Video Games, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, nintendo, wii, ds, sony, microsoft, PSN, XBLA, Onlive, Playstation Vita, Wii U,
Posted by eddierichards on Jan 12, 2010
Need For Speed: Shift – Playstation 3

Need For Speed: Shift – Playstation 3

I feel the need…

Now, I never really liked Gran Turismo much. Don’t hate me, it was just far too serious for me, but I do enjoy the odd scenic tour now and then. I am a true arcade racer fan and the likes of Sega Rally and Ridge Racer do it for me every time.

I did enjoy the earlier Need For Speed (NFS) games in the lengthy series, but their replay value didn’t hold up to the test of time. And to be honest, the series was growing steadily worse with every release.

Now we have Need For Speed: Shift, and I’m pleasantly surprised. Not only because of the beautiful crisp visuals (which is a given these days, I guess), snazzy presentation and all the other little bells and whistles, but mainly because this is not an arcade-style racer at all. You wouldn’t think it was an NFS game, either. There’s no cruising here; no ‘smack the accelerator and hope for the best’. It has a similar and familiar feel to previous Need For Speed games – but smarter, and much more demanding of your driving skills.

Not sure about the soundtrack though, I’ll come to that later.

I did worry when I saw that the menu screen only had two routes to choose from (‘Start Career’ and ‘Options’), when you first start the game up. However, my fears were put to rest after being thrown straight into a trial race which rates your performance. The game then suggests a comfortable difficulty and car handling setting based on your performance, in much the same way as Modern Warfare’s training level. Even your team manager’s voice has a familiar tone to it. Everything opens up after that, with a multitude of events to try your luck at.

NFS Shift is not just about racing to only earn cash and unlock stages, but here, it’s also about how you do it. You might be a cautious driver, more focused on avoiding other cars and sticking to the best driving line of each course, or choose to be reckless and knock opponents all over the shop. The game pigeon-holes certain things done on the road into two categories: Precision, and Aggression, and eventually provides you with a nice report of what kind of driver you are from points based on your track behaviour. Throughout the game, as you drift, ram, or cleanly overtake other cars, you earn medals (which serve to boost your overall driver rating, unlock cars, Race types and so on) and ultimately, Stars! The more stars you collect, the more race classes (or Tiers, as they’re called here) you have access to. There is so much to unlock here and you can  improve your status further by competing in online battles, time trials, etc. Actually, whatever you do gains you points, really. You could just start-up a Quick Race, and run around one track forever for loadsamoney, but you realise very quickly that these kind of tactics will only get you so far. There’s a vast amount of preset races, duels, time attacks, drift trials and more, placed before you. You need to take these challenges on to see the huge amount this game has to offer.

Still not sure about the soundtrack, I am getting to it, I promise!

The cars themselves feel great to drive. Not a chore like those in GT, but ‘real’ enough all the same and braking is a necessity and yes – car damage is included here in case you wondered. Both damage and handling can be modified (e.g. you can set the damage to affect the car’s handling, or just it’s appearance).

For the more mechanically minded (Or perhaps those of you from Essex) you can totally pimp your ride  by changing the paint job, vinyls, body kits, etc. All of which can be tinkered with to a high degree. Every car can be upgraded and tuned and you will eventually need to tweak their performance, as the many varied courses on offer here demand different qualities from your vehicle.

The courses are very nice to look at and there are loads to choose from and are all based on various real-life locations (‘London River’ being one of my favourites). In a similar fashion to Ridge Racer, there are often two or three set courses around each area with more being opened up as you progress.

There’s a nice, polished look to the graphics in general and the little touches, like the convincingly beaten-up paint job on your car after a race, or your peripheral vision blurring in cockpit view as you speed up, only add to the overall experience. Even in the slowest cars, races can feel hectic and exciting, and the sense of speed carries over really well. Driving a Lamborghini can be scary.

The difficulty curve feels natural and races can be really close and intense and the AI performs admirably and far better than Turismo’s dance formation (sorry – I’ll stop now). Your AI opponents aren’t stupid and it’s nice to see other cars fight amongst themselves occasionally, or suddenly slip up. This makes the races feel more realistic as the computer-controlled cars do not have these moments all the time.

Previous NFS games, such as ‘Undercover’, and the awful ‘Pro-Street’ failed miserably. The whole ‘on-rails feel’ of the gameplay was evident from the beginning and it was a case of ‘Try and try again’ if you should lose a race. I won’t mention the terrible FMV acting either (oops).

Shift’ is totally different. Heaps of events and challenges to keep you busy and no Vin Diesel-type moments here. Not one for the chavs perhaps!  And you feel encouraged to finish races to perfection, to meet all tasks head-on; to get things done.

Yes, GT purists will look down their noses at NFS: Shift, but they really shouldn’t. This is a really enjoyable racer in its own right, and what it does, it does well.

..Except for the soundtrack (Told you I would get to it.) which cannot be edited via a playlist, nor replaced with a custom soundtrack (Maybe the XBOX version does?) but at least it can be muted. There are a few good tunes in there, but as a whole it does not fit the game well; just a bunch of random tunes (and genres) thrown together, in very poor fashion. I miss the Jazzy menu tunes from Gran Turismo (no, really)!

Anyhow, to sum it up, NFS: Shift is a great little game, which will be overshadowed by GT5, and ignored by GT fans, no matter what. If you want the hardcore nuts ‘n’ bolts seriousness, then fine – ignore if you must (or better yet, buy a real car) but this game really is worth a look, and this is an arcade racer fan saying this. Try it. Go on.


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