Mario Kart 8 (Wii U) Second Opinion Review

By Michael Whittaker 04.02.2015 1

Review for Mario Kart 8 on Wii U

Mario Kart 8 is a frenetic, high octane, blistering racer; spiralling and corkscrewing through 32 new tracks, across eight different cup tournaments, and all in stunning HD. In fact, Mario Kart 8 is gorgeous, and probably the Wii U's crowning achievement in that department, but more on that later. Nintendo has peppered its long serving franchise with various nuances, which whilst not as daring as past iterations, still elevates this latest version of the racing line to the best in the series. Simply put, it is a game that will be enjoyed immensely. Cubed3 races out of the blocks for this in-depth review.

Right from the get-go, Nintendo places it's priorities on tweaking the formula, and implementing various improvements from Mario Kart 8's predecessors. The character roster has been bumped up to thirty racers, although, admittedly, the number is slightly deceiving, as the inclusion of baby versions of various mascots, such as Mario and Luigi, bare only aesthetic differences, and control much the same as their older versions. Nintendo has, however, included the excellent Koopa children, whom most will remember as Bowser's little deviant accomplices from Super Mario World on the SNES.

The vehicle selection and customisation have also had a bit of a face lift. The emblematic karts are once again accompanied by the now familiar bikes and selection of car models, but now with further vehicles, tyres, and gliders to unlock. These are obtained by completing the Grand Prix tournaments, of which there are eight, comprising of four tracks in each cup. Players can now also collect points by completing races online, making it even more accessible and faster to unlock items.

Screenshot for Mario Kart 8 on Wii U

Perhaps the most prominent of the new features is the inclusion of antigravity segments to the tracks. These serve to not only showcase some dazzling particle effects but also add a satisfying tactical element to the races. Whilst in antigravity, there is the option to size up the option to slam into opponents, thus giving the player a speed boost, helping to create some vital distance. However, careful precision is required for slams, as accidentally bumping into opponents will likely hand them a speed boost, too. It's a very well executed mechanic, which in other hands could have become chaotic, but here it is a pivotal weapon in the arsenal, and one that is essential in-between picking up power blocks.

From a technical standpoint, Mario Kart 8 performs beautifully, running at a constant 60fps in single- and two-player mode. Three- and four-player modes do dip to 30fps but that doesn't hinder the enjoyment of the game when it's this good. As touched upon earlier, graphically speaking this game is supreme. The level of detail is stunning, even if it is hard to appreciate when tearing up the track. In fact, burn enough rubber when sliding around corners and noticeable marks will be left behind. Even the amount of detail implemented on the tyre treads is impressive.

Screenshot for Mario Kart 8 on Wii U

The area where the work gone into the art design can truly be appreciated, though, is the replay mode. Here races can be viewed in extreme detail, changing the angles and slowing down the footage, making it possible to get really close to the action, right down to the flash of sparks spitting off tyres, or Mario's moustache billowing in the wind. There is even the option now to edit highlight reels of each race and share them on YouTube, which brings this review nicely onto the subject of Mario Kart 8's online options.

Nintendo's handling of online gaming has always been criticised, but whilst it has taken baby steps towards building a far more robust model and shaking off its Big Brother image, there are issues remaining that are in dire need of attention. The basic 12-player online does a fair job of making it simple to join races and tournaments, and as already stated, posting highlights on YouTube, all of which is fine. However, it is still very disappointing that online chat is absent during races and instead restricted to the lobby with friends only. Laughing with - or cursing at - friends after being ambushed by a line of red shells, seems such a tantalising idea, which, sadly, will remain just that.

Screenshot for Mario Kart 8 on Wii U

Friends cannot be invited and notifications cannot be received, meaning races will have to be organised outside of the game. It's a baffling omission on Nintendo's part. It's not that these limitations worsen the experience but, rather, restrain the game - or at least this part of the game - from reaching new heights.

The state of the online play is not the biggest drawback in Mario Kart 8, surprisingly. That unfortunate accolade belongs to the Battle Mode. Gone are the chaos-inducing arenas from past iterations, now to be replaced with slightly modified tracks. The only difference between this and a normal track is that players now start with three balloons to protect, whilst attempting to destroy the ones carried by their opponents. It just doesn't carry the same thrill as four drivers condensed in a small arena, frantically avoiding being hit by numerous shells bouncing intently in their direction. By comparison, the new Battle Mode feels quite uneventful.

Screenshot for Mario Kart 8 on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

It speaks volumes that despite some blemishes, Mario Kart 8 is still an essential purchase; it's the most fun to be had on the Wii U thus far, and the subtle changes it's brought to the forefront really freshen up the franchise. Mario Kart 8 excels in a number of ways, but perhaps the most important thing it achieves is making players want to come back for more.

Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Driving

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (5 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

Comments

A very well written review. I agree with pretty much every thing said and the score. The only thing that peeves me about this is the balance of the game, weapons and battle mode. It's a great game but I'd rather stick with MK7 for online play!

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