Mario Kart 8 is the best thing to happen to Mario Kart since Super Mario Kart was released on the SNES. It's also the best reason to own a Wii U right now. Whether or not it's the game that's going to transform the Wii U into a commercial juggernaut or not I don't know, but if you like Mario Kart and don't own a Wii U then you need to go and buy one. Now.
Mario Kart 8 is the most complete overhaul of the game and it's mechanics that the series has ever seen. Everything from power ups to the core handling of the Karts and the addition of anti gravity spells out massive change for the franchise. But I'll cover what the game includes before I get to all that.
This game's value for money in terms of content is frightening. In single player you can do the Grand Prix, custom races, time trials and battles. In local multiplayer, which allows up to four players at once, you can do Grand Prix, custom races and battles. You can also go online and do tournaments, custom races and battles and you can even play online with two people playing locally on your end. There are countless characters, vehicle customisations and of course races to unlock and this is done so via winning races and collecting coins a la Mario Kart 7. The amount of content here is insane.
The course selection is the usual great mix of old ones and new ones but many of them feature anti gravity sections, which is this game's big new addition to the gameplay. The anti gravity moments let you go upside down or drive along walls, it may sound small but in numerous ways it provides opportunities for clever shortcuts or just awesome looking moments. The gliding moments from 7 are also present so you spend a lot of your time in this game off of the floor and the excitement and sense of speed that that builds is fantastic. That's another thing, speed. Everything about this game is faster. Karts and Bikes go faster, items reappear faster and if you fall off the course you get put back on and are ready to go much faster. Combined with the anti gravity and the gliding this new sense of speed makes this the most intense Mario Kart game yet.
The other new addition to the gameplay is the total overhaul of vehicle handling. Aside from the increased sense of speed the way things corner has also changed, also all vehicles are open to all characters so size doesn't matter. If you cornered on the old games you rarely had to drift, you could easily corner without it. This time drifting is infinitely more important as the option for manual or automatic is gone and so it's up to you to know whether or not to drift. The mechanic requires patience and skill but once mastered can be the difference between you being good at Mario Kart 8 and great at Mario Kart 8.
Multiplayer wise this game is one of Nintendo's best. You can create or join custom tournaments with friends or strangers, engage in races, battles or custom events and can even decide whether you are in a pool of players globally, regionally or with friends or even rivals you can meet along the way. You can spectate on races until there is space for you or of course you can simply find a race with room to spare. Then there's Mario Kart TV, a facility which stores your highlight reels, allows you to edit the highlights and then upload the clip to the Nintendo Network and/or YouTube. This idea, though not innovative by any means, is inspired and the fact that it is built right into the game is fantastic. You can even favourite highlight reels and look at others from players around the world or from friends or tournaments. The amount of depth to the online suite this game has is crazy good and hours upon hours can easily be sank into this without a moment of boredom.
Visually and sonically speaking the game is stunning. The tracks look incredible, with fantastic lighting effects, a rock solid frame rate and colour so vibrant you can almost eat it. Sound wise the game is far rockier than before, with a swing style band often being accompanied by shredding guitar solos. It's an amazing soundtrack that couldn't compliment the gameplay more if it tried.
This game is just masterful, it excels on almost every level but there are, of course, a couple of niggles. The increased difficulty of the new mechanics does make this game less accessible to casual gamers or newcomers and can be frustrating for some people at first. The difficulty curve is easily rounded but it should be given some consideration. Also the GamePad is just pointless, it houses the map, horn and leaderboard but looking down at it will likely cause you to crash so it is totally obsolete. Still, these niggles aside, this game is jaw dropping. It's a must buy for people who are fans of fun and, if you are a sane human being and do buy it, feel free to add me at Robcarrool93 so we can race.