Need For Speed Shift Hollywood Event & Interview

By Evan Velez

September 17, 2009

The job here at the DualShockers includes writing about the newest games and the biggest topics in the industry, but it also includes social interaction. Yesterday I was able to attend an event hosted by EA for Need for Speed Shift. All I have to say is that EA definitely knows how to host one hell of  a wonderful event.

The event was held at the Geisha House in Hollywood, which was an excellent choice for hosting such a party. The event was to allow people to get an impression of the newest installment of the Need for Speed franchise. The game was available to play on several demo stations on the 360 and PC. In addition to these demo stations, there was a demo station for Need for Speed Nitro, which will be releasing in November for the Wii.

I got to wet my tongue with the 360 version of Shift. I felt that the game will disappoint if you are a driving simulator fan, as I felt that it controlled fairly loose and seemed rather arcadey still. It seems like Need for Speed still has a way to go before joining the ranks of Forza and Gran Turismo. The visuals were not astonishing, but they definitely did not disappoint. The cockpit view was very well done however. Shift uses an effect that makes you feel slightly disoriented after a collision. It achieves this effect by using a blur and desaturation of the colors, and it definitely makes the driver feel disoriented.

Also, I was able to get some hands on time with Need for Speed Nitro for the Wii. Nitro is the arcadey Wii counterpart to Shift. The graphics are what you would expect from the Wii. The visuals seemed dated and didn’t really interest me as much. The gameplay was very simple as it mainly consisted of accelerating and hand braking in order to drift. There are power ups as well, that allow for the driver to repair their car or to get a hyper boost of speed. It was fairly fun when playing against another person, but with offerings like Mario Kart for the Wii, Nitro may lack the luster to shine on the Wii.

As the night matured, we were graced by the presence of the gorgeous Jo Garcia, who is in charge of gaming blog Gamer Next Door for Playboy. My attention turned to a demo station that I got some time with toward the end of the night. At first glance, it almost looked like a reason to not drive drunk, but in all actuality, it was Need for Speed Shift in 3D. The technology that they utilized for the 3D is the same that you see in 3D cinema, which include the use of polarizing glasses. The 3D effect was very well done and added more depth to the visuals of the game. As a side not, for those of you that wear glasses already and hate wearing headsets, there is no need to fret, because the 3D glasses fit right over regular glasses and do put pressure on your face. I guess this shouldn’t really matter since a 3D capable Tv would cost almost $10,000.

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I was able to sit down with the Producer on the project, Jesse Abney, and exchange a few words. He was able to answer a lot of my questions when it came to the game itself, as well as give information on some of the other Need for Speed titles.

Q. What was the focus during development of Need for Speed Shift?

A. The focus was to take the racing game and carve something innovative out of what has already been done. We built this game with a focus on the 1st person racing perspective. As you have seen with the crashing effect, we try to do new things to really draw the player into the game more. The game was built with a real world physics engine  feels a lot like driving with a wheel controller as opposed to a standard console controller.

Q. Did the end product meet expectations?

A. Laughs. Now that is a trick question. To answer that as best as I can, the Need for Speed franchise has never missed a ship date. Sure, if we had a few more months we would take it, but we always try to launch before Christmas. We are happy with the finished product, but if game developers chose when to release a game, then it would never release.

Q. Would you want Shift to be considered a sim or an arcade game?

A. SHIFT squarely lands in the simulation sub-genre due to its authentic racing design. It’s got degrees of scalability in both physics and damage systems that make it accessible with the gamepad as well with the simulate crowd. At one end of that spectrum is a fully unassisted experience that plays up best with wheel. At the other it’s still a pick up and play exciting and fun experience with a much easier difficulty curve.

Q. Do you feel that old school Need for Speed fans will be put off by Shift?

A. I feel that over the sixteen years that Need for Speed has been a franchise, that the fanbase has grown up with the game as well. Over the years the demographic for Need for Speed has definitely grown, and we have to be able to involve all of these people. We have Shift that will be for the fans of a serious racing game. Then we have Need for Speed Nitro, that is a game that can be for the busy dad that doesn’t have the time to put too much time into a game. Also, we may release more arcadey titles for the PlayStation and Xbox as downloadable titles. Then we also have Need for Speed World Online, which is in essence a MMORG. This game also has the cops that are missing from Shift. As you can see, we have a selection for all players in our demographic.

Q. Can we talk a little more about Need for Speed World Online?

A. Well, World Online is being developed by Black Box Games and it has been in development for quite a while. There should be a beta coming relatively soon.

Q. How does support look for this game?

A. We plan on having much post-launch DLC available. This will include new game modes amongst other things. What DLC provides us is the ability to support a title long after ship, and allows us more like 24-36 months to plan for the next, so don’t expect a new Need for Speed SHIFT game next year.

The event was a lot of fun, and it was nice to be able to get questions answered straight from the source. It is valuable to be able to speak to some of these people in person as opposed to e-mail.

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Evan Velez

Evan is not only a contributing editor but also the official west coast liaison for the site. He is a Sony fanboy without regard but has also spent countless hours grinding away in Azeroth. A true video game music enthusiast and a well versed video game historian. You do not want to argue with the man, you will probably lose.

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