I got a need…a need for speed…
The Need For Speed franchise began way back in 1994. After numerous incarnations, and a couple of complete direction changes, the NFS machine has now arrived at Shift.
NFS Shift takes the series back onto the tracks as a purebred racing game. However, this time the game takes itself very seriously.
The career mode in Shift is one of a pure race driver. With your startup cash, you are required to buy a car and get into the action. Your first car will be nothing special, but as you progress and gather prize money, new cars will become available and upgrades will be necessary in order to proceed. By doing the races, the player will also earn points. These points allow the player to advance in levels. With each level, new rewards will become available, such as cars, money and upgrades. The points you earn come in two flavours, aggression and precision. If you are more of a simulation racer, then precision will probably be high on your agenda. By overtaking cleanly and being courteous to your fellow drivers, you will earn precision points. However, the more arcadey racers out there will probably be more inclined to push other cars out of the way, or use opponents cars to slow down at tight corners. These players will earn aggression points. The player will also earn badges. These badges are a type of in game achievement that can be used to impress your mates.
The game comes filled to the gills with the largest collection of high performance cars yet seen in a NFS game. Once a car is obtained, there is the usual customising and upgrading available. The upgrades available are of the usual fare, such as tyres, nitro, suspension, drivetrain etc. These all affect the performance of your car and will be absolutely required in order to proceed through the game. The customising should also be familiar to NFS fans, with body kits and paintwork as you would expect. The vinyl selection is also expansive, although being with a more serious racing angle.
The tracks in Shift provide plenty of variety, with some well known tracks making an appearance, such as Nurburgring and Laguna Seca. There are a number of different modes available within the game, along with the standard racing. For all of those that are wondering, there is a drift mode available.
Graphically, the game looks great. The cars seem to be well replicated and the tracks themselves are a joy to drive on. The motion blur is a really nice addition to the game, giving a real sense of speed in what is already a fast game. For those of you that play driving games with the cockpit view, you can expect an even more involving experience, as your view will be thrown around the cockpit as if youÂ were actually in the car. Another nice touch is the blur that occurs if the player has a bad crash. Depending on the severity, the players view may go from normal to a complete blur, making driving almost impossible. Fortunately it does not take long to return to normal, but it certainly makes crashing seem like a bad idea.
Take the game online and you will be able to race with up to seven other people in a variety of different races. You can even match your race to your current level of precision or aggression, depending on what type of online experience you are looking for at the time.
NFS: Shift is a racing simulation game, or at least that is what it is trying to be. Unfortunately the game seems to have introduced too many arcade elements to actually achieve that. Being rewarded for knocking other drivers off the road makes no sense to me. Also the drift mode is completely pointless, and detracts from the simulation experience. Drifting occurs within the normal races as well, albeit a little too easily perhaps. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy drifting around corners during a proper race, but again I think it is not in keeping with the gamer being a simulation.
The handling is another thing that I found annoying. By setting the game at different driving types, more or less driving assists are employed. The problem is that there is no middle ground, you get to choose between having your car fishtail across the track every time that you hit the throttle, or having so many assist on that you may as well read a book while the race finishes. Driving assists are a great idea, but the settings are just not available enough for the player to get a setup that they can actually enjoy.
My main disappointment though has nothing to do with the way the game looks, sounds or plays. I want to go streetracing. To me, that is what the NFS franchise is all about. Taking it on the track makes it just another racing game, on the streets it stood out as something special. Maybe the streetracing and cop chases will come back in the future, but right now I miss it.
Need For Speed: Shift is a good racing game, but there are too many better racing games out there to call this great. In my mind it is neither a sim or an arcade style racer, but whatever it is, it is good. The physics are superb, the visuals are beautiful, the sense of speed is breathtaking. There are some things that I don’t like about this game, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that this game is a very capable racing game. I just wish it was on the streets.