More video game racing for me now, and that can only be a good thing. “But Bazaboy, all these driving games you play, once you have played one you have played them all have you not?” Hell no, I just cannot get enough of them. Despite playing the majority of driving and racing games out there, I have never been a huge Need For Speed fan until lately and that was because they dealt mostly with street racing. Being more a fan of actual motorsports, titles based on those sports were always more appealing to me with Need For Speed Hot Pursuit being the latest exception which, to my surprise, I found that I actually enjoyed. The Need For Speed Shift games however were much more appealing to me as they dealt with circuit racing. When the first one arrived I was not completely sure what to expect. I knew beforehand that the game, both looks and sound wise, was pretty impressive. But gameplay wise I was expecting the game to be very arcade-like. As it turns out I was pleasantly surprised. So when a follow up to Shift was announced, I was interested to see what, if anything, had been changed or improved upon.
So I usually begin my reviews with a paragraph or two on what you are required to do in the game, or a basic premise of the story. But with a racing game things are pretty self explanatory. You begin the game as a rookie race car driver on your way to the top. This is done of course by taking part in and winning numerous race series and championships. These are mostly races around real life or original made for the game race circuits over a number of laps. There are however a few other events thrown in just to mix things up a little – the drifting events, invitational races and driver grudge races from the first Shift game also make a return. However there does seem to be a fair few less of them as the game concentrates more on traditional circuit racing. Also surviving and making the transition from the first Shift game is the levelling up system. Much like the first game, experience is gained for good and clean racing in every event. Hitting the apex of corners perfectly, sticking to the correct racing line, clean overtaking, mastering tracks and of course winning races all go to helping you level up.
The levelling up this time around though I found a lot easier than it was in the first game. However, the only real purpose it serves is to unlock the next set of races. The badges that were in the first game are still present but they take a back seat and have become something you do not even notice in the game unless they happen to pop up after the race in which you earned them. This gives you less to worry about, meaning you can concentrate more on what the game is all about, the racing action, of which there is plenty.
There is not much more to be said on what you do in the game. But what makes or breaks a driving game in my opinion is how it plays. First and foremost when deciding this is how well the cars handle. That does not go to say that the game must have realistic handling to be good, arcade racers can be just as much fun but the handling still has to be well implemented. For those that were fans of the original game its good news as very little has changed in that respect. The handling is still a sort of mix between simulator and arcade, but also like the first game, it works extremely well. Those new to the Shift games may find the handling a little strange at first, even as I found coming from playing other racing games to this it took a little time to adjust. One of the things the developers have attempted to do with the Shift games is convey the feeling of speed experienced by racing drivers in the game. This leads to the shaky camera effect that is used extensively throughout the game. Although quite a cool touch, it can be overdone slightly, especially when it comes to the crashes when everything goes a shade of grey and the camera moves around violently. When it comes to larger scale crashes it is quite cool, but when it happens even when you rub up against a barrier or another car can become a little annoying.
Shift 2 is an enjoyable racing game however there is one big problem that needs to be addressed. The car handling, the tracks, many of the cars and the types of races present here are the same as what made up the first game in the series. There is very little in the way of new content or gameplay in the sequel, other than a few small visual touches, most notably a new camera view, helmet cam. Up until a few years ago I was a big fan of chase cam, much preferring to view the action from a few feet behind the car. But with the improved graphics of modern day consoles and developers putting just as much effort into in-car views as they do the outside, I became a huge fan of in-car views when it came to racing games. Shift 2 attempts to make things even more realistic by viewing the racing action from within the drivers helmet. This takes a little getting used to, but given time becomes a really nice touch with your drivers head turning to look into corners as you approach them. Other small visual additions include dirt, oil and bugs splashing on your cars windows, and tire marbling and dirt visible on the tracks. Nice touches though these may be, there really is not much more added to the game.
Presentation wise, the game is as nice looking and sounding as you would expect it to be. However it suffers from the same problem in that there is no huge improvement from the first Shift game, even the music is the same. It’s true that the game both looks and sounds as good as you would expect with all the tracks, both real locations and original tracks, looking nicely designed and created, and the sounds of the cars, like the first game, are some of the nicest to be found in modern day racing games with suitably loud and angry engine sounds.
So recommending this game is pretty easy. If you are a fan of racing games then it is most definitely worth checking out, especially if you are looking for something not quite as realistic as Gran Turismo but almost as much fun to play … almost. However the new content and features which would make it a step up from the first game are lacking, meaning that if you already own the first Shift game you may be disappointed if you choose to add this to your collection. If however you do not have the original Shift game and it’s a choice between the two, then this is definitely the one to go for as although it is technically a great racing game in itself it does very little to progress the series and I hope that if the developers decide to go on and make a third Shift game they do more than add a few graphical touches here and there so as to keep the series fresh and exciting. Let’s hope they learn that, as the Shift series has great potential.