NFS Shift

Need for Speed Nitro First-Look

The new Need for Speed Nitro is currently in development and will be released at the end 2009. NFS-Planet visited the guys from EA Montreal at a press event in Munich and got some impressions of the upcoming racing game. Read here about what you can expect in Need for Speed Nitro:

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In April the Montreal based producers of Need for Speed Nitro went out for a quick promo trip – that gave us the opportunity to meet producer Joe Booth and his team in Munich, Germany to worm some information out of them. We took a look at the Nintendo DS and Wii preliminary versions and were even able to play both of them.

NFS Nitro, second title of this year's Need for Speed lineup, is the result of a brand new development including some of the usual ingredients: excellent sensation for speed, a car pool covering the newest achievements of automotive industry and a licensed soundtrack are as well featured as the well-known however hardly recognizable Underground graphics engine. Whereas Shift adventures towards the simulation genre, Nitro puts in reverse gear and emerges as a typical Wii title. Having a smooth learning curve, excessive coloring and unorthodox design, the game clearly aims at the casual gaming market.

Although the time-honored Need for Speed engine being in use since Underground is already outdated on PC and NextGen consoles, it is doing its duty pretty neat on the Wii. The reason for this is that in this case the limiting factor is rather less a flagging graphics engine than the low processing power of the Nintendo console. In any case, the Wii at first stands for easy entertainment and accessibility with HD graphics being no key feature. Nitro is no exceptional title here: It offers a career supporting up to four players in split screen and the probably most simple to use customizing mode ever being included in a Need for Speed game. Thanks to the movement-sensitive WiiMote, you are able to place your vinyls by a simple "pointing" at the desired position on the car; if you wish to rotate it, you just have to perform the respective movement with the controller. That is a way of handling players on other platforms just can dream of.

The whole game play is – not surprising – very arcade and a comparison to Mario Kart seems likely not only due to the virtually identical, easy-to-master controls. Likewise, Nitro allows you pick up gift packs during your ride giving you an advantage over the other drivers. Anyway the fifty percent test build we played merely offered reparation markers. These markers let you – not surprising at all – renew your car by pressing the right button, although your drive will only receive visual damage like broken windows, scratches and increasing engine smoke, meaning you are not able to total your vehicle. The only consequences to driving behavior affect your nitrous oxide reserve which goes lower and lower with every impact. But this is what is required for fast lap times – a well-timed chaining of drafting, drifting and boosting is the key to success.

Another uncommon design feature is the ambience adapting to the race leader's logo. Before any race can go off, you will have to choose your ride and a symbol that is supposed to represent you. Once you are in the lead, buildings and landscape are dynamically readjusting themselves according to your car design. There were no advantages in terms of game play through that, but all the drivers pursuing you will surely do their best to take the top spot. Thereby, all race tracks are completely fictive and designed with focus on variety. Some races take place in SoCal, but will also be able to drift on snow-covered serpentines.

On the lane to victory you will also get in conflict with the police bugging you following a heat system similar to Most Wanted or Undercover. Oddly enough, they are just moving obstacles so you won't get arrested at any point in the game. For this reason there's no need to fear burning barrels or spike strips, but driving bumper cars should be a more helpful preparation instead.

Nitro's car pool contains over thirty vehicles, among them also SUVs and pickup trucks. As you can see on the screenshots, the car models having oversized wheels remind oneself rather of toy cars than of the real life counterparts. Since photo-realistic graphics are beyond the Wii's power, you only can recognize the originals due to the huge car manufacturer logos and equivalent model proportions. Indeed, this makes the cars' look a matter of taste, but it is generally in line with the game's concept. The most surprising fact is, however, that apparently so many automakers agreed to this kind of "improvement for the worse" of their treasured product line-up.

Still not freaky enough for your taste? So check out the Nintendo DS version featuring a pimped race track routing with some jumps and rollercoaster-like constructions. Additionally, you can enforce some Knight Rider style special moves in certain situations. For instance, you slip through a road block on two wheels or even destruct it by doing a 360 degree turn; overtaking opponents is also possible vertically-wise with a backflip (no joking here).

Both versions contain usual race types like circuit, sprint and knockout. Along with them, there are some fresh ideas like painting the whole race track in your logo through collecting markers – your position on the home straight is less important here. The online capabilities of the Wii are not supported, so you have to make do with the already mentioned split screen mode if you want some multiplayer fun. At least the DS version makes use of the WiFi connection.

Whereas Shift attempts a big step towards the simulation genre, Nitro rips directly into casual gamer's heart. Thanks to easy accessibility and a truly funny game play, the unconventionally designed Need for Speed is an enjoyable game for in between and definitely worth a look because of the apparent lack of alternative race games for the Nintendo console. Nevertheless, I suppose all Wii despisers, Need for Speed fans or simulation enthusiasts will get rather lucky with EA's home-made competitors Shift and World Online, since compared to these titles, Nitro offers just little demand and profundity. Since there will be a publicly introduced playable version on the upcoming E3, we are able to provide even more information on the game soon.

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- Junkie

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Further Material:

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