Back in it’s hay day, The Need For Speed: Series, really was in a class all it’s own. It was all about exotic cars and putting the pedal to the medal in the open road. Throughout it’s history the game never took the actual racing too seriously, from a technical standpoint at least. Over the years the aging franchise has seen many different iterations, changes, and reboots if you will. The latest reboot in the franchise is by far the best as it brings you back to the essence of racing without all of the filler of the Underground, Most Wanted, and Carbon versions before it. Need For Speed: Shift, I would consider it to be EA’s official coming out party as it’s intentions it would seem is to face-off against the industry’s more serious racers like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport Respectively. It may not have as many cars as those two racing powerhouses, but in my opinion it’s definitely much more fun.
The game’s presentation is top notch, with nice clean menus and options. That’s all there really is is though, menus and options. There really isn’t a story here as you’re basically just fighting racing your way to the top in order to reach the Need For Speed: World Tour Championship. This is both good and bad as it focuses in on the most important part of a racing game…the actual race. Although I do think some will be let down because lack of a story usually leads to lack of immersion.
Their are 5 tiers in total with the World Tour being the 5th. As you complete more races you earn more money for upgrades, more cars, and unlock more events. Another welcomed addition to the franchise is a leveling up system of sorts. You’re awarded points for driving certain ways. Whether you’re aggressive and into bump drafting and takedowns or you’re extremely technical and accurate with your driving the game has a point system in place to award you for your success.
The most important aspect of a racing game would have to be controls I would think. And again NFS: Shift manages to hit and (unfortunately also slightly) miss it’s mark as well. Shift being the purest racing game in the series thus far, carries itself like a title that has matured over the years. It has molded itself into the status of almost being a racing simulation title. It even has race lines on the track (much like the GT Series) that help you to learn how to approach different twist and turns the way a professional racer would. However, as good as the inclusion of this feature is, most of the cars steering is quite sloppy with inconsistent sensitivity issues. It doesn’t at all take away from the overall experience, it just takes some getting used to. Just a warning, once you do get a handle of it you might not want to let go!
Graphically the game can be compared to any other AAA racing title on the market. Reflections that come off the cars are almost hypnotizing. And when you’re racing it’s pretty hard not to take your eyes off the road to enjoy all of the beautiful vistas. Whether it’s the cityscapes, racetracks, or even country roads it all makes up for a big sweet piece of eye candy. The now racing game standard cock-pit view, adds real depth to the games visuals as well. It’s pretty nice to be able to see the interiors of cars most of us cannot afford.
As far as sound is concerned this is where, I feel it lost just a few points in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, the sound effects in the game will have you looking over your shoulder when your racing. Yes the surround sound is REALLY that serious. In cockpit view, I didn’t even have to look at my mirrors to tell if someone was trying to pass me, as I could hear them creeping up in my rear surrounds. This added a sense of realism rarely seen in racing games, usually you just hear the sounds of your own engine revving and it can’t be distinguished from the sounds of the engines in the other cars you race against. My biggest gripe (maybe I’m just being picky) is that there’s no soundtrack when you’re actually racing. There’s music in the menus and during replays, In the race there’s just sound effects. I’m sorry but in racing games especially I like a soundtrack when I’m kicking ass.
The multiplayer on Live was pretty smooth for the most part. The only problem is, like most online racing games it’s plagued by the official rule of online racing. That means, once you get the green light everyone hits the pedal to the floor, until the very 1st (hard) turn then it turns into a bumper cars match for first place. It’s pretty lame, but this is definitely not the 1st online racing game to suffer from it, nor will it be the last. One cool feature is that it keeps track of your friends racing stats as well for certain trials and races. Let’s you know if you “own the track” or you friend does.
Need For Speed: Shift is a breath of fresh air for longtime fans of the series, and definitely a step forward (and in the right direction) towards a more serious racing experience. It may not have the most cars or car manufactures, but it has the ones that count. And don’t worry unlike like other racers out there you will not be forced to start out in a beat up 89 honda civic (I’m looking at you GT series). No you will start out in really fun, really fast cars. After all, the game is called Need For Speed, right?
Title: Need For Speed: Shift (360, PS3) Developer: Slightly Mad Studios Publisher: Electronic Arts MSRP: $59.99 Release Date: Available Now