Need For Speed Shift plays host to a range of car manufacturers, race-tracks and events.
The single-player campaign has you competing for "Stars" which gauge your reputation and thus pave your way to the driving throne; all the while compiling a car lot of exotic vehicles.
Need For Speed Shift will take roughly 8 hours to beat in single-player, but there's the draw of multiplayer and "perfection" to keep you on the track.
Need For Speed Shift's cock-pit view is frightening. Instead of stopping at the typical, static view from within the car's cockpit, developers Slightly Mad Studios wanted to make you feel everything. Hence, every bump, corner and brake is enhanced by a separate animation the head within the car. Brake hastily and your face will rush towards the steering wheel as the car jerks. Reach a top speed and the car's dash will blur out of focus as your vision hones in on the track ahead. It's visceral and in many ways bloody frightening! When you travel 170mph in this game, you feel it. It's a lesson that Gran Turismo could learn, a game where the sense of speed is often stilted.
Being a sim-racer aimed at franchise more accustomed to arcade racing; Need For Speed Shift piles on assists to make it accessible to everybody. Arguably you could describe this as a loss of identity, but we'd prefer to pitch it as common sense. The game puts you on a test-lap before you begin, grading your performance and reasonably assessing the type of settings that might suit your playing style best. In our opinion, the philosophy works, making a game that can be enjoyed by anyone who cares to pick it up.
On the whole, Need For Speed Shift's simulation physics are rather solid. Cars feel heavy and glued to the road as they jut around corners and make contact with the AI. Every bump is mapped perfectly to a decent damage model that ensures you feel the collision. It's a weighty game. The quality never quite touches Gran Turismo level, there are some odd quirks to the game's engine — shunting into the back of cars will cause you to drive under them occasionally — but it's solid on the whole.
Should you really enjoy the driving mechanics in Need For Speed Shift, there's plenty to get your teeth into. Performing certain feats on the race track reward badges, aswell as precision and aggression points that increase your driver level. The whole system feels a bit convoluted, but get your head around it and there's plenty of meat to Need For Speed Shift.
Coming off the back of Colin McRae: DiRT 2, Shift feels a bit plain and ordinary. Menus are dull, loading times are extortionate and presentation is flat. We appreciate the two games are polar opposites in terms of what they're trying to achieve, but it doesn't stop Need For Speed Shift feeling extremely ordinary between races.
Lacks panache.Without the true credibility of being a full-on simulation racer like Gran Turismo, the elegance of Colin McRae: DiRT 2 or the fanfare of recent entries in the Need For Speed franchise, it's hard to know exactly where Shift lies. Let's emphasise, it's not a bad video game by any stretch of the imagination, it just seems content with doing everything well, rather than excellently. As a result you get a solid, enjoyable game, but not an excellent one. And that's probably the best way we can sum up our experiences with Need For Speed Shift.
The car models and cock-pit view in Need For Speed Shift look fine, but they're let-down by flat-looking tracks and compressed cut-scenes. The blips and blops of audio that occupy the menu screens are tedious and the one voice-over that explains what's going on compounds the game's sterile nature.
Need For Speed Shift has a complete multiplayer component that we'll go into in more detail when we've had time to test it in a retail environment.
Need For Speed Shift is certainly a competent racing game with an intriguing cock-pit view. Sadly, slightly iffy physics and sterile navigation place it a few steps away from excellence.