At a press event in New York City yesterday, EA had a number of titles on-hand, including the Wii U port of the recently released Need For Speed: Most Wanted.
For years, we have grown used to the Nintendo port of a previously released game for Sony or Microsoft’s machine falling short in various regards. Despite all assurances to the contrary, which are often given in a somewhat half-hearted manner. At least this was how it was with the after the fact Wii ports; they never looked as good as the Xbox 360 or PS3 iterations.
And due to the pattern being so ingrained, it's easy to assume that history would repeat itself, especially since many after the fact Wii U ports have felt the same. Which is why it was a breath of fresh air to hear Jayme Figueroa, Associate Product Manager at Electronic Arts, state with the utmost degree of confidence and straightforwardness, that the upcoming Wii U version of Need For Speed: Most Wanted state is the best version you will find at the end of the day. It's a point I asked for him to reiterate repeatedly, and which was done with zero hesitation.
Figueroa explained that the team at Criterion Games, best known as the creators of the Burnout series and who was recently given stewardship of EA's long standing Need For Speed franchise, with the hope that they would turn the once floundering IP around (and which they've largely succeeded at), are huge fans of the Wii U hardware.
Which is why, when it came time to produce the requisite port, they wanted to do something truly substantial. So first's first; every single thing that was found in the original Xbox 360, PS3, and PC ports is included. Actually more so; the first DLC that came out for those versions, the Ultimate Speed Pack, and which added five new cars for $10, is already included.
Though the key differentiation is how the GamePad is employed. There's a new featured that was dubbed "father and son mode" that allows two people to play a solo race simultaneously. Initial reports sounded hardly special, and the name given also didn't instill one with much excitement. But the execution is a slightly different story.
It works like this: the primary driver controls the action with Pro Controller. Or the Wii Remote, or the Wii Wheel, or any other controller that one can plug into the Wii Remote's connector port. When asked if I could use my special edition Super Famicom controller, designed primarily for authentic Virtual Console gaming, the answer was an emphatic yes.
The second player, the assist, has his or her hands on the WiiPad. And on the screen are several options to help the first player in case there are any problems. The two primary means is removing all traffic and placing them back in. While Figueroa raced, I chose the option multiple times, but because we were on a strip of road that didn't have many other cars period, it was hard to see this effect played out.
The other means of assistance is distracting cops. If the driver has the law on his or her tail, a simple press of the touchscreen will cause them to spin out. Which one supposes can be handy in certain scenarios, but it was again difficult to fully comprehend the action on screen, since you're not really seeing the fuzz crash into each other, since you're long gone by then. I asked about the potential for abuse and was explained how the primary driver is given points for performance, which includes cop evasion. The more one has to rely upon help, the less points are given at the end of the race. Makes sense.
There was a third option on the screen, which allowed for switching between day and night immediately. Unlike the other two, this option's cause and effect were immediately apparent. As well as quite pretty looking.
In fact, Figueroa explained how it was the best nighttime you'll find pretty much anywhere, at least in a Need For Speed game. Furthermore, it was proudly boasted that the Wii U version sports the best visuals of the entire Most Wanted round up, at least among the console versions, since it utilizes the PC version's texture packs.
And it is true; the reflections on the cars looked phenomenal. Sitting side by said the Wii U version was the PS3 version; there was a noticeable difference in the lighting and reflection between the vehicles in each version. Though to be fair, both had different kinds of cars, so perhaps the one on the PS3 was less shiny/reflective.
Furthermore, the overall lighting effects were a bit more pronounced in the Wii U version. Specifically the "glare" that hits the screen, which reflects bits of dust and debris, presumably from the "camera" that's filming the entire action.
Speaking of, and this was something that seemed a bit odd to ask, but I enquired about the logic behind father and son mode. On other Wii U games, say Super Mario Bros U, having someone intervening with the GamePad is totally acceptable, given that it's such a cartoony affair.
But Most Wanted is such a realistic game that such leaps in reality is rather jarring. It's as if the hand of God is making things happen on a whim. Figueroa understood what I was going at, and basically explained that it was designed for two people to have fun together, though more over, for one person to lend a hand, maybe for someone else who is not as proficient at the game.
Which is why the person with the GamePad can take over at any given moment. It's almost like being the car with a driver instructor; if you screw up, someone can take over and save your ass.
Back to the visuals; they did indeed look impressive. It had the same amount of detail as the aforementioned PS3 version, plus everything runs along at a rock solid 30 FPS as well. But the colors appeared comparatively washed out. The reason for this was unclear.
Perhaps it's the way both consoles were hooked up to the displays? Both were exactly the same kind of Samsung HD sets, so there was no disparity there.
I also asked about DLC, if any upcoming downloadable content for the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, would hit the Wii U at the same time, or something after. There is no answer regarding this at the moment.
At the very least, if one gets the Wii U version this upcoming March 19th, you'll be getting the most feature rich version, that allows for local co-op in a manner that is hardly groundbreaking, but still admittedly fun (and which also ramps up the accessibility, which was clearly the intention). Plus it looks quite nice, and visuals is something that many former Wii and current Wii U owners are mindful of, since that's always the department that gets the worse of it all.
That being said, it remains to be seen how it looks on your display, especially when compared to the 360 and PS3 versions.