I'm not sure whether it's that i was expecting too much from this title, but Mario Kart Wii just seems to be lacking in key areas to make it a great. I've been playing Mario Kart since the days of the SNES, and was brimming with excitement when Mario Kart finally arrived, with it's main attraction, the Wii Wheel packaged in. There are now 8 different cups to compete in, four containing new tracks, and four that contain a mixture of remakes from all of the previous editions. The new tracks are good, without ever standing out as classics, whereas (for me anyway) the retro tracks hold much more appeal. The racer limit which has always been eight, has now been upped to twelve, presumably to accommadate the much hyped Wifi Connection mode, which i will get to later. Vs Race, Time Trial and Battle Mode are all still there, however Battle seems to have had the most drastic overhall. Once again, it appears that the Wifi Connection has pushed this decision, but Balloon Battle and Coin Runner modes are now team only. That's right, no more one on one, with the first to burst all three balloons as the winner. It's now a time limited match, where teams of six vs six take each other on, bursting balloons or collecting coins. A side note on balloon battle, is that protecting your 3 balloons has now lost it's urgency, as if you lose all three, you simply respawn with 3 more, and one point is deducted from your teams score. This penalty seems slightly confusing, as it's not really harsh enough for anyone to really care, and has slightly ruined a great mode for me.
The Wii Wheel that comes packaged with the game is well built, and by far the best made wheel on the market, but it is ultmately a gimic. Up until now i'd believed the hype that this would be the best controller for Mario Kart, and I still really want to believe it is, but the game seems to be so much easier with the classic controller. The wheel is fun, and great when playing against your mates (providing they have a wheel too), but for more serious play, it just doesn't cut it. A lot of people will disagree, but with the exception of one online match, all of the leading players i've matched up against use a joypad.
The online mode itself is probably the saviour of this game. It was actually advertised that you could do anything online that you could do in single player, but i'm yet to find a way of playing a cup online, although it may be possible with saved friends. A side from this, online play in battle mode, and vs mode is exceptionally good. There's no lag, and a voting system allows everyone to eventually play the map of there choice. You can also download time trial ghost data from anyone, and use it as a benchmark for your own attempts.
All in all, this is a good game, but it's not at all different from anything we've seen before, bar the roster and a few new tweeks. Buy this when you can by all means, just don't expect it to be the groundbreaking wii game that it's been built up to be.