Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nintendo's Wii U: Review in Progress — IGN

Wii U: Review in Progress

From gaming to video calls to online matchmaking, the Wii U can do everything. Just not yet.

Not any more than the motion controls on the Wii. Or the touchscreen on the Nintendo DS. Or pretty much everything else Nintendo has done to separate its gameplay experience from the competition.

So that's a roundabout way of saying "no." None of those were actually gimmicks. The handle and tiny discs of the GameCube were gimmicks.

The GamePad, on the other hand, offers something entirely unique. What Nintendo calls "assymetrical play" will define Wii U more than anything else.

Multiplayer games will be judged on whether they're fair to both those on the GamePad and those on Wiimotes and Pro controllers. And it's not going to take long for these complaints and praises to start adding up - even Nintendoland offers some major (possibly unfair) advantages to whoever claims the GamePad. Go to Metroid's attraction and test it out for yourself. Characters with Wiimotes get a land-strafing gunner. GamePad users get all that, plus a hovercraft. Is it any wonder that I consistently outscored my friends and refused to give up the GamePad?

There's also a strange sort of isolation at work with the GamePad. When playing single player games,  my friends kept their heads down, captivated with the GamePad - not too different than when you're talking to a friend who's texting. The difference however, is pivotal; I could see things on the TV they couldn't see. So even though they weren't looking up, engaged in the same content I was - I was constantly yelling out things like "More of those freaking bomb pigs are coming around the corner." I was engaged in the game, even when I wasn't playing it - this could well be Wii U's trump card.

But what about hardcore games? Will Nintendo finally match other consoles' dedication to hardcore gaming? No. But not for lack of trying.

Nintendo just can't seem to get the simplest things right - like voice chat. For those that missed the news, Nintendo's "hardcore" Wii U Pro Controller doesn't come with a headset jack. Which means you'll need to plug your headset into the Wii U GamePad, even when you're not using it. That's ridiculous.

The worries don't stop there. Nintendo has remained mum on what processor is inside the Wii U. Currently, all we know is it's an IBM Power Architecture-based multi-core processor. Except we don't know how many cores, or what it's clocked at, or what its cache size is… etc, etc, etc. For all we know, it could be a beefed up version of the Wii chip - which isn't that wild of a guess.

So what does all that mean? It means what everyone already knew - Wii U won't be as powerful as the PS4 or next Xbox. But is that a surprise? And does it really matter?

I'm not convinced Wii U is going to age as well as the next round of consoles - but I am convinced that it's going to offer a completely unique experience with a large handful of irreplaceable games.

Unfortunately, those irreplaceable games really don't seem to exist just yet. Nintendoland shows off the capabilities of the GamePad, but it's still a mini game collection. Other games, like New Super Mario Bros U don't seem to know what to do with the GamePad's display. Still, it's only a matter of time until we see something truly groundbreaking on Wii U.


Now that the Wii U has been updated and has its full capabilities, it's a much better console. Miiverse is fun and confusing and perfectly Nintendo.

Watching videos on the GamePad while something else happens on the TV is awesome. It's not new for tablet owners - many of which always have their tablets during couch sessions. But what is new is the ability to play full Wii U games while the TV isn't even on. It's crazy cool and probably the best use-case for those who weren't that sold on the GamePad in general.

I dislike the way in which Wii saves and content are stored on a separate mode (Wii Mode). Accessing it takes a surprisingly long time, and your console is forced to reboot into Wii Mode. It would have been much, much better if the content could just integrate with the Wii U menu. I'm also not sure, from a tech perspective, why it isn't able to. It doesn't seem likely to be a hardware limitation, and if that's the case than it's certainly possible we could see that get sorted in a future OS update, but I'm not holding my breath.

I'm surprised at how long load screens are on the Wii U, as well. The Wii U clocks discs at 22MB/s vs. the Xbox 360 (at 15.8MB/s) and PS3 (at 9MB/s). In theory, this should mean the Wii U is capable of the fastest loading screens of any of the current consoles, but it's not. In fact, in my brief time with the Wii U, I've experienced some of the longest loading screens of all, and I'm not entirely sure why.

The Not-that-early Verdict

The Wii U is capable of just about anything. From crazy GamePad features, to a boatload of new console features the Wii U has legs to stand on and deserves gamers' attention. It's unfortunate that it's main competition is two consoles that not only haven't been announced, but can only be speculated about. How can the Wii U possibly stack up to a PS4 or Xbox 720?

Fortunately, when that day comes the Wii U will likely have a wealth of solid, and entirely unique games to separate it from the competition.

I've seen flashes of ingenuity that lead me to trust that Nintendo's on to something with the GamePad. However, if the GamePad features are too sparse or too ham-fisted into games, those games will likely be pretty disappointing (I already don't want to blow into the mic ever again).

This review will continue to be updated over the weekend and, of course, when the patch comes through, so make sure to keep returning for new information and impressions, or swing by again on Tuesday for our full-review (complete with score)." — IGN by Nic Vargus

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