Review: Mario Kart 8
By Sean Booker
May 30, 2014 - 22:25
Platform: Nintendo WiiU
Players: 1 - 4
When it comes down to it there isn’t really a bad Mario Kart. Some end up feeling subpar but the formula is always so set in stone that you are bound to have a good enough time. That’s the general feeling behind Mario Kart 8; it’s the same, there’s nothing really that special and because they ruined Battle Mode it ended up being one of my least favorite in the series. Seeing the game in high definition at 60 frames per second is great. The online works completely fine and the courses and new anti-gravity sections are really fun. Without any good use for the gamepad we are stuck with a totally passable-at-best Mario Kart entry.
There should be no surprise when I say that this Mario Kart is exactly what you would expect. Nothing of drastic difference has been added to this series. As one of the many Mario characters you can customize and drive either karts or motorcycles around as you throw and dodge various items. Mario Kart 8 is most similar to the Wii iteration in that you will race against eleven opponents. I personally always found this number made things a bit too hectic and brought in more randomness than the already chaotic eight racers did. The formula is clear and unchanged.
One addition are the anti-gravity sections on many of the stages. These areas give your vehicle a hover ability as you drive along impossible degrees of the track. You will often see players above you driving upside down, up a waterfall, etc. These sections are quite fun and present some more creativity and insanity to the already colorful and exciting maps we are used to. Bumping into racers during this time will also spin the two of you around and give each a short boost. The game in its entirety has a great selection of new courses to play through. The anti-gravity sections feel right at home and allow for some really crazy places you can now race along.
When playing with three of more people (locally) the game runs at 30 frames per second and looks fantastic in high definition, easily being one of the nicest looking games on the Wii U. Everything changes when you playing with only two people or less. Here the game runs at 60 frames per second and, partnered with the nice visuals, makes Mario Kart 8 looks incredible. It really is a wonderful looking game and though it’s a bummer that we don’t get this treat with a full four people sitting together, it’s understandable with the console’s limitations and it is appreciated that they at least maximized it for two players. I highly recommend playing the game first in its low frame rate so you can be extra impressed when you kick it up.
Playing locally allows for any combination of Wii U/Wii control scheme. Every controller released, that works with the Wii U, is usable and this was great to see. Having this level of diversity is expected when your console can support so much. The downside comes with using the primary gamepad and how the second screen is completely wasted. The main function of the gamepad is a giant button to use your kart’s horn. You can also switch this out for a map of the race track - an entirely useless feature since no one is going to take their eyes off the TV. You can play the game by itself on the controller, instead of the TV. Problem being is that when you play local multiplayer you are still forced to see the split screen on the controller too. Instead of just having your own camera fill the screen, you have to see the other players’ views as well. Your view with this becomes even tinier and is just silly. It was a shame that the gamepad was so under utilized, even when it seems like there were much better uses for it.
Online multiplayer works fine, it’s easy to get in and start a match. Unfortunately you can’t use the gamepad’s mic to chat with the other players. The important part is that it runs well. The big multiplayer problem, and the major issue with Mario Kart 8, is that Battle Mode has been completely ruined. The maps you play on are just a small selection of the normal racing tracks. Instead of large arenas to fight on you are confined to long and narrow courses designed to race through. Finding your opponent is difficult due to the track lengths and when you do spot them they are gone in a flash around a sharp turn. It makes Battle Mode difficult and incredibly tedious instead of the usual fun chaos we are used to. Unfortunately this mode is completely broken.
Mario Kart TV is a feature outside the main game that you can play around with. This option lets you share highlights of your races online. Every time you cross the finish line you can watch a short video of the ‘best’ moments from that course. These are saved automatically to the Mario Kart TV menu for you to scrub through and (lightly) edit. You can watch sections in slow motion or backwards; choose to only see the best drifts or item attacks, etc. It is great that the game handles all of this in the background and being able to upload easily to YouTube is a nice feature. Capturing and sharing some of the crazy moments that happen in this series so easily is a huge plus.
At the end of the day, if you have played one Mario Kart then you have played them all. This new edition doesn’t add anything substantial to the mix but it does look fantastic on the new hardware. Seeing the game in HD at 60 frames per second is a very welcomed addition. Sharing your races and great looking moments is welcomed. It’s too bad that one of the best modes in the game is so broken. Underutilizing the gamepad yet again on the Wii U is also discouraging to see. Overall, you are going to get a fine Mario Kart experience since the core of the game is still fully intact.
Review: Mario Kart 8
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