Need for Speed: Most Wanted is one of a handful of third-party titles for which the Wii U is its second home, but the game is trying to deliver a distinct impression on the system. We got our hands on the title and some of the exclusive Wii U features, and see how useful some of them are.

Naturally, the Wii U GamePad is the great differentiator between the system and the home console competition, and developers Criterion have tried to use it to its fullest. For good or for bad, the studio has tweaked the gameplay experience for the Wii U with GamePad to the extent that it lets whomever wields the pad intercede with the game on the driver's behalf.

Whether your friend uses the GamePad while you drive with a nunchuk/remote combo or Pro Controller, or you use the pad as it sits next to you, you'll have some powerful tools at your disposal.

  • As a co-driver, the person with the GamePad can disrupt the nearest police car during a chase*, change and/or repair the car at will (including a paint respray), and even take control of the car if you're having trouble driving.
  • Turn on/off car traffic and change the time of day*
  • Switch cars on the fly and change the cars' upgrades
  • You can play the game either completely on the GamePad, like normal, or in Spectator mode, where the HUD (including the EasyDrive options) are shown only on the GamePad.
  • Scroll through maps of Fairhaven which show races, jackspots, collectibles, and more

In my hands-on time with the game, options like being able to spin out the nearest cop car was definitely useful, although using the GamePad by yourself is not ideal. The driving itself felt a little looser than the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, but you can control the game via a variety of controller configurations (including using the GamePad as a motion controller).

Otherwise, the content is the same, featuring the entire city of Fairhaven as well as its many challenges, billboards, and Autolog opportunities (although the multiplayer racing itself accommodates six racers as opposed to eight on Xbox 360 and PS3). Coming later to the party actually helps the game because the Wii U version includes the Ultimate Speed Pack DLC, which includes five super-fast cars (McLaren's F1 LM, the Lamborghini Aventador J, the Pagani Zonda R, the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse, and the Venom GT Sopyder by Hennessey), 25 High Speed Races and Speed Runs, and more than 70 speed-themed milestones.

I can't tell you whether it's right or wrong to make use of race-changing helpers like disrupting the cops or getting rid of the traffic, but whether you're making use of them or not, Most Wanted hasn't excluded features like what might have happened in the past on the Wii. No matter what you should have your hands full.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted for the Wii U comes out on March 19.


* Not available during online races