The Good And Bad Of Mario Kart 8's First Major Update

The Good And Bad Of Mario Kart 8's First Major Update

Nintendo made a few changes to Mario Kart 8this week — some big, some small, some the size of a luxury card brand's new 4WD. If nothing else, this gives us a good opportunity to pause and reflect on how one of the summer's biggest games is doing. So let's do that.

I've been playing Mario Kart 8 pretty much nonstop since it first arrived in May. Here are my thoughts after revisiting the game anew over the past few days.

A few small tweaks make for a big improvement.

The actual "update" part of Mario Kart 8's new content primarily consists of three things, all of which seem pretty small at face value:

  • You can now display a map of the racetrack on your TV screen, all you need to do is press the minus button.
  • The game will save the player's most recent vehicle combination for the next time they boot it up.
  • Players can now change the focus of the videos that end up in the highlight reel to show different characters or episodes from a given race. Nintendo also said that you can now edit other people's highlight reels, though the effect of that will take longer to fully appreciate.

Nothing major, sure. But they're welcome improvements all the same that make the whole Mario Kart 8 experience ever more simple and intuitive. The mini-map is my favourite tweak. Having to look down at the GamePad just doesn't work in a racing game of this calibre — it's too fast-paced and intense to divert your attention so completely, even if it's just for a fraction of a second. It looks great, too:

The Good And Bad Of Mario Kart 8's First Major Update

Online multiplayer works very well.

There are always hiccups and technical glitches when playing a game through the internet, but so far Mario Kart 8's online modes have been running very smoothly on my end. The biggest frustration I've had is there just aren't enough players online sometimes for a solid race, but that's a bigger problem with the Wii U's commercial viability. It's incredibly easy to jump into the game and start racing or battling with other players, either regionally or globally. Not being able to trash talk still feels off to me when I'm playing with friends online, but I've also come to appreciate some of the inside jokes that players have come up with to taunt each other without using their words.

Playing online is great for the most part, in other words. But it's only great when you're playing the parts of Mario Kart 8 that are fun to play. Which leads to my next point...

It really needs a new battle mode.

In our original review of the game, Kotaku's Mike Fahey described the new battle mode as "horribly tedious, borderline unplayable." Since the core problem with the battle mode is that it uses the same tracks you race on, not much has changed then. Some people play this mode online, but I have to force myself to. This is especially frustrating because the items in Mario Kart 8 are great. I feel like another battle mode could basically be a new, cuter version of some car-fighting game like Twisted Metal, but Nintendo would need to make some bigger changes to its game than the ones it has so far.

The game's current roster sucks.

The Good And Bad Of Mario Kart 8's First Major Update

It took me a while to truly appreciate this, but Mario Kart 8 really comes up short with its character selection. The game has all the classics, no doubt — Shy Guy, Yoshi, Peach, Wario, Donky Kong...Mario, naturally. Hell, Luigi has achieve a new level of celebrity thanks to his glaring presence in the game. But did Nintendo really need to include all seven Koopalings? Or quite so many baby versions of characters who are already in the game? These characters are find on their own. But taken together, it's now clear that they overcrowded the game's starting line-up. Nintendo should have left some space for more of its iconic stars. Some of those are coming in another update later this year, but the additions that Nintendo made this week don't do much to rectify the situation. If anything, they make it worse. Which reminds me...

The Mercedes Benz DLC just feels...off.

The Good And Bad Of Mario Kart 8's First Major Update

In a divisive move, Nintendo partnered with the luxury carmaker Mercedes Benz to add a few of the company's vehicles to Mario Kart 8 alongside a special branded cup. Purists have equated this to Nintendo selling its soul to the devil or the highest bidder — whichever is worse in your book. After playing with the new cars, I wouldn't say that the DLC is that extreme. But that doesn't mean it's good. They don't make much of a difference when you're just driving on your own, since you only see the back of the vehicle then anyways. But when you play against other people online, something about seeing these shiny chrome vehicles sparkling in the virtual sun just seems weird. Mercedes Benz cars might look amazing in the real world. But their aesthetic is drab in comparison to the vibrant, whacky cartoon worlds that Nintendo is so good at making. The DLC is free, which makes downloading it fairly harmless in single player since you don't have to use the cars. But seeing a fleet of mini-SUVs in an online race can sure feel depressing.

There's some more good stuff coming — in a few months.

The Good And Bad Of Mario Kart 8's First Major Update

It's telling that Nintendo dropped a major announcement about the future of Mario Kart 8 just hours before the current update went live. The game is still incredibly fun, but all the low points I just identified add up to a concern that could very well be a dire one: after just three months, players are already worried about the new game growing stale. The lack of interesting characters and a weak battle mode put more pressure on the Time Trials, Cups and Vs races to carry the entire game. At the end of the day, that means you'll be spending a lot of time on the same 32 racetracks. They may be great. But even great levels can start to get old after a while.

Luckily, the new update promises a fix to this problem. Nintendo is rolling out two new DLC packs, each of which offer three new characters, four new vehicles, and eight new tracks. At $US12 for both of them, that's a pretty awesome deal — especially when you consider that it's bringing people like Link, Tanooki Suit Mario, and Dry Bowser into the mix. But I have to wonder: will I still be playing the game regularly by the time they show up, ready for a new race?


Comments

    Yellow Yoshi is pretty damn great though! *decisive nod*

    I don't get why people don't like the new battle mode - I find classic battle mode tedious, but the new one is like a weird jousting game thats a blast.

      Because the new one just feels like standard racing with a bit more emphasis on killing each other. Classic battle mode actually felt like an entirely different style of play.

      I agree with the author that the new battle mode is incredibly tedious. I'd rather just race and shoot people. Why would I want half the players going the wrong way?

      Battle mode needs arena's, not tracks.

        I sure hope they bring out the arena's...man I loved playing split screen 4 player arena back on my 64...it'd be amazing to do that in HD

      With the older games I always remember thinking, and talking with friends about how they should make battle mode available on all tracks, and how awesome it would be.

      Turned out a lot different and now the game doesn't feel right without the battle arenas. I've played battle only a few times and it seemed very bland.

      Certain tracks like Yoshi Valley aren't so bad because of the maze like section but others just don't work as well as arenas. Maybe if there were extended version of the racing tracks?? Remember on Royal Raceway on N64 how you could drive up all around Peach's Castle? Put things like that back into the game and battle mode on racetracks could be better.

      I would say battle mode would be perfect, if they added regular battle tracks. If you want a good experience, I recommend Donut Plains, Sherbert Land, Yoshi Valley, and Mario Circuit (Just make sure you have the map up with -).
      To perfect this game, Nintendo can: A) add battle courses, B) add Birdo, King Boo, and Dry Bones/Bowser Jr., and C) Perfect item balance (Coin only appears when you have less than 10 coins, bananas/shells take 2 coins instead of 3, add mega mushroom). Otherwise amazing, and really would recommend to anyone.

    I don't know how you can judge a small update like this for not having a new battle mode. Then also complaining about Mario Kart having *gasp* too many Mario characters? Is it so horrible in comparison to lacking characters? And "the lack of interesting characters" in a racing game.
    I can't take any of these negatives seriously even the ones against the Mercedes DLC.

      I think it's more the complaint of having Mario, Baby Mario, Metal Mario (and Soon Tanooki Suit Mario) while unique charcters like Boo and Diddy Kong are absent. Even in the DLC that's adding general Nintendo characters, why give us another Mario and Peach instead of someone like Kirby (I've been expecting it ever since that Rainbow road SSB trailer a few months ago)?

        To me this argument just shows how good the game has got that we need to look at the characters to criticise the game.

        I just want Koopa Troopa and Skeleton Koopa Troopa!

        I can't figure out why Metal Mario shows up under my profile, but not on the other users on my Wii. All wither DLC is available to all users , but not that...weird

    did Nintendo really need to include all seven Koopalings? Or quite so many baby versions of characters who are already in the game? These characters are find on their own. But taken together, it’s now clear that they overcrowded the game’s starting line-up. Nintendo should have left some space for more of its iconic stars.
    Followed by
    a pretty awesome deal — especially when you consider that it’s bringing people like Link, Tanooki Suit Mario, and Dry Bowser into the mix.
    lol, the reason Nintendo think it's fine to keep adding 50 different versions of the same characters is because people like you lap it up and only figure out 'hey that was kinda stupid' months later.

    Try telling my kids that no they still cannot choose tandoori mario or Link or the other tracks for a few months.

    Hey Nintendo take them away from the character select screen already, I have given you more money!

      mmmmmm tandoori mario, yum

      Last edited 30/08/14 3:15 pm

      Yeah, the worst part of the DLC is that persistent presence. I get that because DLC is new to nintendo and their larger audience, they have to make the availability obvious, but once you've paid up they really have to let it go!

    I downloaded the Merc DLC to see what it was like, but I'm not a fan. Is there any way I can safely delete it?

      You should be able to delete it from system storage management in settings, from memory

    By the time the DLC packs are both out, there will be FOUR different versions each of Mario and Peach. Regular, Baby, Tanooki/Cat, and Metal. I get it, Mario. It's your damn game. Of course you're going to put you and your girlfriend front and centre. But some variety would be nice! #bringbackdrybones

    Haven't played for weeks, my kids have also gone back to their favorites.

    The issue is that those extra marios should be power ups not characters. Tanooki flower, metal and cat bell should all be power ups that you get instead of being separate entities.

    that sliver arrow is so bad ass I love it. this article is so bias. the author should be hanged really me and my bros love this game to death, cant get enough of it its just awesome on the multiplayer you can team up agains the cpu or online its great and lots of fun. VERY BIAS ARTICLE.

    that sliver arrow is so bad ass I love it. me and my bros love this game to death, cant get enough of it its just awesome on the multiplayer you can team up agains the cpu or online its great and lots of fun.

    I love that sliver arrow . me and my bros love this game to death, cant get enough of it its just awesome on the multiplayer you can team up agains the cpu or online its great and lots of fun.

    My main issue with the game at the moment is that there's different stats for each character, car and wheel option but it's almost impossible to actually compare. You have to choose a character and flick around different options, memorise what the stats were like, then back out and choose a different character and go back through the whole thing again, hoping you remember.

    Having the stats on-screen [somewhere] through the entire selection process would be nice.

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