First thing that hits you is the supremely realised visuals. Like Nintendo's best offerings of old, these environments are bombastic, vibrant and cohesive. The solidity exuded visually only serves to reinforce the solidity and build quality of the entire game. Moustaches, hats, hair and clothing flap in the wind and swing with the G-forces - the attention to detail is as you would expect. 'Old school' MK players will recognise the stamp of quality immediately.
Forget the innovative but lacklustre graphics of the old Wii console. Graphically Nintendo's new hardware can hold it's own against any offering of the new generation of machines. When you consider the army of imitators this series has spawned, this Mariokart stands head and shoulders over all of them and THAT is truly saying something. Nintendo is back. Mariokart is back.
The improvements begin with many seeming small tweaks and developments. For example, you can forget the heavy handed punishments doled out by red and blue shells for the last 15 years, now the focus has shifted heavily back onto driving skills. Sure you can still invent new, appalling swearwords as your royally stitched up, going from 1st to 8th on the last corner; the difference now is that you can also dominate with some virtuoso driving. Front running is back on the menu folks!
The speed boost plates haven't been littered awkwardly, just off the racing line as we've come to expect from the series of late; indeed they are bang on the racing line ever pushing you to maintain ferocious maximum speeds. The focus on speed permeates every nuance of the control system with perfectly timed hops also rewarded with a welcome boost to your overall speed. The skidding mechanic is now beautifully balanced allowing players to adjust the pitch and severity of the slide as they're performing it. The boost earned by an extended slide also throws an often split-second decision at players: do you recklessly hold the slide and risk boosting off a cliff or do you sacrifice the bonus speed in order safely negotiate the insane courses? Lay the complex combat mechanics over a sequence of high precision race driving and you have gameplay that often ends with you realising you've been holding your breath until the finish line.
Even as a troll I can summon little criticism for this superlative game, perhaps I could say it's a tart with it's tracks - as the game shows you everything on the first night. The liberally shortcutted tracks are another crucial star to this show and are to my mind, too easily revealed. There are 32 in all, 16 fully refurbished favourites from previous games and 16 completely new ones. The Zero G sections inject a chaotic exuberance to the races, that arguably has never been seen thus far - you'll find the underwater sections a fantastic diversion too.
If you are lucky enough to have likeminded individuals in-house to share this game with, you could hardly find a more enjoyable multiplayer game with so much potential mileage. If you are 'on your todd', but still seek the rock hard challenge that only fellow humans can provide, the online is perfectly adequate. It even offers a local two player online campaign for up to 12 globally united players, all running fine and dandy. Don't be shy, fly the flag, take on the world - you shan't be disappointed.
Although it's hard to criticise, I must point out that some of the many characters are superfluous, dare I say boring. The baby versions from the 'Yoshi's island' games and all the Koopa bosses feel to me like pointless additions. It could also be suggested much of the vehicle customisations are a needless complication to a game that has always been applauded for it's air of simply interfaced, subtle complexity.
I have to reaffirm that I would have preferred a stiffer challenge to unlock a final cup like the 'good ole days'. The challenge is still there, you just don't get rewarded a 1/4 of the tracks for proving your awesomeness.
Must be a sign of the times, have Nintendo judged the current generation of gamers as lacking the commitment and patience required to 'earn' that game content?
I wasn't going to give my reviews a mark out of 10, just give information on the games because different features appeal conversely depending on the gamer; but faced with a game of this calibre it becomes obvious that I must.
Looking at the bigger picture; I have no idea if Nintendo have taken too long to produce this title to save their beleaguered WiiU console but I do know it's a worthy reason to buy the hardware. I did.
If we are looking at a system seller then that's a 9/10 all day long, I might even have to give it 9.5/10
Apologies if you were expecting me to give a game a good hard kick in the tapestries for my first review. I really love doing that.
Blame Mariokart 8 for being so damned good.
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