- Publisher: EA
- Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
- Also On: PS3
- ESRB Rating: “E” for Everyone
- Genre: Racing
- Pros: Great graphics and sound; lots of races; great cockpit view
- Cons: Touchy, loose handling; scary fast; drifting sucks; long load times
Need for Speed: Shift dumps the silly storylines and open world and other fluff and focuses squarely on the racing itself. It is all menu-based, and after the last 5-6 years of open world racing games it is kind of nice to just pick a car, upgrade and tune it, and then select a race without jumping through a bunch of hoops. The game gives you 65+ licensed cars to race and customize and wreck, and pretty much every car you’d expect is here. The only big name missing is Ferrari. There are 20 tracks to play on, including real locations such as Laguna Seca and Brands Hatch just to name a couple. Basically, everything that we have come to expect from a realistic racer is here.
In addition to a lengthy career, there are also a full suite of online modes available. As always, taking custom cars online is a blast. The performance was pretty smooth overall, so no problems there.
Need for Speed: Shift is a sim/arcade hybrid similar to GRID or Project Gotham Racing. It is way more realistic than the last few NFS games, but not even close to what Forza or Gran Turismo offer in terms of a driving simulation. This new style is definitely a plus, but the execution isn’t quite where it needs to be. Other similar games in the genre flat out play better. Shift is still fun, but it falters in a key area.
That is a definite negative, but once you either get things figured out or resort to the assists, there is some fun to be had here. Customizing cars and tuning their performance is as fun as ever and there are a lot of neat cars to drive. There are also a ton of events to play through which will keep you busy for quite a while.
On one final gameplay note, there is one other area where the game falters and that is drift events. The drifting flat out sucks here. It feels like you are driving on snot covered ice and just isn’t fun. These events aren’t hard to win – the point levels you need to reach are hilariously low – which kind of shows you that the devs probably knew the drifting was going to be a problem so they made it easy. I would rather they just left it out entirely.
Graphically, NFS Shift looks amazing. The cars and tracks are all very detailed and look great. The game maintains a solid 30 FPS and is just a joy to watch and play. And like I said above, the cockpit view is just about perfect.
The sound is also very good. In particular, the engines sound completely and utterly great. They are loud and throaty and you feel like you are driving powerful cars. I’m not as much of a fan of the obnoxiously loud and grating squealing of your tires on the pavement that comes with pretty much every corner in the game, but it is a part of racing so you can’t really complain. At least you can turn it down if you want.
Need for Speed: Shift is a good game that stands as easily the best NFS of the last few years, but I can’t recommend it without a few caveats. The controls just can’t quite keep up with the speed of the game and the power of the vehicles you’re driving, which can lead to frustration. I’m no slouch at this type of game, but I struggled. If/when you hit that wall, don’t be afraid to turn the assists on. It makes a game you’re becoming frustrated and angry at fun and playable again. Also, the drifting is awful, so if that mode was a selling point you might want to reconsider. With that said, once you get used to it all there is a lot of fun to be had with Need for Speed: Shift. It isn’t quite as good as PGR4 or GRID, but for racing fans it is definitely worth a look. A demo should be coming soon if you are on the fence.