PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

Need For Speed: Nitro

Thomas Cross

With no Wii histrionics, this game has to stand on its own.


Need for Speed: Nitro

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Players: 1-2
Price: $39.99
Platform: Wii
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Developer: EA Montreal
Release Date: 2009-11-03
URL

Need for Speed: Nitro, like so many Wii titles released alongside comparable 360 and PS3 games, has its work cut out for it. It bears numerous similarities (in design, and less noticeably, in tone) to its cousin, Need for Speed Shift, a recent next-gen offering. No longer do Wii games pretend to the graphical heights of games produced on PCs and more powerful consoles. Now the Wii must often rely on two things: its audience’s lack of knowledge of the competition, and their delight in motion control-infused gameplay.

Need for Speed: Nitro also negotiates the morass of middling driving games (on the Wii) relatively adeptly. Like the best of them (say, Mario Kart), the game lets you drive without using the Wiimote for the most part. Most companies don’t have the time to create a workable Wiimote driving model. As such, the Nunchuck control stick and buttons handle most driving duties. The only time that you’ll ever wave or waggle (and you can opt out of these controls) is when activating certain power ups.

This mode may be practical, but it also isn’t terribly exciting. With no Wii histrionics, this game has to stand on its own. Unfortunately, what Nitro fails to do is create a strong personality for itself. The game is packaged as some kind of extreme (yet family-friendly) street racing game. Young people wearing pointedly youthful clothing listen to loud, moderately hip music. You can outfit your cars with mildly intense paint jobs, featuring skulls, fleurs-de-lis, and other exciting decals.

All in all, the game’s tone and “characters” are almost instantly forgettable. You won’t remember who any of the cavorting drivers are just as you will quickly tune out the personality-less tunes. Admittedly, the option to paint and design the decorations for your vehicle is fun. It definitely helps add some personality to a personality-free game, something you will quickly come to appreciate as the game progresses.

Progression is handled in a fun, entertaining way. As you earn stars during races (you earn stars by winning, by fulfilling certain goals, and by driving in certain ways), you unlock new areas, new races, and new race types. You also earn money, which you can spend on a variety of cars and upgrades. While not as deep as some racing game systems (car tuning is mostly unnecessary and absent from Nitro), Nitro’s upgrades and unlocks are spaced well enough that you’re always just a few wins away from something new, whether that something is a new set decals for your car or a new racing circuit. This kind of dangling carrot incentive system can be hard to master, and Nitro handles it adroitly.

Sadly, while the single player portion of Nitro is entertaining enough, the multiplayer support is surprisingly absent. You can play with two people on the same system using split screen, but beyond that, the game’s multiplayer options cease. You cannot play online, and you can’t even play four-person split screen.

This is a truly surprising decision. Perhaps the game is too graphically intensive for four-player splitscreen (although I doubt it, as the graphics are serviceable yet grainy). Really, if a company’s racing game forgoes online multiplayer, the least that they can do for their customers is provide an excellent four-person couch-ridden alternative. Instead, you can race with just one other player. It’s fun, but it feels empty and shallow.

Need for Speed Nitro is a fun game, but it isn’t fun enough to justify the various shortcuts and omissions that become increasingly distracting. As a racer, it strays a little too much into arcade territory, and it never delivers a fun enough arcade experience to warrant this shift. Perhaps the developers assumed that a game with low-res graphics (and a supposedly less “hardcore” consumer base) had to be simpler to sell. As it is, Nitro plays like a mildly exciting, creatively dead version of Mario Kart (without the weapons).

It’s a game that feels like two games mashed together, and it doesn’t play well no matter which way you look at it. Just when more cars start to open up, you begin to get a sense of the game’s lack of car depth. Different cars don’t really handle all that differently. Yes, fast and maneuverable cars will be a little more responsive on the road, but Nitro’s basic driving model is so unresponsive, finicky, and vague that it’s hard to discern what each new car has over the last car. Driving these cars is like playing a round of bumper cars. You never know quite which way you’ll be bouncing, and damage is obfuscated by a moderately incomprehensible interface.

The game’s arcade style never really comes into its own. There aren’t really any power ups, the game’s cars are not fun to control, and the various obstacles that you face (damage, police pursuit) are only vaguely fleshed out. Like the rest of the game, it feels half-baked and uneasy in its own skin. Maybe if the game knew what it wanted to be, we could enjoy it without making excuses for it.

5

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.