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Published on April 10th, 2011 | by Daniel

3

Review: Need for Speed: Shift 2: Unleashed

Release Date: March 29th 2011 (US), April 1st 2011 (UK)   Genre(s): Racing Developer: Slightly Mad Studios Publisher: EA Games Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+), 3+

[Rating: 8.0/10](8)

2010’s Hot Pursuit was one of the best racing games of the year; scratch that, one of the best of the last few years. So when Shift 2: Unleashed was announced, dropping the ‘Need For Speed’ tag and being developed by SlightlyMadStudios, the team behind the arcade/sim crossover Shift 1, talk began on a two pronged attack for the Need For Speed games. And what a two pronged attack it is. While Hot Pursuit focused on outlandish cop chases and a free roam format, Shift 2 bring it back to the track in spectacular fashion, and it won’t hesitate to let you know about it. Shift 2 is an arcade/sim crossover racer. The whole game is more geared towards a sim style, but the handling model is slightly arcadeier than the likes of Forza. It’s like a half-way ground between the late Project Gotham Racing and Forza Motorsport, which surely can’t be a bad thing. Shift 2 refines everything from Shift 1, with the main thing being the Helmet Cam. This extremely immersive camera view puts you inside the driver’s helmet, and it adds a whole new level of realism to the game. It’s really quite an experience, with jolts coming after being hit and the camera peering into corners just like drivers do in real life, apparently. However, just like Shift 1, it just wasn’t for me. I preferred the chasing camera again in Shift 2. Playing in this view allowed me to take in the track visuals and the wonderfully colourful liveries that decorate the cars on the track.

It’s so shiny…- Oh it’s the sun.

Another thing Shift 1 was known for was its brutality. Brutality is not a word often associated with racing games but it is with Shift. In Shift 2 every crash is felt and experienced, as is every single horsepower in a car and it’s simply done, yet incredibly effective. When you crash in Shift 2: Unleashed, whether it’s a minor scrape when handling a corner or a full on five car pile-up, the screen turns grey and the sound fades out, with this effect increasing depending on the severity of the crash. It’s simple, yet I can’t remember it being done in game before, it really is a scare factor. As soon as the screen turns grey you’re frantically trying to steady yourself and the car. As for the cars, and the force they put out, that’s simply done too. Slight tweaks and jerks in the camera make every car, even the beginning cars, feel powerful and capable of winning a race. Other things have been refined too- the career is now a lot more varied with it now including drift events and other varieties of races. Drift events are vastly different from the drifting seen in Hot Pursuit and really provide something different to break up the other track action. While drifting may be difficult to handle and get used to at first, once you learn to control the car, pulling off drifts and further on, drift chains, it all gets easier and easier and never gets less satisfying to do. The XP system is also more refined, with the game no longer categorising you as an aggressive or precise driver, and everything else just seems more polished.

Nice view. I mean look at that steering wheel!

The other major new addition to Shift 2 is Hot Pursuit’s well received Autolog. Autolog, for those not familiar is the game’s way of tracking everything you and your friends do. Almost like a Need For Speed social network. It tracks everything from your friend’s lap times, to photos taken and uploaded by them and then suggests races for you to participate in and even to go and beat your friends and take back number one spot on the leader boards. Autolog was a great feature in Hot Pursuit and it feels even better in Shift 2 with it popping up with a quick press of the back button for easy access and viewing. It also feels more suited to a game like Shift 2- lap times are more of a fair thing to track, being the main reason. In Hot Pursuit the Cop side of the leader boards felt incredibly luck based. If you managed to hit that escaping convict at the right time before he turned the corner in Hot Pursuit, you’d set a ridiculous time that often your friends would never be able to compete with. In Shift 2 it seems a lot more based on the skill of the driver. Which is what racing is all about Shift 2 may step away from the Need For Speed name, but Need For Speed is in Shift 2’s blood. The racing is as exhilarating as ever, especially when commandeering a Works convert Retro Toyota Corolla (my favourite car I own in Shift 2!) And the addition of Autolog guarantees to keep you coming back to try and best your friend’s times, even after you’ve completed every single event and bought every single car. With Hot Pursuit and Shift 2 both upping the quality of recent Need For Speed games, I just hope EA and the respective developers can continue to provide us with quality racing games and continue on this Need For Speed upswing.

The Good

  • Autolog adds a new addiction factor.
  • The cars and tracks look great. All those liveries!
  • The career is now more varied.
  • Works convert cars are still beastly.

The Bad

  • Helmet Cam made me lose a lot and is difficult to get used to.
  • May become addicted thanks to Autolog.
[Rating: 8.0/10](8)

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  • Iain

    I’m finding the handling quite tricky, seems to be a sizable lag between controller input and the game reacting, did you find this at all and find a way round it?

    • Daniel (reviewer)

      I’m not sure if you use Helmet Cam or not, but as i stated in the review i disliked this view. As soon as i switched to the more conventional camera i loved the handling and actually found it quite easy.

      • Iain

        I’ve tried all of the views. I tend to use the bonnet cam and it’s a nightmare. Seems people on the EA forums are saying similar things…

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