Need For Speed: SHIFT (XBox 360)
Posted by Hunter on Fri, 02 Oct 2009.
It’s been a long time since the initial release of Need For Speed in 1994, and every one or two years since then we’ve seen a new rendition appear in this well known franchise. The series has always been “evolving” since its realistic driving origins with their first foray into the racing game genre, even with it's direct follow up Need for Speed II doing a u-turn and going for the more arcade type feel.
For a while it seemed we were never going to break away from the “Fast & The Furious” ricer based street racing that spawned so many god awful modified cars roaming our potholed roads in various shades of primer / Milliput. And in that time, Live for Speed, Project Gotham and Gran Turismo rubbed their hands with glee, until now.
NFS has come full circle, and SHIFT means business. Gone are the ridiculous car chases with mobile flashing discos atop police cars crowding your rear view mirror with some ropey storyline tenuously holding the “game” together about characters that you quite frankly couldn’t care less about. The game name SHIFT could never have been more apt.
SHIFT is a welcome change back to the simulation experience but with just the right amount of arcade feel so that it’s not unplayable by those who haven’t forked out a small fortune on professional steering wheels etc. The career mode is extensive enough to keep single players happy, with the action linked together by short snappy and visually impressive video shorts to fuel that red mist that’ll descend on you whilst you have the revs bouncing off the top limit before the lights have even gone to green. EA and Slightly Mad are very pleased with their new “cockpit view”, and it does catch you by surprise if you’re not expecting it. At first it all looks pretty much standard, good graphics, everything there faithfully reproduced, you rev the car, and you think “What!?” It’s at this point you realize that you haven’t gone out and bought “just another racing game”, because cockpit view simulates the movement of the driver too, so when that big V8 is firing up, you can visually see the effects that it has on you as the driver, and the first time you take a corner or prang the noob in front of you, be prepared for your perspective to shift a little.
One of my criticisms of other games is that I never got a real feeling of how fast I was going and took a little time to realize that I was hitting corners at 150mph, with the unsurprising after effects. With SHIFT though, I have actually found myself easing off for corners, or before slight bumps in the road, because I actually did think “ok, this feels a bit too rapid for this corner / bump”. After a while you won’t notice it, you’ll adjust to it, or you’ll just do what I did, and that’s go for the “bumper view”. Either way, you do have to try it just to experience it.
Whichever way you race will be rewarded too, be it aggressive or precision, and certain actions are rewarded be it a slick clean drift past a competitor, or just a plain evil fishtail ploughing them into a tyre wall. Whichever way you go, “Stars” will be awarded, and these go towards advancing your career and unlocking various tiers / upgrades / tracks for you to play with. In addition to the stars, you also get money to either buy new cars to race, or upgrades for existing cars just to get that bit of extra “va va voom” out of them. Now there isn’t an earth shattering collection of hundreds of cars to choose from, but it’s not a bad selection of US, Japanese and European motors. I’ve never followed the prescribed gamer’s path, and it is fairly obvious in the cars available at each level that there is one which is there to “rule them all”. You could opt for the obvious and buy it, or you could just have yourself a bit of fun and just pick out a car that you fancy. Personally I went for a Nissan 350Z, Nissan GTR, Ford GT500, and a Lamborghini Murciélago. And there is a very good reason I went for those cars, and that’s the engine noise. There is a whole world of difference between the sound of a GT500 revving, and a Murciélago, and it comes across in SHIFT, and even better, music is turned off as a default setting for when you’re racing!
The quick race option also rewards you with money to spend on buying new cars or upgrading them too, just in case you want to expand your garage a bit, and the chance to try out various race tracks in a different settings, and believe me when the sun is shining in your eyes at the worst possible moment, you’ll be grateful for knowing that there’s a hairpin right coming up.
The game is in short, fantastic, but I do have some quibbles. The drift racing is just simply annoying because all the characteristics of your chosen car that you’ve gotten used to go out of the window, and the damned thing ends up handling like a turbo charged shopping trolley on ice, the slightest over rev, and you’ll be eating crash barrier. Thankfully due to a great career system you can actually progress without having to do the drift races, but we all know that you’ll hate leaving things only half done.
The other cars are indestructible and randomly posses planet Krypton abilities. There was one glorious moment, which I watched in replay glee, where my Ford GT actually went underneath one of my competitors. Needless to say it didn’t do too much by ways of styling, aerodynamics or drivability in a positive way for my car, but oh look, the other car looks totally fine. Then there was the time my works conversion Ford GT500 went sailing by the opposition, but was caught fairly quickly by the mook I was racing. I did look through the manual for the “uber” button but with no joy. Thankfully this rarely happens, but when it’s so obvious that things are being ramped beyond the realms of reality, it’s a little frustrating.
On another positive note though, the emphasis is not making your car look like you’ve just driven through an auto parts centre randomly adding bits whilst throwing vinyls all over the body work. If you really must have that Sumo Wrestler vinyl on your bonnet, go ahead, but I guarantee you it won’t make your car any faster. Besides, we all know that cars in red are the fastest anyway.
In short, NFS SHIFT is a fantastic game for experienced racers and newbies alike, with enough content to keep you entertained for quite some time. The graphics are impressive, the sound effects brilliant, and the soundtrack nicely varied. Game play can be adjusted to be fairly realistic, to the bubble wrapped easy all assistance on option. SHIFT comes highly recommended!