Midway is a strange beast. Last year the publisher released the brilliant Stranglehold and Unreal Tournament 3, but also released the near diabolical Hour of Victory and severely disappointing Blacksite. Starting 2008 off with the same lack of consistency, the February release schedule includes the superb PS3 version of UT3 and Cruis'n on the Wii - without doubt one of the worst games I've played on this generation of consoles.
The Cruis'n series enjoyed considerable success back on the Nintendo 64. The games were far from brilliant, but they provided a decent level of entertainment when the arcade racer was starting to be edged out by sims like Gran Turismo. Cruis'n is in fact a port of the 2004 Midway arcade game Fast and the Furious, but seeing as Midway no longer owns the licence it's been renamed. Fans of the arcade game might be pleased to hear that that's pretty much the only significant change that's been made, but anyone expecting a proper Cruis'n game developed for the Wii will be severely disappointed. To say Cruis'n looks bad would be the understatement of the year.
Anyone new to video games will see Cruis'n and be quite horrified, but anyone who's been around the block will instantly be taken back to the ropey looking PlayStation and Nintendo 64 racers from the mid 90s. Graphics certainly aren't everything, but when a game is presented this badly it's hard to ignore. Textures are blurry, environment detail is poor, cars are blocky and the frame rate is never smooth. We know the Wii isn't a graphical powerhouse of a console, but this is beyond a joke.
At one point my gaming session even gathered a crowd here in the office, and it wasn't because of my amazing gaming skills. The game even includes cardboard cut-out FMV women that parade around the cars at the starting line, straight out of a game from the PlayStation era. Your car can smash into certain objects, but rival racers seem to be able to glide through them, and sound effects seem hit and miss as to whether they're going to be heard or not.
You only really have one core game mode to choose from, which sees you working through the 12 tracks on offer, racing in licensed cars and upgrading them - often with ridiculous consequences to their appearance. You can also hop into single races in any of the unlocked tracks or race head-to-head with a friend in split-screen.
Given the shoddy presentation Cruis'n needed to have some pretty magnificent controls to stand a chance, but it doesn't. You can play using Excite Truck-style Wii Remote tilting or opt for a traditional NES-style controller. Neither work well, with your car being far too easy to spin and other racers operating on an infuriating rubber-band AI system that means it's nearly impossible to get a decent lead.
The Wii hasn't seen too many arcade racers, but Cruis'n is still leagues behind what's on offer. Excite Truck offered decent visuals and, more importantly, a great sense of scale and speed. Cruis'n offers neither, with 'enjoyment' being comparable to the kind you experience when driving past a bad car crash - you just can't help but look.
In the end Cruis'n is the worst Wii game I've had the misfortune to play and a huge disappointment for Wii owners desperate for more arcade racing action. It's unlikely that Crius'n could ever have been a truly great game, but with a lot more care and time it could have been an entertaining racer that brought back memories of an era now long gone. Even at a budget price of £19.99, you'd be wise to cruise a different shelf when browsing at your local game store.