Need for Speed Shift 2: Unleashed Official Review
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
North American Release Date: 29th March 2011
European Release Date: 1st April 2011
Trophies: Yes, 1 4 10 26
Remember the older days of need for speed, where you could win a race regardless of driving skill, by blindly bouncing from corner to corner. Or perhaps the times where one minutes you'd be unrealistically drifting, then the next you'll be in a police chase? Those days are gone. And the new-comer is the second entry of the Shift franchise, the mature side to Need For Speed.
On first impression the game seems to be very balanced in terms of gameplay. The cars simply work really well, you get a real feel for the weight, acceleration and handling . You'll find yourself driving with different styles to match different types of cars, almost as if you're driving in a simulator of the likes of Gran Turismo. Infact, it's fairly difficult to not compare it to Gran Turismo when you're playing, which as a game which fits into both the arcade racer and simulator genres, says a lot about the realism of the game. Infact it's a near perfect balance of arcade and simulator, of realism and fun. I found myself playing Gran Turismo with a straight, almost bored face. But this feels like a fuel pumped version, where you're battling for position (I'll go into how literal that phrase is soon) and pushing your car to its very limit round each corner, all just to shave a few fractions of a second. Shift 2 feels like a hybrid of the NFS of old, and the GT5 of now, it's aggressive, it's in your face, and it's fantastic at what it does.
The large variety of fully authentic cars also adds to the experience, as each car handles completely differently to the next, which means you'll spend time flicking through the large library of cars finding your ideal one. Ontop of that, there is a very in-depth tuning system which can greatly affect how your car performs. I very rarely use the tuning system on other racers, but on Shift 2 it feels natural to tweak with the settings. Despite all of these positives, I simply cannot stand the AI racers at times. They're intelligent, yes, but very selfish. Meaning that yes, they'll be taking an intelligent racing line, but if you wish to step anywhere near that line at the same time, regardless of your position in the race they will take you out. This brings many screaming at the TV moments. And I've even viewed a replay of the event to see if I was in the wrong. I wasn't. The AI will simply swipe you off the track, and once you're off it's hard to get back, as every single car on the track seems to be out to get you. It may seem like I'm nit-picking at what may seem to be a small fault, but when trying to race in what is a fairly realistic racer, having some simple-minded driver ramming you from behind is the last thing you want.
Too close for comfort? Unfortunately you'll have to get used to it
The single-player is simple yet effective, and the races are helped out by the inclusion of the Performance Index. This rates your car into a class, meaning that your Performance Index 490 D class car in a D class race will not be racing against a +1500 index A class car. This makes races much more skill based (Apart from the before mentioned problems with opponents) and you'll find yourself progressing through the races steadily. With each race you'll gain XP, which will progress your level. With every other level you progress you'll unlock a new set of races and gain a cash bonus. One of the more simple features that makes singleplayer less of a chore is the inclusion of races with loaner cars. This means you wont be purchasing a brand new car for every race, which takes the pressure away from earning car. The main races are simple Class D - Class A races, followed by the GT3 series, then finally the GT1 series.
Plenty of cars, tracks and races to choose from here
If you aren't a fan of doing no-stop races against opponents, you have the choice of other races, such as drift, endurance, hot laps etc. But the main objective is to beat a selection of rivals, all of whom are real-life drivers. Aswell as that you'll find yourself trying to master tracks and master corners, this is my personal favorite feature and thing to do whilst racing. You actually get rewarded for mastering corners and racing correctly. Meaning that to completely 100% the game you'll need to master every single track in day and night. The night races can be terrifying however as at times you haven't got a clue where to go! As-well as being rewarded with XP for mastering tracks/corners, you gain XP live in game for certain actions, such as clean overtakes, drafting etc. All of which is great as it promotes racing, not playing bumper cars with your opponents
Although the game may not carry on the strength of the singleplayer as much into the multiplayer, it's still an enjoyable experience to be had. Before you enter the multiplayer section of the game, online presence is throughout the game in form of the Autolog. This logs all of your lap times in singleplayer and multiplayer, and displays them in a friends league. This may seem relatively small, but it all adds to the competitiveness of the game. Within the actual multiplayer section of the game, you'll find a fairly strong and consistent lobby system, with plenty of options to keep you happy. Whether it's with friends in an unranked match, or battling for XP in a ranked match, you'll still be gaining XP towards leveling up, and the XP is shared between online and singleplayer which is nice to have. Ontop of the lobby system, there is the Drivers Duel Championship, this simply pits you into a duel with other racers. Those familiar with other EA Games, such as MMA, will be familiar with this format, and although it can be frustrating they can also be a lot of fun.
The technical aspect of this game is one where it prevails in my eyes, the whole game looks and feels fantastic. The game features a damage aspect that rivals that of GRID/DiRT although it doesn't seem to be as effective to the actual cars as that in DiRT, the visuals for damage are phenomenal. You'll find pieces of the cars dropping off, from bumpers to doors, and your windscreen cracking, all after a realistic amount of damage has been dealt of course! All of the tracks are fantastically detailed aswell, from small pieces of rubble ending up on the track, to the beautiful looking sun catching your eye round a corner, to the fantastic lighting effects on the night tracks, you'll find yourself falling in love with the visuals in this game! Aswell as that, a new game camera is featured which is the helmet cam, similar to the cockpit cam, but the camera leans into each corner in the same sense that the driver would lean in.
Helmet cam makes you feel more in the game than ever before
The soundtrack fits the mood well also, chilled out remixes of Biffy Clyro, Rise Against and Jimmy Eat World stand out most, most of the song is dulled out, with orchestral music playing, then the odd line from the song will drop in, all in all it sounds fantastic. The cars sound unique, but equally as aggressive. Can't be the bliss to nearly all senses of having your GT1 car speeding down a straight into the sun. The game presents itself well through the menus, the main menu is a personal highlight as when you flick through the selections, you'll see the camera moving around a car on a track. Despite the positives, I have found the game crashing on me a lot, mainly in the first week of release, but this seems to have fixed itself. Other than that, I have found no bugs or glitches whilst playing.
A large variety in difficulty in the trophies, you'll find it easy enough to clock up the %, especially from completing the GT1 races. But after that, you have the difficult task of completing 75 events on hard, mastering every corner, in both day and night, and clocking up 10 hours of online play.
Minimal flaws in this great game, but those flaws can ruin the experience at times. If you can ignore the annoyance of the aggresive AI, you'll love this game
Near faultless, only the aggresive opponents holds the game back
Some great fun to be had here, plenty of variety of races.
Again, great fun but seems to be lacking something
Technically brilliant, looks fantastic, sounds fantastic, is fantastic