Throughout the day Sunday, I kept watching reviews of the Wii U and decided to go on the hunt sometime around nightfall. Two hours and several stores later, I found one in a Sears. They informed me had I gotten there any earlier, I wouldn’t have gotten it. Apparently they screwed up a shipment or something. So, lucky me, I bought the deluxe model for $479 including tax.
What puzzled me was the lack of an ethernet port (I would have liked a dedicated optical port for audio as well, but I understand most people wouldn’t need it). The exclusion was fine for Wii as it wasn’t really geared around online multiplayer games, but isn’t the Wii U supposed to feature “hardcore” games that could really benefit from a hardwired internet connection? And I’ve got a router that’s literally two feet away from my Wii U so it’s a shame I can’t plug it in. Anyway, my assumption Wii U would get more involved with online play was apparently wrong. So far, most of my games only offer local multiplayer and the online features are typically social networking options.
My next complaint is understandable, but it still sucks. It’s the day-one patch that takes an hour to download. If you bought one of these for your kids on Christmas, you should probably wait until the little bastards are in school and secretly set the system up early so they won’t chew your ears off while they wait for it to update on Christmas morning. You don’t need to update if you only plan on playing disc games, but to do anything else (including accessing a disc game’s online features) you will have to update. Not only that, but every single game I’ve tried requires an individual update, which can take ten to thirty minutes.
Lastly, I just want to say something about the graphics. No, graphics aren’t everything, but it’s nice to have the option for good graphics for the Call of Duties and the Assassin Creeds. And when you play AC3, you’re probably going to be pretty disappointed by the limited draw distances (objects pop in and out of view) and the way shadows and hair take on a strobe effect. It’s really hard to believe this is a next-gen system just by looking at it.
So Nintendo shouldn’t be your choice for FPS games and AAA action titles. If that’s all you’re into, wait for Microsoft and Sony to release their next consoles (or, better yet, just beef up your home computer). But if you’re looking for something different the Wii U might be for you. Although the system feels more like a toy than a gaming unit, it’s a fun throwback for those of us who grew up playing games with friends on the same TV.
The things that I liked:
1. The gamepad
It looks big and bulky and uncomfortable, but the second you pick it up, you’ll wonder how they crammed so many electronics into such a lightweight device. It fits in your hands nicely and the touchscreen works like a charm despite the lack of multi-touch controls. It’s just as cool as the Wiimote was in 2006, but mostly because it didn’t end up making the entire unit $600+.
2. The gamepad’s functions
Maybe I should have included this in the heading above, but what I didn’t expect was the option to pair the gamepad with your television. That’s right: last gen brought us the era where we didn’t need to get off the couch to turn the system on and this gen brings us the era we don’t even need a remote for the TV. It sounds insignificant, but I love it.
3. Internet browsing
Ever tried browsing the net on a PS3? Don’t. It sucks. It sucked on the Wii, too. In fact, every other TV web surfing experience has sucked for me. Now, the Wii U browser isn’t nearly as good as browsing on a computer, but it’s a lot better than its competition. My favorite feature about the built-in browser is the ability to “close the curtains” on the TV while you continue to browse on the gamepad’s screen. This means if you have a roomful of people, you can close the curtains and input any passwords or sensitive user information in private.