The Need for Speed team has always put out great arcade-style racers for all main platforms, my favorite being Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 on PS2. After that game, they started NFS Underground which focuses on the late-night import-tuner Fast & the Furious type racing. This style continued for six more games. Popular games they were, but enthusiasts were left wanting more.
This time, the NFS team treads into new territory with an all-new simulation racer – Need for Speed: Shift.
The new game features 72 cars, each mapped in pain-staking detail inside and out by the NFS team. This provides the most realistic experience possible, and it works great. There are 15 real-world locations to race including Willow Springs and Laguna Seca Raceway, which add to the realism of feeling like you’re in the race. NFS: Shift’s signature is in the incredible in-car cockpit view. While most racing games have this option available, the view obstructs sight too much to make it a good view to race from. Shift’s cockpit view is much better, allowing a good view of the track and peripheral vision, and more added realism.
After receiving my copy of the game, I completed my usual ritual staying up until 5 AM playing it until I couldn’t see straight anymore. The driver profile feature is unique in that the first time you play the game, it puts you through a test lap to gauge your driving skill and style to tailor settings and career mode to best suit you. This proves very beneficial starting the game, turning on and off traction and stability control, steering and braking assist, and racing line features. I wish it would continue to adjust these throughout the game, as I found myself turning off some of these features later on in the game, but it’s not a big deal.
The signature cockpit view is one of the coolest features in a racing game I’ve seen. Adding to the realism, the interior of the car is just as detailed and thorough as the exterior, showing each interior detail identical to the actual production car. Some of the most impressive features in this view are the 3D HUD that moves with the driver’s head, inertia, and G-forces, and the altered depth of field based on speed. When you get going at faster speeds, you get a sort of tunnel vision as your peripheral vision blurs, similar to real driving. A dynamic crash feature disorients the screen when you hit a wall or another car. Depending on the impact speed, this could be a slight blur up to a near-blackout. These seemingly small details are what makes the game so exciting.
One of the problems I’ve always had with simulation-style racing games is the lack of the sense of speed that arcade-style racers have down pat. NFS: Shift jumps that hurdle through the use of details and techniques missing from many other sim racers. The sense of speed you get while going fast is incredible, and as cheesy as it sounds, I’ve actually noticed my heart rate rising as I go faster in the game. It helps that Shift isn’t 100% simulation – it still has an arcade feel to keep it fast-paced and fun while staying as realistic as possible.
Starting out, you get the choice of only a few cars – I chose the BMW 135i. As you progress, you win money, unlock more cars, invitationals, and moving up a class gets you a higher tier, and so forth. Eventually, you’ll get into the final tier that allows you to buy cars like the Pagani Zonda R (and F,) Lamborghini Reventon, Bugatti Veyron, and Koenigsegg CCX. These cars are incredibly difficult to drive well, so don’t feel bad if you get an invitational with one of them and don’t win your first few tries. Each car comes with a huge selection of modification options, ranging from suspension, nitrous, weight reduction, interior modifications, and body kits, along with a wide range of paint, vinyl, and wheel selections. Some parts (like aero and suspension mods) allow further customization, letting you adjust downforce, steering input, and other advanced settings.
Some complaints I would like to see fixed with future updates:
- Minor bugs like the infamous bouncing glitch and the flag girl at the beginning of almost every race which ends up standing in the car. I can’t believe this wasn’t worked out during testing.
- A wider selection of cars. No Ferraris are included at all, and many potentially great cars are missing. I’d love to see cars like the Nissan 300ZX TT, Lamborghini Diablo and Countach, Acura NSX, Alfa Romeo 8C, Audi R8 V10 (the V8 is included,) Audi S5, and many others. NFS: Shift’s main competitor, Forza Motorsport 3, has over 400 cars, whereas Shift has 72. Free future updates should definitely include more cars. UPDATE: The NFS team is releasing a new downloadable pack soon with four muscle cars and a Toyota Supra MKIV.
- No local multiplayer. Have a couple friends over? Too bad, you can only play multiplayer online.
- Every time you turn on the game it makes you select a language. It should save the language setting for each profile automatically.
Another thing I noticed while playing is that it would be much easier to control with something like the Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel instead of the regular controller. Steering and throttle inputs need to be more precise than the standard controller can handle, so it really takes some getting used to before you can steer correctly.
Other than those few gripes, which will hopefully be corrected in the next update, Need for Speed: Shift has quickly become one of my favorite racing games. Running through and beating the game as quickly as possible shouldn’t take very long, but if you’re like me and need to get everything – all the awards, achievements, and beat every level – the game will last much longer, and you’ll have a lot of fun doing it.
Need for Speed: Shift is currently available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PSP, and PC and is available at Amazon.com.
Disclosure: Writer was provided a copy of the game by EA for purposes of review