Racing: Need For Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed Review

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NFS-Shift-2-Unleased-boxPlatforms: PS3, Xbox 360 & PC

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Developer: Slightly Mad Studios

Rating: 3+

Release Date: Out Now

Review Author: David Holmes

 

 

Storyline

Electronic Arts returns with another instalment of the long running franchise Need For Speed. NFS Shift 2 Unleashed is a follow up to 2009’s Shift which sees the action return to circuit racing as opposed to Need For Speed’s roots of street racing and high octane police chases.

As you might have guessed as a racing game, Shift 2 doesn’t have much in terms of a story. You begin life as a rookie racer at the bottom of the racing ladder. The aim of the game is to work your way from amateur races, all the way through the ranks to the heights of the FIA GT1 Championship.

Shift 2’s career mode offers a wide range of racing disciplines to keep the game feeling fresh ranging from drifting and time trials to head to head and circuit racing. The game also features 140+ vehicles and an impressive roster of tracks, 36 to be exact including Laguna Seca, Brands Hatch and the infamous Nurburgring.

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 Playability

The game starts off by making you participate in a short time trial, the aim here is for the game to determine what difficulty and driving aids best suits your driving ability. This cannot be skipped but is a good introduction to the game. No matter what the game recommends, you can set the difficulty to make the game as challenging as you like. I recommended switching all assists off to improve the experience.

Shift 2 suffers from a bit of an identity crisis, it isn’t an arcade racer like Ridge Racer or Grid and it isn’t a hardcore racing simulator like Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo. Shift is advertised as a racing sim however I would place it somewhere in the middle of the two; it tries combining the thrills of an arcade racer with the feel and precision of a racing sim.

The most important part of any racing game is the handling, Shift 2’s unique blend of arcade and sim racing style can take some getting used to but once you get the hang of it can be extremely rewarding. Slightly Mad Studios have done an impressive job in making all the vehicles feel different from one another, but if you feel the need each car can be modified to suit your driving style.

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The AI of your competitors does a good job of keeping the action exciting but at times can be a little too aggressive. My race has been ended prematurely on a number of occasions by an overzealous rival. This can be frustrating but unlike Gran Turismo, each car actually feels like they are trying to race you, as opposed to following a predetermined path around the track, which adds to the realism of the experience.

 

Presentation

Here is where Shift 2 really shines. The in game visuals are really impressive, as are the sound and damage effects. Each vehicle is beautifully recreated and can be seen from a handful of different views, my personal favourite being the cockpit view. It is here you get the full experience of what Shift is all about, no other game in the genre can compete with the intense yet exciting feel Shift gives you.

The developers have come up with a number of tricks to really make you feel like a racer, at high speeds the sides of the screen blur to immerse you further into the action and in the event of a crash all colours are drained from the screen, leaving you disorientated for a few seconds until you manage to get back on the track. There is also the new addition of “Helmet Cam”, this places you directly into the head of a racer. This is a nice idea but can be slightly off-putting as the camera turns slightly before a bend and shakes over each bump in the road. It was a nice idea but in practise comes across as a bit of an unnecessary gimmick.

 

Best Points

The main highlight of the game has to be the way Slightly Mad Studios have put the excitement back into the racing genre. Other titles have started to feel a little stale and mundane but Shift 2 offers all the thrills and spills that have been missing from other franchises. The inclusion of “Autolog” is a refreshing addition. This records your times over each circuit and compares this to any of your online friends that own the game. In the event your time gets beaten, you will receive a message telling you the bad news. This is a fun intuitive way to keep you coming back to Shift 2 to earn your bragging rights.


Worst Points

The way the cars handle in Shift can be extremely rewarding, but it does take some time to get used to. This learning curve might be enough to put some gamers off. At times the cars can feel slightly floaty, especially in the slower paced road cars. I hope the developers can tighten this up for the inevitable third instalment. Night racing is new to the Shift and at first these races were very enjoyable as it really does change the way you race but it is extremely overused, after a while it just became tedious.

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Overall Score

4/5 Need For Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed isn’t perfect, the game would benefit from a slight gameplay adjustment to give it an overall tighter feel. What has impressed me the most about the game is the excitement and adrenaline you feel from every race. From the competitive AI to the representation of speed and the sheer level of fun, Shift 2 is top of the sim racing podium.