pretty amazing sense of speed that is emboldened by the consistent framerate. One of the cool graphical touches is the graffiti that you can customize for each car; whoever is in first place will paint the areas it passes, which makes the drive for first place even more powerful.
Nitro offers the use of just about every control option Wii has to offer. The game's introductory cut scene focuses on the unique one-handed Wii Remote scheme. It doesn't sound too great on paper, but its simple focus on tilting the control left and right while press the A or B buttons to perform actions works very well. You can also bust out your Wii Wheel, attach a Nunchuk, or use a Classic or GameCube controller.
At your disposal are a nitrous boost, which slowly builds up as you race, and two different items that you can pick up on the course. One sics the cops on the nearest car ahead of you, while the other will repair your car instantly. The items are plentiful, but the fact that there are only two different ones makes them less fun; this game isn't exactly Mario Kart in that regard. Cops are all around in this game as you race the streets of various cities. You build up a star rating if you recklessly drive, and the cops will go after you if you have the highest star rating of the pack.
Arcade and Career are the two main game modes, and they're both playable with up to four players. Arcade is basically just an exhibition mode that features a variety of different gameplay modes, most of which are featured in the numerous races in Career mode. It is a bit limited, though, as you can only choose from 12 of the 30+ cars, and it is a bit clumsy to set up.
The Career mode, on the other hand, is a lot better. It's split up into five cities ranging from Cairo to Singapore, and a final Grand Prix. Each city has a Top Racer, but the game never does anything other than introduce each one in a stylish introduction to the venue. There are three different cups, and the main difference between them is that you use different cars; the Bronze Cup features Class C cars, the Silver Cup features Class B cars, and the Gold Cup features Class A cars. At the outset, only the Bronze Cup is unlocked, and you must triumph through that before you can move on to the later cups. Unfortunately, there are only two or three different tracks per city, so you repeat them a lot, especially as you go through the Silver and Gold cups.
The race types salvage that issue a bit, though. Outside of the straightforward race, there are also Elimination races where the last place racer is eliminated every 30 seconds; Drift Challenges, where you have to drift a certain amount in a race and get to the finish; Acceleration Challenges, where you have to speed up and shift gears with precision while avoiding other cars, and more.
Outside of the racing, you can customize your cars with different graffiti and decals, either pre-made or drawn by you. It's very intuitive, but the load times slow this down immensely. The load times don't negatively affect other aspects of the game. Outside of initial loads, races can be restarted very quickly, which is a relief if you're trying to complete a specific goal.
Need for Speed: Nitro is, for the most part, a fantastic racing game for the Wii. The art style looks fantastic on the system, the varied control options are great, and the gameplay is fast-paced and entertaining. Sadly, it awkwardly straddles the line between zany arcade racing game and super-serious simulation game, wasting a lot of potential in the process with conservative items and unused 'boss' characters. If you're looking for a light-hearted racer, this is an awesome title to pick up, but if you're looking for something zanier or more simulation heavy, you might want to look elsewhere.