Need for Speed: Most Wanted is one of a handful of titles coming to Wii U in March, in this case in both Europe and North America. Most pleasingly for owners of Nintendo's system it's more than a port handed off to a secondary studio, but is being produced by the highly regarded Criterion team.
Earlier today we brought you news from a developer demo, including details on a God-style mode incorporating the GamePad. The team over at Eurogamer has spent time getting to grips with the title while speaking to Criterion producer Rob O'Farrell, gaining more insight into the "Co-Driver" mode.
The Co-Driver mode was inspired by some Wii U launch titles, with the GamePad player overseeing and influencing events and the environment for the other player focused on the TV. Simple and clear touch buttons on the GamePad screen can influence the time of day, turn traffic on and off, highlight areas or items on the map and disrupt pursuing cops, while enabling the mode also opens up the whole world for quick access and play. Rather than areas being locked away, this mode lets you choose almost any content or race that you want.
Once the Wii U was out and we spent time playing the software in the office and with our families at home, it really changed our thought process and approach to the platform. With games like Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo delivered a new way of playing together in the same room. A great part of that was having one person in full control of the game, with another watching and occasionally helping them progress. With this in mind, the Co-Driver mode became our focus, so we could bring social play into the living room on Most Wanted, but with a Nintendo feel. It couldn't be hidden away, it had be easy to understand what to do and have that feel of Nintendo quality on the platform.
...We wanted to make the game accessible from the moment you boot up software. If you only had 30 minutes to play then we wanted to make sure that 30 minutes was a great experience and allow the players to pick any car, any race.
With everything open, it enables the player to swap from a Porsche to Lamborghini on the fly, respray the car, find a race and have their 'partner' direct them to all the collectables without the restriction of, 'Oh, that isn't open yet.' It creates a negative feeling within the experience and we wanted to get rid of that and give you a mode that is all about driving around the city, having fun without any constraints.
This mode can be used by single players and reportedly changes the feel of the title to a "sandbox" racer; Criterion has stressed, however, that those ranking areas affected by this mode are highlighted clearly, and when playing competitively relevant features from this mode are disabled.
Criterion also spoke positively about the Wii U hardware itself, explaining that it had allowed the team to use Xbox 360/PS3 geometry with PC textures. Developing after the initial launch apparently gave the team access to a greater range of tools and support from Nintendo, allowing greater use of the hardware. Idries Hamadi, technical director, said the following:
When they first looked at the specs on paper a lot of developers said, 'Well, you know this is a bit lightweight' and they walked away. I think a lot of people have been premature about it in a lot of ways because while it is a lower clock-speed, it punches above its weight in a lot of other areas.
So, I think you've got one group of people who walked away, you've got some other people who just dived in and tried and thought, 'Ah... it's not kind of there,' but not many people have done what we've done, which is to sit down and look at where it's weaker and why, but also see where it's stronger and leverage that. It's a different kind of chip and it's not fair to look at its clock-speed and other consoles' clock-speed and compare them as numbers that are relevant. It's not a relevant comparison to make when you have processors that are so divergent. It's apples and oranges.
...The Wii U has had a bit of a bad rap - people have said it's not as powerful as 360, this, that and the other. That, by and large, has been based on apples to oranges comparisons that don't really hold water. Hopefully we'll go some way to proving that wrong.
Nintendo don't speak about that, it's not their core focus at all but they did their 'Iwata Asks' about the hardware and it talks consistently about how they got to keep it quiet with low power consumption, and they totally did that... but what they haven't really championed is how they delivered something that could do this as well [he points to the 50-inch Panasonic playing host to Most Wanted U]... It's possible. It's work. You have to think about it and put time and craft and effort and whatever else into it but you have to do that for everything that's worth doing in this business... I think people should either go all-in or not bother.
Based on the captured game footage below, it looks like Criterion has gone all in.