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Shift 2: Unleashed PS3 Review - -

Gameplay 8.0
Graphics 9.0
Sound 9.5
Value 8.0
Distributor: Electronic Arts
Review Date:
April 2011
Ash Pinch


Need for Speed
Shift 2: Unleashed

For those who missed out on the original Shift, this is a series that tackles the realism of racing from a different angle to the likes of Gran Turismo, Forza or any of the PC sim racing games.  Instead of focusing on realistic physics and precision driving, the Shift series focuses on the sheer terror that comes with driving an absurdly powerful car at 300km/h.  This sets Shift apart of other racing seriesí and is a component of racing that is rarely the sole focus of a racing game, and it makes for an exciting and adrenaline fuelled game. 

Players are able to make their way through a career guided by Vaughn Gitten Jr., Formula D champion.  This career includes both circuit and drift racing, the layout of the career menus is well done.  They are simple and easy to navigate, none of this over immersion, living in a caravan between races, itís just straight to the point, the way it should be.  The game also features some time trial and multiplayer modes that are nothing out of the ordinary, they are there but you will most likely spend the vast majority of your time in the career mode.

Shift 2 features most of the cars that any Need for Speed should.

The main new feature of Shift 2: Unleashed aimed at increasing the level of immersion is the helmet cam, this is from the driverís point of view; you can even see some of the lining inside the helmet.  In theory, this is an excellent idea; however, it wonít work for everyone in practice.  My experience of playing whilst in helmet cam was that it was very difficult to judge the angle of the car.  As the car approaches a corner the helmet cam turns towards the apex of the corner, this occurs before the player even begins to turn the car, and can provide a feeling that you are losing control of the car.  Fortunately, this view is not compulsory and therefore does not detract from the game for those who donít want to use, but is a big bonus for those players who enjoy the camera view.  The game also features an ordinary cockpit view as seen in the original shift.

The helmet cam can make it difficult to judge the angle of the car.

The most important aspect of any racing game is the handling of the cars; this is something that Shift 2 doesnít quite nail.  The cars donít feel like they have any real weight to them and seem to float around the track.  This is definitely a double edged sword, this makes the cars feel, well weightless, but at the same time adds to the thrill of the racing by making it feel as though you have very little control over the car.  This adds to the whole experience of what Slightly Mad Studios were aiming for, an edge of the seat racing experience.  Even though this loose handling adds to the lack of control, this lack of control will take some time to get used to, expect to be crashing a lot to begin with and just generally having a hard time of it, this will pass though. 

The racing can be pretty intense at times.

Fortunately there are a number of settings that can be tinkered with regarding the handling, and there different skill levels too.  I started playing with the experienced setting as the game recommended, but soon found the controls were too sensitive with a Dualshock 3.  Once the skill was dropped though it all felt much better, this setting is probably left for those with highly accurate thumbs or steering wheels.  Playing with a Dualshock 3, I felt as though the throttle and brake was digital, not analogue like a car should be, there was a definite sense of the all-or-nothing principle at play.  The car would either not do anything or would be revving its guts out.

Drifting is a mode in Shift 2 that I found myself being drawn to, despite it taking some time to get used to the way the car drives, in particular coming to the realisation that the game automatically counter-steers.  Once this was realised, and taken advantage of the mode became much more enjoyable.  Although the helmet cam makes this mode a little easier than the traditional cock pit view, I found it too difficult to know exactly where I was going and what was coming up, there is too much of a disconnect between the actions of the car and the helmet view.  Within drift mode too there are some big jumps in the scores you must obtain; an example is every time you are on the London track you must get scores massively higher than any other course.  London is a good drift track, and you can get better scores than on most others, but the difference still seemed to be far too big.

Car customisation is present, and is deep enough that serious tuners can spend hours tinkering with dampers, spring rates ala Gran Turismo or Forza.  It is also simple enough that someone who just wants to race can pump some cash into the car and be just as competitive.  There are a range of parts available for each car and a few body kits, and if your car reaches a high enough level it is eligible to get a Works conversion, making it a fire breathing track machine.   The interior upgrades change the cockpits too, and of course the external mods change the outside.

The car customisation can help create some truly unique cars.

Graphically the game is a real stand out, the car models look fantastic, inside and out, and with some level of customisation to both the inside and out is a real stand out of the game.  The tracks look accurately recreated and the scenery looks good enough, not that you will really notice at 200 km/h.  Night and dusk races in particular look awesome, the sun makes it difficult to see and navigating a track at night can be very daunting and cause you to question where corners are much more.  Shift 2 runs absolutely flawlessly in 720p and no slow down was experience during play even a whole bunch of chaos all over the screen.

Fitting in with the rest of the game, the effect of the crashes is very full on, for some reason the driver briefly can only see black and white.  The screen also shakes and the screen goes blurry, this is overall a good touch and adds to the intensity of the game.  Especially when travelling at fast speeds and the cockpit blurs and your vision automatically become drawn to the road ahead.  Unfortunately this can be frustrating, sometimes small collisions with other drivers will cause the above effects, and just feels out of place, this is rare but can really take you out of the experience.

You will want to turn those speakers down, especially if you have close neighbours, Shift 2 is loud, very loud.  The cars growl and snort like wild animals, and sound great, but oh so loud.  The cars sound like they should, perhaps slightly exaggerate which suits the game perfectly.  Tyres squeal excessively, engines sound like they are about to explode, collisions produce a huge thud, itís brilliant.  Shift 2 also apparently features a short soundtrack, in complete honestly, I didnít even notice any music at all while racing, the other sounds overpowered them completely.

For those looking for something a little bit different to other racers this could be the answer, Shift 2 provides exciting arcade feeling racing that revolves and intense circuit style racing.  For those willing to overlook a few minor issues and they are willing to be patient with the handling will find a truly satisfying, albeit terrifying racing game. 


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