SHIFT 2 Unleashed
Posted 2 years ago By - Jay Acevedo
Almost two years ago, Slightly Mad Studios delivered a new way to experience Need For Speed with the introduction of SHIFT, a less-in-your-face but still ferocious, violent and noisy racing game for Electronic Arts. It left a solid impression among racing fans avid of the thrills and managed to find a nice seat a few rows away from the two other award-wining popular race simulators (Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo) left vacant by Codemasters’ own racing title, Race Driver GRID.
However, most of us have become accustomed to waiting three-four years (even more for some) before seeing a new game for a given franchise hit store shelves. After being hinted last Summer, SHIFT 2 Unleashed was officially announced the same day Need for Speed Hot Pursuit was released. At that point, I doubted this new entry was going to deliver something significant so soon. While I wasn’t too far from being right, I was also wrong a tiny bit.
SHIFT 2’s meat and potatoes lies in the career mode, where players will be taking on a series of events and rivals to get to the top of the FIA GT1 championship. Following the advice of Formula D champion Vaughan Gittin Jr., “Career” packs eight different events spanning across 60 sub-events such as drift trials, muscle car racing, and time attack, among others. Each discipline is led by a real-life driver. Beat him at his own speciality to win his car. As players progress through their careers, badges will be awarded and experience points (given based upon your driving behavior) ported to your driver profile; done in a much more streamlined way compared to the first game. Rack up XP to unlock new challenges, cash rewards and of course, new cars. The experience continues online as players can compete in quick races, time-attack battles, driver and catch-up duels to earn XP and cash for use in the Career mode. Making the game even more all-encompassing, Autolog was brought back from Hot Pursuit. While its a bit less “present” compared to Criterion’s outing, racers will have access to information from how well they’ve performed against their friends by comparing different racing stats. Autolog in Hot Pursuit felt more like a juvenile tool for bragging rights. Here, the social interaction tool takes a toned-down and efficient approach. You won’t be asking yourself how many EDP or helicopters were called to achieve that 45 second lap time. Here, how well you took a chicane on a given track is what will define your driving skills.
One of the things that makes SHIFT 2 different from its predecessor lies in the overall presentation. While improved car damage, nifty particle effects and a greater sense of speed positively enhances the visuals, lighting during night races adds an incredible - yet challenging - aspect to the game. Make sure to keep those headlights on or you can kiss that pole position goodbye. Another cool addition is the new helmet cam. “Didn’t the first SHIFT have it”, you may ask? Well...it did..but it ended up being nothing more than a glorified cockpit camera angle. For the sequel, the driver’s head will turn, lean and focus on the objective as each corner is tackled. It will take players some time to get accustomed to, but it will be hard to pass on once mastered.
I remember reading at one point before the game was released how Slightly Mad Studios didn’t want to go the Gran Turismo route by adding a bunch of cars for the sake of it. The car count went from 84 to 136. Personally, I never have the chance to try all the cars when playing racing games anyway, so car quantity isn’t something I fight for. However, those who like to deal with an exhaustive list of vehicles will be disappointed. Although, the level of customization (both visually and mechanically) offered here does make up for it. Car models look great and even better than some of those featured in GT5. But despite obvious work in the physics engine department, handling still remains a bit loose. Things do improve as you progress through the game as the expanded tuning options will serve as a great help, making the most passionate grease monkey extremely happy. Being on the tune-up subject, SHIFT 2 allows players to save set-ups for either individual or grouped locations and also make on-the-fly adjustments while driving via the new Live Tuning option.
Was there something in SHIFT 2 that really made me grind my gears? Aside from the long loading times, the aggressive A.I takes the crown. Despite seeing an improvement, CPU drivers still come out driving at fierce speeds to put you out of your misery. It’s rather interesting to see Slightly Mad Studios no longer offering rewards for being a reckless a-hole on the race track but yet, still allow the A.I to commit its shenanigans with no consequence. Even though experienced racers will find ways to get back into the race and win it, others will be forced to replay it over and over until their patience gets overrun.
Much like in Hot Pursuit, SHIFT 2 can detect if you’ve played past NFS games (SHIFT, Hot Pursuit and Undercover) via the NFS VIP feature. By activating the option via the Options menu, the game grants you extra XP, cash and cars. Not much to talk about, you might say, but I like it when there are some kind of loyalty rewards in place for spending money on games, much like Ubisoft has been doing over the last few years with its uPlay system.
SHIFT 2 Unleashed does some things differently and gives the franchise the extra boost to completely dissociate itself from the arcade experience that Need For Speed is known for. There are still lots to do in order to make Polyphony Digital and Turn 10 pee on their rugs, but the franchise is going in the right direction. Now, why is Need for Speed still mentioned on the box? It is a spin-off, right? Don’t be afraid, EA. Cut the cord and let this one fly with its own wings...or screech its tires on the tarmac, whatever strikes your fancy.
+ Helmet cam is very cool
+ Deep customization (visually and mechanical)
- Loading times
- Minor visual bugs
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Release Date : 2011/03/29
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Electronic Arts
Developer : Slightly Mad Studios
Category : Racing
ESRB : T
7.0 / 10
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