Monday, 18 August 2014

Review No. 72 Mario Kart 8 - Wii U (7+)

Strong Points:
Lots of items
Lots of racers
Lots of customization options
Graphics are phenomenal
Music is great
Tracks are brilliant
Bikes are back and are more balanced with the karts
Online mode is the best it's ever been
Mario Kart TV is a great addition

Weak Points:
Battle mode is bad
Some characters could have been different (*Cough* Rose Gold Peach *Cough*)
Anti-gravity could have been used in better ways (i.e. loop-de-loops)
Two player separate screen racing (the GamePad is here now, so there is no excuse)

In-depth Review:

Release Dates:
Japan: 29 May, 2014
Europe: 30 May, 2014
North America: 30 May, 2014
Australia: 31 May, 2014

Controls differ from controller to controller and are explained in game.
Supported Controllers: GamePad, Wii Remote, Wii Remote and Nunchuck, and the Pro Controller.

I'll start this review off with something I said in the First Impressions. This game is all about two words that begin with gr: gravity and graphics. I still think that but I think I'll add a few more words as well. Detail. Gameplay. Precision. Replay. Online. Competitive. Quality. These are the words that I think best describe MK8 and I'll go into them during the rest of the review.

Well I guess I'll start with the graphics and detail parts of the review as these will probably be the first things that you notice when playing the game. Well as I said in the Strong Points section of the review, the graphics are phenomenal. They're not realistic, of course, but are just so perfectly rendered and formed that they look like they could be real (if you ignore the mushroom related powerups or the fact that a turtle is racing in a car). The detail is amazing, from the way Mario's moustache waves in the breeze to the dust that flies up from your wheels all the way to the shattering effect when a shell hits you.

Then you've got gravity (or, more specifically, anti-gravity), gameplay and precision. Gravity is MK8's new mechanic, similar to the way MK Wii added bikes and tricks and MK7 added underwater and flying sections as well as kart customization. While gravity may not have quite the same game changing stance as MK7's changes, it does change the game in quite a few ways. The first one is the way that it lets you see the tracks from a whole new angle as well as giving the game designers more scope to play with. This is especially true with stages such as Mario Circuit and Twisted Mansion where you find yourself diving towards the ground and along walls, respectively. As well as this, gravity also has another, more strategic, aspect in the form of a boost. You get this boost by hitting other players (when you've got anti-gravity on) which changes how you play quite a bit. The reason for this is that, rather than staying far away from other players, you can try and pinball off of them and gain a speed boost.

Bikes are back! I, for one, really enjoyed playing as these in MK Wii (and, now, in MK8) and they have now been balanced to make them less overpowered. The main balancing is the removal of wheelies which I can see as being a good thing, even if I miss doing them. Of course, any Mario Kart 8 player (or Mario player for that matter) will understand the precision in the game, be it with drifting or when you line up a player with a green shell.

As well as bikes, tricks, customization, underwater and flying sections are also back. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of customization (I don't know why, but I just don't like it as much as character specific karts) but I much prefer MK8's attempt at it that MK7's. There's not really any difference between them other than presentation but I feel that MK8 just did it better. And, of course, the increased graphics really lend themselves to the flying and underwater sections.

Now, onto powerups. MK8 introduces four new ones and an updated one. The new ones are the coin (gives you two coins), the boomerang (three shots that return to you), the piranha plant (gives you mini boosts, eats players, coins and items) and the super horn (used to create a shockwave that can destroy items, including the blue shell, and can stun other players). The updated one is the Crazy 8 from the Lucky 7. It's exactly the same, only with the added coin powerup. My favourite out of the new powerups is the piranha plant due to its versatility, power and overall intimidation. The coin, however, appears way to often when I'm in first place and can be really annoying due to it being useless when you have maxed out your coins. The boomerang's nice and is really fun when you manage to hit someone but, like the green shell, you have to be quite good at aiming. And the final powerup, the super horn, I feel that it is too situational to be a great item, even if it can destroy the blue shell.

Tracks and characters are next. I feel that the new track selection is one of the best in the whole series, with a nice variety in pace, difficulty and looks. I think that my favourite tracks are, probably, Grumble Volcano, Bowser's Castle, Cloudtop Cruise and Rainbow Road 64 although every track is amazing and different from the last. The character selection, on the other hand, is more disappointing. While I don't particularly mind, due to me only generally choosing Yoshi, but it would have been nice to see a more varied roster rather than all the Koopalings (perhaps just the two in Super Mario 3D Land would have been better).

Online is back and is better than ever with improved server strength! You can also participate with a friend in two-player online mode! Then you've got local multiplayer mode as well, which, I feel, tops online any day (mainly due to the fact that if you are online, you can't see your friends shout at the screen when they fall into a pit due to a well-timed lightning bolt). You can do the usual battle (which I'll get onto in a bit) and VS modes as well as the Grand Prix with up to four players. The battlemode is a bit lackluster due to there not being any new arenas but rather just recycling some of the tracks in the Grand Prix. It also means that the battles are rather lonely due to the size of the tracks. The only other, major thing wrong with the game is the inclusion of two-player split-screen. This was a necessary evil in pre-GamePad day but now that we do have the GamePad, there just isn't any point (bring us asymmetrical racing!) Oh, well, maybe next time. One last good thing about the multiplayer is the amount of customization options including the option to turn items off or onto Frantic Mode which increases the frequency of rare powerups appearing such as the blue shell and bullet bill.

The final feature in Mario Kart 8 involves the replay bit in my overview paragraph. This feature is MKTV and it lets you watch, edit and slow-mo your race replays before uploading them to Miiverse or even YouTube. This is a great feature as it lets you spot things that you wouldn't normally spot in a frantic race. In fact, I have, probably, spent almost as much time replaying the game as I have, playing it!

Overall, Mario Kart 8 is a fantastic iteration to the series and is just what the Wii U needs. If you haven't got it yet, then go and get it. You won't regret it!

Rating: 96%

Goodbye for now, Harry

Update: three new cars race past the finish line in the form of the Mercedes-Benz GLA chassis (and wheels), the 300SL chassis and the Silver Arrow chassis. But what's this? A host of new improvements took them in the last corner! The course map can now be put on the screen rather than locked on the Gamepad along with a kart customization window that saves your last input (and therefore cutting down on time spent not playing). Also, the ordering of the menu has been changed with Next Race coming before View Highlight Real. Finally downloaded Mario Kart TV highlights can be modified with the cursor highlighting the last inputted option and cutting down on yet more time! If only this was a Time Trial! 

Update: amiibo functionality crosses the finish line! Unlock themed racing costumes for your Mii with your amiibo and this update! There is also compatibility with the DLC Pack One which Satamer has given his First Impressions for so be sure to check that out! In addition, the game has been balanced and polished even further.

Update: nine more amiibo racing costumes (and 10 more Miiverse Stamps) have boosted over the trick ramp! Also, for the first time in Mario Kart history, the karts (and bikes) have been upgraded to use a 200cc Engine! Rumors have it that the brake button has seen its first ever use (and that sparks fly when racers use it)! Both this new mode and Mirror Mode are now unlocked straight away so you can get to the starting line quicker! In addition, the map button can now be turned off using the Wii Remote and Pro Controller using the - or select button and Wii Remote Motion Control users can now brake while drifting using the B, 1 and 2 buttons. Furthermore, Computer Controlled racers can now participate in custom online matches and will affect your rankings. Finally, many more adjustments have been made and the DLC Pack 2 can now be downloaded (with a First Impressions hopefully coming soon).

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