Need for Speed: NITRO
Dropping behind the wheel of a Charger or Cobra for a quick race is immediately satisfying and while NITRO definitely suffers from low-res car models and building textures, that doesn't stop the game from feeling frighteningly fast
I dreaded my first race in Need for Speed: NITRO because I couldn't think of a more inconvenient way to drive than pointing the Wii remote forward and tilting it side to side, especially in a balls-to-the-wall arcade racer. The "street" imagery -- ridiculous car mods and an uncomfortable amount of bling -- didn't lift my spirits either. Then something happened as I started playing. There's a co-op career mode? And it plays like Mario Kart with cops? And I can paint profanity on the side of my Volkswagen van? Word, dawg. Word.
- Breakneck speeds in varied (and always-frantic) co-op/competitive races
- Imprecise controls, muddy visuals and a shallow single-player experience
Even though it doesn't boast the same brand of gritty realism as such racing heavyweights as Forza and Gran Turismo, Need for Speed: NITRO's ridiculously fun flair was more than enough to win us over.
Price$ 79.95 (AUD)
So I was obviously a little sideswiped by what the game had to actually offer -- to paraphrase an old quote, don't judge a game by its cover -- but something else that blindsided me was the killer sense of speed. Dropping behind the wheel of a Charger or Cobra for a quick race was immediately satisfying and while NITRO definitely suffers from low-res car models and building textures, that doesn't stop the game from feeling frighteningly fast. Recklessly smashing my way across the streets of Rio de Janeiro at top speed had me giggling like a schoolgirl and nabbing power-up items along the way made it even more enjoyable. There's nothing quite like sicking an aggressive Hummer highway patrol on your opponents or boosting into the lead after perfectly timing a turbo tank-repair power-up. Even losing holds some enjoyment because you're respawned as a cop if you get knocked out of an elimination match, which gives you the chance at some sweet vehicular revenge.
But the best parts of NITRO come into view when you pull your pals into your career mode. You can tackle all of the events cooperatively and engage in post-race activities like painting and tweaking your cars as well. Helping each other earn stars to unlock new events, cars and aesthetic-upgrades is a satisfying way to progress. Sadly, this is the only way you should play NITRO: I was having so much fun cooperatively and competitively that it disguised how hollow the arcade-racer really is. It's a middling single-player experience that boils down to a disappointing checklist of drag racing, team-based races and drift matches that are predictable and dull. The true potential only comes through when you're competing for style points -- nailing sweet jumps and tight turns -- or vying for the top spot with other people.
But warn your friends that the controls can be unnecessarily frustrating at times. My initial fears were confirmed rather quickly: swiveling the controller to turn just isn't precise and I wound up wedged against walls more often than I would have liked. It works but not as well as it should. Oh, and if you have friends who are seasoned racing game fans, expect them to roll their eyes at the ludicrousness of NITRO's gameplay -- it's the polar opposite of simulation-oriented games like Forza 3 and Gran Turismo. But then again, they're not the game's target audience, so they can go tighten a lug nut while the rest of us hoot, holler and high-five during the entertaining co-op shenanigans.
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