Just before Christmas, one of the longest running generations of gaming history came to a close as self proclaimed ‘hardcore gamers’ tried to get their hands on the latest consoles, clawing over one another like Zombies trying to break into Jerusalem.
Being an attractive highly sought after male with a crazy other half who insists on trying to adopt every single child we come across aren’t the only points that Brad Pitt and I share in common. Just like he manages to survive the Zombie outbreak in World War Z, I managed to avoid the hype-induced pandemic that had brain-swollen idiots purchasing £500 pictures of Xbox Ones from eBay.
I decided I wanted to be different, and as such I decided to buy a console from the company who dares to be different. So I purchased a Wii U.
I used to be a huge Nintendo fan boy and shudder when I think back to my days of secondary school, laughing at people with Sony ‘Gay,’ Stations, because I was a homophobic, narrow minded, opinionated little shit who felt the N64 was king. Later on, the Gamecube extended my extremism. Pikmin is possibly the only RTS that works on a console. Rogue Squadron 2 translated the epic scale of an intergalactic space battle into the living room in a way never seen before, whilst Luigi’s Mansion and Eternal Darkness were perfect polarities off the survival horror genre.
Then came the Wii. Whilst the sales figures were astounding, Nintendo couldn’t have gotten it more wrong. The Wii-mote had gamers waving their arms like they were parking a plane. Nintendo argued the new control scheme would create more immersive and unique experiences. Well, they were wrong, having tired arms and not being able to relax actually distanced players and only Nintendo themselves tried creating anything unique, whilst all other developers insisted on creating mini game compilations.
This turned the Nintendo Wii into nothing more than a novelty item that the majority of owners put away after ten minutes only to stare at from time to time and wish it would play DVD’s. It also caused Nintendo to distance themselves from the core game playing market; those who are more than happy to buy hardware with the sole intent of playing videogames on, as opposed to those idiots who think that videogames are a waste of time and for nerds, yet make sure they have an overpriced smartphone with their mobile phone contract for no other reason than to play Angry Birds.
After sales of the Wii began to drop, Nintendo realised gamers were beginning to figure out that the Wii was just a Gamecube with a motion sensor. So they decided to bring their back catalogue kicking and screaming into the HD generation. Being Nintendo though, they simply weren’t going to make Wii HD. If Nintendo were in the business of making stationary, they would have been the guys to come up with the pencil, and rather than rest on their laurels and rake in the money they would have released the pencil with a rubber on it the following year, then the year after that we’d get colour!
Satoru Iwata President and CEO of Nintendo wanted a system that built upon the Wii’s control system and improved upon the graphics. But he also wanted a system that was compact and quiet, so parents wouldn’t object to it being in the living room, whilst keeping the price accessible. Nintendo really wanted to attract back the ‘hardcore’ gamer and burst their doors wide open to them, unfortunately none of them came back. Nintendo went from Yoshi’s Dream to Yoshi’s Nightmare in terms of home console sales over night and it’s easy to see why.
Those of a moobed disposition, sorry, ‘hardcore gamers’ as they like to refer to themselves, felt that the Wii U wasn’t powerful enough. The Wii U is certainly as graphically impressive as the PS3 and the 360, unfortunately the Wii U arrived just as Sony and Microsoft began promising the most realistic ever graphics with real fire that would actually burn your eyebrows off on the Xbox One and PS4. Epic games added fuel to the fire by demoing the latest Unreal 4 engine and stating that they wouldn’t be supporting Wii U. It certainly hasn’t helped the Wii U amongst the more intense gaming community that in it’s entire library of games there isn’t a single title that fully exploits the graphical prowess of the system to make a gritty and realistic world. The PS4 launched with Killzone Shadowfall, the Crysis of the console world, while Xbox One promised a blending of cinema and games with Ryse, where all the characters motions were captured using classically trained actors at Andy Serkis’s new motion capture centre.
It’s the environments of Killzone and Ryse that the more adult gamer wants to see. They want arteriel spray pissing everywhere like an exploded water main, perfectly rendered using the latest particle effect. They don’t care about how cool the new shadow effects look on a re-release of an 11 year old Zelda game.
Surely the pricing of the Wii U will lead it to becoming many gamers second console though? Unfortunately not, as cheap as £250 is when compared to a brand new Xbox One or PS4. Those of the serious gaming fraternity inhabit such disappointing lives that it’s very difficult to impress them as they extoll doom and gloom at every opportunity. They mistrust Nintendo’s promise that the Wii U’s pad actually helps to improve the console experience, probably because they are tainted by the disappointment of the Wii’s controls. To say the Wii revolutionised controller input is like seeing a flambé pudding in a restaurant and then calling the Firemen and claiming the place is on fire.
“Why don’t they just bundle the Wii U with a basic controller and make it even cheaper, I’d buy one then.” Is what most of the inspirationally challenged sweat producers tend to mash out on their Razer keyboards with pudgy fingers that overspill and miss their mark. Often resulting in the evolution of such hilarious new internet words like “pwn”.
Well, I’ll tell you for why, my chubby keyboard warrior. Because the pad is kind of the point of the whole system. Selling a Wii U without the pad would be like selling a chocolate éclair without the cream. Sure, you can’t leave the room that the system is in and OK, not all games make full use of the pad’s capabilities, a lot of the time its just a second screen, BUT it completely evolves the console experience.
Say your partner is watching one of those generic by-the-numbers Disney ABC dramas like Castle or Grey’s Anatomy. Or say the system is in your bedroom and you fancy a quick game whilst they are sleeping/watching something. You can just turn on the gamepad and plug your earphones in and your away playing a full-blown game with console style graphics on a pad.
Sony are falling over themselves and have invested a fortune to deliver the same experience with the PS4 and the Vita, and although with Sony’s hardware its an optional experience, it’s a damned site more expensive.
The games that do take advantage of the pad do so fantastically. The Wonderful 101 would be incredibly difficult to control without being able to swipe a quick shape on the screen to align all of your heroes accurately. It finally offers a system of control that previously only PC gamers enjoyed with their Mice.
Lego City Undercover also does a fantastic job of using the pad to immerse players in the game experience. Characters from the . Satoru Iwata announced this week that the Wii U is to receive a firmware update that will allow the use of the pad to quickboot into a game. Meaning you will be able to bypass the system’s OS when first turning the Wii U on and jump straight into a game. This will cut loading times by 50%
In terms of the physical buttons on the pad, Nintendo have now provided players with the standard dual thumb stick and trigger buttons that Nintendo players have been calling out for since Sony released the Dual Analog. As a result the Wii U’s pad is probably the best controller Nintendo has ever made.
Even with all of these positives gamers still aren’t happy, keen to point out that the new Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze actually de-activates the screen on the pad if you are using the TV as the main display. Well my response to this is, so what? If you are not going to be looking at the screen on the pad surely its nice to have it disabled to improve battery life?
“Yeah, but if you are using the screen on the pad then the picture on the tv is disabled.”
My point still stands. The game may as well be displaying images of kittens wrapped in barbed wire being thrown into microwaves on the secondary screen, because if you don’t need to use it for controller input or aren’t even looking at it, then you aren’t going to see it. Whether you chose the controller screen or your TV, how many other consoles actually give you a choice?
I bought the Lego City Undercover bundle from Amazon, I wouldn’t usually use Amazon and while their bundle was the same price as everywhere else, they also included an additional copy of Lego Batman 2 as well. It turns out that everyone has a price, and mine is the cost of an average port that suffers from terrible multiplayer controls.
To give you an idea of the size of the base unit its about 4 inches longer than a DVD case and probably 2 inches wider. You can rest it upright on the included pair of feet or just lay it flat. The length might be a little awkward for any hipsters with bare minimalist tiny shelves that really bring out the brickwork in their open plan flat in Hackney, those who actually deserve human rights should be fine though. It’s a really quiet system too, the only time it really becomes audible is when it’s reading from the optical drive.
When I was manhandling the system into place by the TV it felt really solid and well built. The pad also has no flex in it at all and the buttons seem perfectly balanced and unlikely to cause any problems in the future. Of all the Nintendo consoles I have owned over the years I have never had a single technical issue with any of them apart from when my Game Boy screen covering fell out after 12 years of service.
Aesthetically speaking, Nintendo really have created the blandest console ever. If the Wii U was the cuisine of a single nation you definitely wouldn’t say it was Japanese. It’s more British in that its completely inoffensive and very bland. This isn’t really a valid complaint in the argument as to whether or not you should buy a Wii U and I feel shallow for bringing it up but the N64, Gamecube and Wii were all very iconic designs, and the shape of the SNES pad is something that is imprinted into gaming culture’s collective consciousness.
However looks aren’t everything (thankfully, otherwise I’d be screwed, I may claim to look like Brad Pitt but I also think that a Cheese Burger Crust Pizza is a balanced meal so you can see how my view of reality is skewed slightly.) What really sells systems is exclusive titles and recognisable franchises.
In my opinion, the following Wii U titles are all worth paying full price for: The Wonderful 101, Pikmin 3, Super Mario 3D World, Sonic Lost World and Lego City Undercover. Lets also not forget that Batman Arkham City and Deus Ex both received overhauls in order to take advantage of the Wii U controller and provide the definitive versions. These are also worth picking up if you haven’t managed to play them already.
If you take into account that Nintendo somehow, and I can only imagine it involved a ritual sacrifice, managed to gain exclusive rights to Capcom’s Bayonetta 2, plus the fact that we are going to be treated to Mario Kart 8 and a new Smash Bros this year, then the Wii U’s library actually looks a lot stronger than the PS4’s and the Xbox One’s. I’m also very interested to see how Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs will run on the Wii U. Ubisoft would be insane not to fully utilise the Wii U gamepad in a title that sees the hero running around hacking things with his PDA.
Can I recommend a Wii U then? Yes I can, despite the internet exuding negativity towards the Wii U like a fat person sweats, there are loads of great exclusive titles. There are also some great deals to be had out there as shops are desperate to shift stock. I recommend, and what I wish I had done, would be to get the cheapest base 8gb unit and then buy an external HD. You can find a list of recommended HDD’s on Nintendo’s website, and they are so easy to set up, that I can forgive the miniscule amount of internal memory.
Nintendo haven’t quite got the online services cracked just yet, but traditionally the big N felt that multiplayer was best served face to face with split screen modes. They are improving though and my experiences of Netflix and Lovefilm have been great. I have also watched a few films on the controller, the screen of which, doesn’t have the detail of the higher end tablets and is sharp and bright enough for it to serve as a viable alternative to your tv set. The touch screen also makes navigating the vast menus easier and less cumbersome than the 360 and PS3 counterparts.
For those that live in the UK iPlayer and other on demand services such as 4oD are not yet available. However, the BBC made a statement earlier in January that they want to bring iPlayer to the Wii U and Xbox One by the end of the year. Nintendo in their infinite wisdom still hasn’t allowed DVD playback, but then who actually wants to use their Wii U as a DVD player when you have a mint conditioned Panasonic Q under your TV that you want to show off.
Oh, and I shouldn’t forget, that there was a bit of a Zombie problem for the Wii U at launch (although not quite the same as the PS4 and Xbox One’s). Its called ZombiU and should be avoided like the rotting festering corpse of a title that it is.