When I purchased Need for Speed Shift 2 Unleashed back in March last year, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the experience. Clunky controls, poor presentation, and generally a myriad of technical issues really left me feeling let down. In fact, I returned the game the very same week. However now that the games available for free on Playstation Plus, I figured it can’t hurt to give it a fair shot, and a review.
Something that’s important to get out of the way first, Need for Speed Shift 2 presents itself as a racing simulator. Let it be said now that Shift 2 is definitely not a racing simulator, in any way, shape or form. . If you go into this looking for Gran Turismo you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Need for Speed Shift provides you with something a lot closer to Codemasters Racedriver: GRID, and that’s certainly not a bad thing.
It’s important you don’t let its presentation fool you, the reasonably detailed interior view, and special attention given to aspects liable to immerse the player in, motion blur, camera shaking, hud effects all provide quite the show. However ironically they help the game establish itself as an arcade racer, the motion blur looks unrealistic, the tracks either aren’t modelled particularly well, or don’t exist in real life. The camera shakes around even when you’re in third person view, these features do help immerse into the unique experience Shift 2 provides, but they don’t establish the game as anything particularly realistic.
There’s a bright side though, underneath all this gloss and glamour, Shift 2 is actually a very solid racing game. The games handling model, it’s a little weird, a little sluggish, but overall it gives you a good feel the weight of the vehicles producing a very smooth driving experience. Instead of punishing you with a dramatic loss of traction when you slide or slip onto the grass, you can maintain control relatively easily. With the exception of collisions it’s actually pretty difficult to spin-out. As a result the game demands a lot less discipline than something like GT5, and considering I already have GT5, works in Shifts favour. Shifts arcade-like handling model enables even the most challenging, frustrating rear wheel drive powerhouses that on a racing-sim the player would be really struggling just to keep under control, to be an absolute joy to drive.
Whilst the motion blur isn’t realistic, it enables you to get a very good sense of speed in the game. Another element often lost in more modern racing sims. Although it’s far from perfect, at times the frame-rate stutters at high speeds – really killing the sense of speed and immersion. Hell, the fact that the game only seems runs at 30 fps in the first place is a little disappointing and overall makes the game feel less fluid and responsive as its competition.
Shift 2 of course offers the standard, singleplayer and multiplayer components. Around 100 unique events make up the games singleplayer, which is a little lacking in my opinion – considering I was able to unlock all of them in just a couple of hours, but at least you can take the experience online if you so wish afterwards. Autolog is a welcomed addition to, enabling light competition between friends as you play through the games singleplayer offering. Some might take to it, but if you’re not interested you can just ignore it. Personally I had fun beating friends out of the top spot on each track.
The game offers a familiar set of customisation and tuning options, 145 licensed cars, 37 manufacturers and 36 tracks. The player can compete in various types of event, from time attacks and standard racers, to drift events, it’s all a relatively standard affair, and nothing is likely to take you by surprise. Visually the game looks good, the cars aren’t modeled to the same calibur of say Gran Turismo’s, or even Dirt’s vehicles, but they don’t look bad. The games lighting and texturing causes vehicles and the environment to look a little unrealistic, it’s difficult to pinpoint precisely why but overall there are no glaring visual issues.
The games artificial intelligence on the other hand, is notably poor, and perhaps the game worst aspect. Often AI drivers will ram you off the road, other times they’ll try to move out of your way only to decide that they want to cut back onto the line they just left, shunting you in the side. For some bizarre reason EA decided that it’d be a good idea to forge indestructible wing-mirrors onto the sides of their cars, during a collision instead of clipping off, these will often cause two cars to lock together and spin each other out. Not that much of an issue but with the poor AI too, you have a potentially frustrating combination.
Overall I was quite content with experience. It’s not a good racing sim but rather a good arcade racer. The games lacking in certain departments but overall it’s an enjoyable handling model, good customisation options and the core mechanics of vehicular racing that manage to make this game a success.
A very competent arcade racing game.