When EA split off the Need for Speed franchises into different streams, with Nitro being the more fun, arcadey title as opposed to Shift’s more realistic focus, it made sense. I didn’t agree with the decision, but at a minimum I could see how it might imbue the series with a clear focus that it seemed to have lost in recent years – albeit in two seperate titles. Given that mandate, I expected Nitro to come out screaming with a vengeance, but this is far from the distilled essence of NFS’s cops-and-cars.

Need for Speed: Nitro takes place on a series of confined tracks. Not only will you repeatedly visit them throughout the game, but the lack of freedom they give you makes battling the cops no fun at all. In fact, not having freeform cop chases seems like an anathema to the series. Furthermore, a scant two kinds of power-ups (one for repairing your car and the other to sic the cops on other racers) don’t do much to invigorate the moment-to-moment racing. The car customization features (which carry over into your graphics being imposed upon the tracks as you race) also aren’t anything to hang your hat on.

The game’s bronze, silver, and gold cups take you to the same five cities through the game, so the variety comes more in the race types such as elimination (last place car is knocked out per lap), drift challenge, drag racing, time attack, circuit, and speed trap. The latter was perhaps the most interesting, as you have to carry as much speed as you can through certain sections of the track in order to clock the highest total speeds. Drifting was also fun, and doing it in all types of races is beneficial since it gets you an extra star towards your career progression.

Make no mistake about it: Need for Speed: Nitro’s competitive advantage shouldn’t be the motion controls – it should be the series’ penchant for arcade racing, supercharged cop chases, and edge-of-your-seat racing. Unfortunately It doesn’t even come close to delivering on these fronts. But, by all means, have some motion controls.