Nintendo Wii U Review: Hands-on
6th Jun 2012 | 22:20
T3 plays with the next-gen Nintendo Wii U controller
E3 2012 Wii U Hands-on update: We've now checked out the Nintendo Wii U GamePad at E3 2012 where the most notable differences from the prototype we saw last year are the thumbsliders which have been replaced by analogue sticks, and that the buttons generally have shifted a little nearer to the touchscreen.
For the first time, we also the chance to get a glimpse at some games, both first and third party titles, to see what the GamePad was truly capable of.
Nintendo Wii U: Build
The first thing everyone will notice is that it's certainly a big device to get used to, but despite the size it's surprisingly light in the hands. From a controlling perspective, it's an unusual experience to adapt to particularly with the analogue sticks being above the X,Y,B,A buttons.
Pulling off combinations with the shoulder buttons and the buttons at the back of the device can also take some time to master. Motion control is clearly one feature that Nintendo has experience in, and it shows with the seamless response to movement that the GamePad displays.
Nintendo Wii U: Controls
Having tried a series of Wii U games which use the GamePad in very different ways, some are clearly more comfortable to play than others.
For instance, on a game like New Super Mario Bros U where one player controls Mario's movement on a Wiimote and the other creates blocks he can jump on by tapping on the GamePad touchscreen, it works well and is refreshingly unique approach to co-op gaming.
However, when you move onto a third party title like Batman Arkham City Armored Edition, you almost feel caught between the two screens as opposed to the two working together. It makes for a confusing gaming experience and if Nintendo are intent on winning over the hardcore gaming masses they will need to make sure that people can find the right balance and benefit of having to look at two screens.
Nintendo Wii U: Verdict
Our lasting impressions were that there is still work to be done in terms of some of the integration with third party titles, and with pricing yet to be announced it is difficult to say if the Wii U will have hardcore gamer appeal.
Crucially, Nintendo has tweaked the design of the GamePad to make it more comfortable to use and with a wide range of games embracing the Wii U, it has the tools to be a success. It just needs to make sure that the Wii U message to the gamers is clear when it finally launches.
Our jottings from the Wii U's previous outing at E3 2011.....
Nintendo says that this new machine is a revolutionary console and controller duo designed to be “something for everyone,” which in our opinion simply means packing the motion-control aspects of the Wii while also bringing what’s expected (a full compliment of controls and joysticks, for example) for core game styles like shooters and sports titles.
With that mission statement in mind, you’d expect things to be graphically up to muster. They are. HD is a welcome (if late) addition, for one.
The first tech demo we saw was of a bird flying around a large colonial Japanese garden, and it was stunning. The controller tilted the camera in real time, proving that what was on screen was in fact in-game footage, and as rain fell on the garden it soaked the bird’s plumage and reflected in its beady eye.
While it was all undoubtedly very pretty, it was hard to tell exactly how powerful the machine is because even the most demanding tech demo still had that Nintendo ‘cartooniness’ about it.
We’d have loved to have seen something like CoD running, just to see how real the ‘New Console’ could make things. That said, initial impressions were that it’s a hugely powerful console with bundles of potential.
Nintendo Wii U: Multiplayer
Further Wii U demos were all about showing how having one new controller and multiple Wiimotes added a new angle to local multiplayer.
If you’ve got a screen that no one else can see, for example, that gives you an edge, while your opponents can have a different viewpoint that you won’t see, which in turn gives them a different edge. It became obvious that Nintendo was pushing this set up: one new controller and multiple Wiimotes.
The games we played were fun, but the whole thing seemed like a bit of an effort to hide the fact that additional ‘new’ controllers will clearly be pretty expensive and that offline, 4-player Metroid where each player has their own will be an unlikely home setup for most as a result.
It’s also fairly obvious that, considering the processing power and the impressiveness of the inbuilt screen, the controller will be a power-hungry beast that’ll do doubt need some fairly frequent charging.
Nintendo Wii U: Controls
Brushing those points aside, we have to say that we were impressed. While it’s odd that the display on the new controller doesn’t boast the same 3D tech as found on the Nintendo 3DS - a point they refused to comment on - it’s still vivid and bright, despite not offering the ‘HD Experience’ that Ninty is so proud of bringing to your TV.
It’s also great to see a pair of thumbsticks and trigger buttons, too, as it opens the door to less gimmicky titles that hardcore gamers bemoaned the lack of on the Wii.
The motion control aspects were seamless, responsive and new, but we’re unsure what part, if any, the front cagin camera played.
This is probably something for developers to explore, but at this stage we don’t know whether it’ll be used for things like video calling, or more intricate applications like eye-tracking.
The fact that it’s a touchscreen was almost a moot point, given that it was only ever used in a ‘Touch to begin’ capacity.
The controller can be used in lieu of a TV all together, so that one person can play while another watches Eastenders. With this, we really can see a shift in the way a home console operates, especially if the wireless range is big enough to allow play in other areas of the house.
E3 2011 hands-on review by Adam Bunker