iPad-tilting racing action.
Racing games on the iPhone/iPod Touch have always been a bit of a hit and miss affair. It is not that there are no decent racers on the little handhelds, but finding them means wading through a lot of sub-par titles. With the launch of the larger screened iPad, one would hope that only the decent racers make the transition. As the first iPad racing title that I have tried, Need for Speed Shift had a lot to live up to.
NFS Shift is a closed street racer, offering an uneasy alliance between the brutal weaving in and out of traffic found in street racers and the relative peace of track racers. Players will have the opportunity to scream through the city streets in safety, with all other traffic stopped from entering the circuit. Whilst this will certainly not please the Need for Speed fanboys of old, it works perfectly well within the context of this racing game.
Setting aside, racing games live and die on their handling. Someone must have told EA this, as this game handles really well. There are three different levels of control within the game, but certain things remain the same throughout. Acceleration is automatic and steering is achieved by tilting the device left or right. At the lowest difficulty, that is pretty much all you need to know. Boost can be activated by tapping the boost button, braking by hitting the screen and drift by a simple sharp tilt of the iPad to either the left or right. In the lowest difficulty, there are a bunch of assists turned on that will help with pretty much everything, leaving the player to concentrate pretty much just on the steering.
Professional difficulty turns off the assists, leaving the player responsible for braking on the corners and such. For a real challenge though, choosing expert difficulty will find the player with no assists and a manual gear box. Changing gears is a matter of swiping either up or down on the side of the screen. This makes for a much more involved game.
Whilst the handling is good, it does not have that level of immersion that can be found in racing games on the big consoles. Whether this is a limitation of the hardware or just something that the developers have not worked out yet, I do not know. But it is still early days and developing for the iPad is still in it’s infancy, so the future is certainly looking bright.
Of the three modes, Quick race, Career and local multiplayer, career will likely be where the most time will be spent. Following a fairly straight path, the player will go from one race to the next, earning cash to purchase new cars and upgrade their current ride, in order to stand a chance against a devilishly competent AI. These guys really know how to drive.
There is a decent selection or cars available that should please all but the most particular of race game enthusiasts. And where would a Need for Speed game be without customization? From the boring stuff like tyres and suspension, to the important stuff like body kits and paint jobs, there is plenty to spend your hard earned winnings on and squeeze the most out of your ride.
But in a game that has very limited multiplayer, what is the point in making your car look good? Well, with the big screen of the iPad and the sumptuous graphics provided by EA, the temptation will be to show off your car as often as possible, even to complete strangers on the street. The entire game looks and sounds fantastic on the iPad and showing off the latest customization to your ride will be of utmost importance.
As I previously mentioned, this is my first racing game on the iPad. Need for Speed Shift has set the bar high for other racers and I would not be surprised if this game held it’s place as the best iPad racer for some time to come. It would have been nice to have a more street racing feel about it, preferably with more emphasis on drifting and maybe even drag racing (surely a format perfectly suited to the iPad?) But the game looks and sounds great, handles really well and has plenty of content to keep the average racer happy for a good while. At least until EA decide to release Hot Pursuit on the iPad.
Need for Speed Shift for iPad is available on the App Store for Â£7.49