Need for Speed Most Wanted on Wii U is the definitive, best-looking version of the game, according to creative director Alexander J. Ward.
"When we sat down to think about bringing Most Wanted to Wii U, we thought of this: in a car game, what can the second player in the room do?" Ward told Polygon. "We could have just released a vanilla version of the game, put it out and say, ‘Hey, it's Most Wanted on Wii U.' But really, Nintendo's challenge there is to allow others to interact with the main player using the GamePad."
Like Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U, the GamePad gives that second player the chance to participate.
The new Co-Driver mode, called "Father-and-son mode" among Criterion developers, allows the GamePad player to guide, help or even hinder the player using a Pro Controller or Wii Remote. The "father" player has access to all game elements, and can switch the "son" player's car and paint job and initiate races at will.
In this mode, GamePad players can turn traffic on and off, switch the environment between night and day and distract pursuing cops. The controller also grants access to a map that will display the location of police cars, races and speed cameras. GamePad users can also take total control of the car away from the driver, a great maneuver when playing with young children or petulant partners.
The game can be played entirely on the GamePad screen, without using the television. Most Wanted will also be the first third-party Wii U title to integrate MiiVerse functionality.
"On Wii U, we were able to take a break, come back to it, understand the hardware and put in all the fixes and additions we wanted to."
Players can also control vehicles using the GamePad's gyroscope function. Playing this way isn't much different than using the Wii's motion controls for other racing games, much like playing Mario Kart with the racing wheel, or driving with a full-sized steering wheel. Controls were as responsive as playing on the normal controller, and turns and stops were just as tightly executed. The only setback may be your arms getting tired from holding up the GamePad
Ward believes Need for Speed Most Wanted U is the title's definitive version because of play opportunities created by its new features.
"It's not just the best-looking version of the game; we developed it after we had already finished the original game," he said. "It allows you to almost go back in time. Whenever you're finishing a console game, there are always things you want to do that can't get done on time. On Wii U, we were able to take a break, come back to it, understand the hardware and put in all the fixes and additions we wanted to.
"Wii U is best enjoyed with a group of people, and for years Criterion has thought about expanding the experience to more players," he explained. "Wii U helped us solve that problem."
Future Need for Speed titles may build on Most Wanted U's Co-Driver mode, Ward said, as Nintendo's console now has Criterion thinking about the hardware's other feature possibilities.
"Nintendo has set that challenge. I think developers are going to have to rise to it," Ward said.