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Joystiq hands-on: Need for Speed Nitro

Kevin Kelly

Just one note: there's no actual Need for Speed Nitro gameplay featured in the above video. If EA Montreal managed to make the game look that good, the Wii would be untouchable in sales. Oh wait, it already is. The fact of the matter is, Nintendo's darling is actually getting a Need for Speed title, and the sales numbers of that console are one big reason the franchise is leaping consoles with nitrous-assisted boosts.

But if that doesn't represent gameplay, then what does Nitro look like on the WIi? We're glad you asked, because there are some images waiting for you in the gallery below. Images that actually came from the game. Read on to learn how it plays!

Gallery: Need for Speed NITRO | 17 Photos

The first thing you'll notice when you boot this game up is that it's very stylized and doesn't shoot for a realistic look at all. The cars are bigger in the back and squeezed up front, making them appear like they're moving away from you even when they're standing still. Aside from the cartoonish look, Nitro will share the same licensed cars as its NFS brethren. Is this a new trend for the Wii versions of Xbox/PS3 games? Just check out what EA is doing with Madden.

Likewise, the courses and cities are stylized versions of their real-world counterparts, and the game has added a mode only on the Wii called "Own It," which allows you to "paint" the world you're racing in as you're leading the race. You'll see your own customized graffiti tag start soaring onto nearby buildings and race walls as you lead, eventually allowing you to "own" a zone. Thankfully, it's not intrusive to the gameplay, and once you get a handle on your ride it's a nice visual addition to the game.

Nitro supports the Wii Wheel, the GameCube controller, the Classic Controller, and the Wiimote and Nunchuck. We halfway expected EA to announce that it would support the R.O.B. from the NES days as well. We played with the Wiimote and Nunchuck combo, which seemed to be the most fun. You twist your Wiimote like a knifeblade to turn left or right, and shake it to activate your nitro boost. Hit A for the gas, release it to brake, and push the B button to drift. You'll build up your boost meter by lots and lots of drifting, by drafting other players, or by not crashing into walls.

We were surprised how much fun it was to turn just by rotating our wrist from side to side.

There were some cops in the game, but EA Montreal producer Gadi Pollack told us that they weren't really active yet, so we couldn't act out any high-speed chase scenes. He went on to explain that every race will feature 12 cars: eight racers, two traffic cars, and two cops. We just spun our tires around and around the track as we got used to the controls, and finally stopped slamming into every wall we saw. The Wiimote version of the controls offer up solid gameplay, and we were surprised how much fun it was to turn just by rotating our wrist from side to side.

Multiplayer? "We wanted to get the core experience down first and then see what we could add to it. Maybe in the second one."

Unfortunately, Nitro doesn't offer any online gameplay ... yet. Pollack explained, "We wanted to get the core experience down first and then see what we could add to it. Maybe in the second one." The game does support co-op racing, and you can have up to four people simultaneously boosting via splitscreen. Just don't expect to see any bananas or turtle shell powerups, says Pollack. "That's not Need for Speed for me." But spraying graffiti on walls as you slide by is? We're not sure how that works out, but it sure is satisfying to tag the tracks in the game. We just hope we can design Joystiq graphics for our very own forced-perspective cars.

With the PS3 and Xbox getting Blur and Split/Second, Need for Speed Nitro is one of the only non-goofy racing games coming to the Wii. It's not incredibly deep, but we had fun with it and look foward to more. The game will be out in November this year, and we'll be bringing you more info as it drifts our way. (Sorry!)

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