- Publisher: EA
- Developer: Slightly Mad
- ESRB Rating: “E10" Everyone 10+
- Genre: Racing
- Pros: Great graphics; amazing sense of speed; great car / track list; customization options
- Cons: Extremely slippery handling; awkward career mode videos; "rattling cans" sound effect; crazy A.I.
While Shift 2 may not be a sim in terms of gameplay, the car and track lists are pretty much what you would expect in a sim racer. Cars from all the big manufacturers - Nissan, Toyota, Chevy, Porsche, BMW, Lamborghini, and more - are all here. You can upgrade performance parts and even turn stock cars into full on race machines. And you can, naturally, customize the appearance of your car as well. Tracks include Laguna Seca, the Nurburgring, Catalunya, Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Suzuka, and more. There are more than 80 track variations in all. The option to race many of those same tracks at night make for a rather different experience as well, so there is a lot to do here.
In terms of modes, Shift 2 features a career mode where you start out with a low class car and race your way up to the GT class championships, earning money for upgrades and new cars along the way. The AutoLog introduced in NFS: Hot Pursuit also appears here so you can compare times and compete with your friends, but it isn't as front and center as it was in that game. Online play is present and accounted for and just as you would expect.
Shift 2 does make one huge improvement over the first game in that it is actually playable at speeds over 140MPH. In the first game the physics were so unforgiving, and the handling so loose, and the tracks so narrow, that once you started moving up to better cars and higher speeds the game was downright unplayable. That isn't the case here. I happily tore around at 200MPH in a Lamborghini and had a good time, something Shift 1 wasn't capable of. Drifting events are also greatly improved here, compared to Shift 1.
I mentioned the weird way the third-person camera looks above. Luckily, you can race in other views including two cockpit views. One is a standard cockpit view we're all used to, but a new feature in this game is a helmet view to see from your driver's perspective. The camera will shake and move realistically and your view actually turns slightly left or right to look around corners. It is very cool. It gives me a bit of motion sickness, but still very cool. The in-car views are definitely the way to play Shift 2.
ProTip: You can tweak the controls a bit in the options, and I suggest turning the steering sensitivity down to zero, which makes the game a lot less twitchy.
Graphically, Shift 2 looks fantastic. The cars are incredibly detailed and look really nice. The tracks also look very good and are really set off by some great lighting effects.
The sound is a mixed bag. The engine sounds are absolutely amazing and are nice and loud and really sound realistic. Other sound effects, however, aren't so good. Your car always makes a rattling sound when you go around corners (Your clutch slipping a bit? Tires chattering? Fuel vapor backfiring in the exhaust? Beer cans clanking in the back seat? We don't know what it is.) that is very annoying. Voice work from other drivers in the career mode is also just plain bad. They sound supremely bored and disinterested. The music also leans a bit too far into epic "serious business" territory.