Review: Shift 2: Unleashed

In: Reviews by Chris "FighterAce100" Salazar

11 Apr 2011

The first thing you might notice about Shift 2: Unleashed is that the name of the series that it’s part of, Need for Speed, is not technically part of the game’s title.

Don’t worry, the words “Need for Speed” do appear on the box. Way down at the bottom edge.

This is your first indication that this game is going to be a jump from a brand that is well known for its arcade, full-throttle, racing games. Turns out that, indeed, Shift 2 is not your average NFS game; it’s a whole new breed of animal.

Prior to the orginal Shift relase in September 2009, racing fans had only two choices for games. For Playstation 3, you had Gran Turismo 5 — or at least Prologue. For the Xbox 360, you had Forza 3. Both of these games provide excellent gaming for getting your race on, however they also lack what makes it a game. Each one tried to cover “realism” and “accuracy” in everything from the cars to the tracks.

But all the effort at true-to-life perfection was all negated by the fact that. although you have a great deal of fun playing these games, after a while you’d get bored because you had to sense of completion. Seasons just became something else that you’d run though after playing the game for so long. Money was generic and easy to get because you could just run the same race over and over again. The racing became plain. Everyone had set their times, their cars, tunes. and paint schemes.

All you had left was the multiplayer and not all of us like to play online. I dislike it because of the 10-year-olds who decide that hitting your car off the track or into a wall is more fun than the actual racing. Neither game had a way of punishing these type of racers, so they continued to do whatever they wanted during online races.

This turned me away from racing online, so a racing game’s value to me comes from its ability to provide a solid single-player experience.

Shift 2 has provided an amazing experience for me. The experience-point system has been updated. Unlike the first Shift, where you were awarded points for “precision” and “aggressive” driving, Shift 2 takes points and awards them based on driver’s ability to follow “the line” on the track, by your curve-and-corner mastery, and with clean passing, blocking, sliding, leading laps.

I like this as it rewards you for driving like a real driver would on the track. Sure, real world drivers hit other cars and accidents happen, but just because it’s a game doesn’t mean everyone wants to get nailed in the back and spun out all the time because you don’t have the skill to pass me legitimately.

The game also gives you XP rather quickly, so leveling up as a driver does not take very long. In fact, driver levels are the same as in NFS: Hot Pursuit, going up to 20 and ending there. I like this because you can unlock most of the racing events without having to play the game for days and you have a large variety of races to choose from.

Another new addition is Shift 2‘s “helmet cam.”It has to be the most awesome view in a racing game to date. How is this view different from other games “interior” or “cockpit” views?  First off, and by far the most important, is how the view is active during the entire race. While you drive, have you noticed that you actually turn your head before turning the wheel? Drivers do this so you can see where they are going before they actually drive their car there.

The game simulates this when bends and curves come up. At first I did not like this, as it was really disorienting and made it hard for me to control the car in the game. But after you get used to it, any other racing game just won’t compete. If you look closely you can also see the helmet on your driver and for those of us that have actually raced or worn a helmet, the view is identical! It really lets you feel like you are wearing a race helmet inside the actual car.

The graphics for the overall game have also vastly improved and track details are stunningly beautiful. Trees, fences, spectators, and street lights are all highly detailed and add to the experience of the game. Bumps, cracks, rocks, and debris line the track and you feel each one as drive over them during a race. You feel like you are really racing and not sitting in your couch.

The improved graphics and detail are great, but what about the competition? I mean, racing games are all about the glory of winning, right?

Anyone can say he drove around a track and give you some made-up time. When everyone can see it and challenge you instantly online, it’s a whole new ballgame.

Autolog debuted on NFS: Hot Pursuit last November, and since then it has been an awesome social system to challenge friends, post track times, brag, and basically show off that you are better at something than someone else. It really creates some awesome challenges for you and your friends.

Autolog was brought into Shift 2 as well, but with some improvements. The computer can now recommend specific races that you might “like” or prefer, based on how you have been playing the game. It keeps track of the cars you’ve driven, tracks those you do well in, and logs the types of races you decide to participate in. It still has the basic notifications of your friends’ racing times, as well, so you can keep up the competition to see who the best driver is.

Shift 2 does not have the huge inventory of cars like GT5 or Forza 3, but what it does have is cars that you’ll want to drive. Honestly I could care less about a game including a 1990 Honda Civic. I wouldn’t want to drive that in the real world, so why would I want to in a game? I want cars that are iconic and almost unattainable to own, like Lamborghinis and Ferraris and the Gumpert. The list goes on, but my point is I don’t want to drive old run-of-the-mill cars!

Where Shift 2 really stands out, however, is the night driving. If you think Forza had some intense night racing, think again. Shift 2’s realism at night racing is so good that you have to take your time around the tracks. Headlights from each car vary, and this affects how far ahead you can actually see. Tracks are dark at night, and other games have not been able to fully simulate this experience to a player, until now.

Shift 2 has been the first game that I have gotten so far into that, after the race was over, my hands were shaking and I had a full adrenaline rush going through me. There are not many games that cause that kind of heart-pounding sensation, and Shift 2 did it by its first night race for me.

Although these races are intense and harder to drive, there are not that many at night, so if you turn out to not like them, the game can still be enjoyed with its plentiful day races.

Shift 2 is not one of those games that you rent because of the unlimited experiences that you can have with it by yourself or against your friends. It’s a game that has long lasting value, and I think many racing fans will find themselves coming back to it six months from now to experience the unique style that it brings to the table. Sure, there are other games that let you do more tuning or have a bigger selection of cars, but none of them have the helmet cam, night venues, or Autolog that Shift 2 has.

No other game has given me the remarkable adrenaline rush when crossing the finish line after three laps in downtown Miami. Coming from someone who has done some real racing, if you want something special, look no further.

Score: 9/10

Shift 2: Unleashed
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
For the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Windows
Available now

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1 Response to Review: Shift 2: Unleashed

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Shift 2: Unleashed Review - Kit Guru community

April 12th, 2011 at 3:53 am

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