Nintendo Wii U - hands on from the Eurogamer Expo
New Nintendo hardware impresses at first major public UK showing
Nintendo drew the crowds at last weekend’s Eurogamer Expo with the first public UK showing of its upcoming Wii U hardware. Both Microsoft and Sony are staying tight-lipped about their plans for the next generation, so we made a bee-line for the Nintendo booth to see if the Wii U has what it takes to top Christmas wish lists.
Unusually for Nintendo, it had separated the floor between an all-ages main arena and an over-18’s only section to show off Ubisoft’s horror/action adventure darling ZombiU. Although there was more variety in the child-friendly section, the incredibly violent zombie shooter saw far longer queues. We tackled the main arena first to get to grips with the hardware, which will feel instantly familiar to owners of the original Wii.
Although it’s undeniably chunky, requiring both hands to hold firmly, the touchscreen controller also feels surprisingly light – held correctly, it won’t make your wrists ache if you’re playing in short bursts or fancy a marathon gaming session. The glossy plastic used to build each controller feels identical to the existing Wiimote and Nunchuck, which should come as no surprise as these accessories will still be available and are compatible with the Wii U. The buttons have a similar bounce, as do the triggers and analogue sticks.
The screen – a 854x480 resolution, 6.2in panel with a 16:9 aspect ratio – takes pride of place in the centre of the controller. It looked bright and colourful on the show floor, although we weren't able to see if the brightness had been cranked up to the maximum of if it could go even brighter. It wasn't as jaw-dropping as the PlayStation Vita’s OLED display, but it's still a step up from Nintendo's DS portable.
The console itself is surprisingly large, being roughly twice as deep as the original Wii console. We already knew it wouldn't support DVD or Blu-ray playback, but would still accept original Wii games - even so, its ample dimensions are a bit of a surprise when seen in the flesh, especially when compared to older Nintendo hardware.
But what about the games? The highlight was undoubtedly ZombiU – not only does it put the touchscreen controller to good use, offloading the inventory screen and many of the game’s gadgets to the secondary display, but it also had some of the best graphics we've seen yet from a Wii U title. Although not quite as impressive as some of the latest Xbox or PS3 games also playable at the show, it certainly demonstrates that the Wii U shouldn't be underestimated. The game itself ramps up the tension through music, lighting and a generally creepy atmosphere, with bursts of action making you leap out of your seat – just remember to keep a tight grip on the controller, as you won’t be able to buy a replacement if you drop it.
Unfortunately, the other game we got to spend time with – Rayman Legends – did very little with the available hardware to impress us. It felt very similar to Rayman Origins, released earlier in the year on PC and consoles, even if the new controllable character Murfy adds a little variation to the gameplay. If you are looking for something to put your new console through its paces we’d suggest looking elsewhere.
It might have been the only new hardware on display at the show, but WiiU didn’t exactly steal the show – that honour went to the insanely popular Metal Gear Rising - it's still an impressive collection of hardware, but we'll withhold judgement until we've played more of the launch line-up before we can recommend one. Even so, Nintendo fans are probably already sold on the system, and will be camping out come launch day.