By Steve Wright
First things first: just because EA has done what most publishers do (or, does Nintendo request this?) and slapped a U at the end of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, it doesn't mean we're reviewing an entirely new game. As such, Nicholas' original Most Wanted review stands.
That being said, I am not a hardcore racer like Nicholas is, and as such, I think I'm a little more forgiving of Most Wanted's mechanics than he was. I play all racing games the same: hold the gas button down all the way, remember to use the brake occasionally, and pray that I don't hit things as I frantically steer. It's fun, for me.
Now that we've got the formalities out of the way, let's review the Wii U-centric changes to Most Wanted.
First off, the game supports off-TV play, which seems like a no-brainer to me. Having the freedom to zip around in Fairhaven using just the GamePad is a thing of wonder, and best yet, it still looks as gorgeous as the game does on a full-sized HDTV.
You can use a myriad of different control schemes in Most Wanted U -- in fact, you can use every control scheme imaginable on Nintendo's console. I finally got to use my Pro Controller for the first time, and it felt pretty much exactly like my Most Wanted Xbox 360 experience. Except, you know, Nintendo swaps two of the buttons around for some ridiculous reason, so navigating through menus got a bit tricky. Oh, and the Pro Controller's triggers are just awful, but that's hardly the game's fault.
You can also use a solitary Wiimote, Mario Kart-style, or add a Nunchuk into the mix if you're strange and don't want to use the GamePad or the Pro Controller. I did try using the old-school Wii controllers, but the control schemes just seemed unneccessary.
The GamePad provides the best control experience of the lot. It offers a pretty similar core experience to the Pro Controller, with triggers controlling speed and front-facing buttons handling nitro and other base items. If you're a fan of motion controlled, Wiimote-like streering, you can toggle that option on the GamePad, allowing you to use the triggers for movement and the GamePad itself as a steering wheel. It's a nice hyrbid control scheme which I found myself repeatedly going back to.
The GamePad also offers a ton of other options, providing you're driving on the TV. You'll be able to toggle a ton of functions, some of which are cool, and other that make you feel like you're a big fat cheater. The nice options allow you to swap between day and night driving and change to a different control scheme.
The other options just reek of Nintendo's "Super Guide" functionality, where they desperately want to make the game as easy as possible. Using the GamePad, you'll be able to repair your car without hitting a service station, change cars without needing to go to a jack spot, and disrupt cops that are chasing you. That last one really bugs me; isn't the core of the game becoming so adept at driving that you're supposed to be dodging cops yourself, and having fun doing it? Finally, you can toggle traffic on or off in Fairhaven when in single-player... which in turn makes going to multiplayer ridiculously difficult as you're not going to be used to swerving around slow-moving cars. I guess the options are nice to have if you want to use them, but they're to be avoided if you're a pretty regular gamer as they'll ultimately detract from the experience.
In the same vein, a second person can use the GamePad to act as an assistant while another is driving. Okay... that's a thing. Got it.
Ignoring those hand-holding features, Most Wanted U is a competent driving game for a console that barely has any driving games. If you're interested in cars and own a Wii U, then this is a pretty straightforward purchase. And, since Most Wanted connects all the different console experiences through its Autolog, you'll be able to compare your driving skills to all of us who've had the game for ages, now. See you in Fairhaven.