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EA take their popular series and get serious. This is a game which comes face to face with some the best race games out there. And surprisingly Need for Speed Shift manages to deliver a racing experience that is up there with the likes of Gran Turismo. It's also the first game I've ben able to put my G25 race wheel and seat to full use - brake, clutch and power steering - the works.
The Need for Speed series of old has always been about outrageous antics, escaping from police cars, gratuitous power slides and smashing up your car in the process. Shift is different. Shift rewards those who drive well. Need for Speed Shift on 360, PS3 and PSP takes the series to a new level in a way I wasn't really expecting to work.
Coming from my recent enjoyment of Dirt 2 I was initially disappointed with the feel of this game. I changed from wheel to controller to try to get to grips with it but eventually gave up, went to bed and came back the next day. I am glad to report that this was simply a case of the two games having very different outlooks. With a little perseverance I was soon hooked up and surprisingly finding myself really starting to enjoy the driving style of the new game.
One of the real positives was my discovery that the best way of playing the game was with the full wheel, clutch and gearstick on my G25 racing seat. This, I am pleased to report, is the first game I have been able to successfully use this combination and honestly say it is the best way to play it. The gear change is slightly slower than I would like and if you chase the gearbox it doesn't actually go any quicker but once you stop trying to do this the game really comes to you.
The game is a game of two sides. It is a bit like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. You get points for driving with skill, accuracy and cleanly. But conversely you also score points for knocking your opponents off the road, driving aggressively and power sliding around the bends. As you work through the game you are assessed and awarded according to your style. For me I prefer the clean driving style.
One of the real positives was my discovery that the best way of playing the game was with the full wheel, clutch and gearstick on my G25 racing seat.
I had read that Need for Speed Shift had great blurry effects and I was wondering for ages what everyone was on about until it occurred to me that I hadn't actually crashed in a serious way and therefore hadn't experienced this amazing graphical achievement. When I did finally slam my Escort Cosworth into the wall at considerable speed I was largely under whelmed as it just went blurry and prevented me from seeing anything much until the screen returned to normality and I was able to carry on. Very pretty, but largely useless, and considering my car was set to maximum damage I am a little disappointed I was able to carry on at all. I was slightly amused at the audible ‘huh' sound my computer generated counterpart made as we made contact with the tyre wall!
The game progresses through a career mode initially offering a few traditional driving tracks. Soon enough though you are faced with new challenges including drifting and head to head racing and time attack to add to the variety on the way to the headline event in the form of the World Tour. All in all plenty to do and enough to keep you busy for quite some time. Add this to the quick game mode and online play and you really have got good value for money.
So here I am fighting head to head with a BMW M3, armed with an Audi RS4 and ready to do battle. Off the line my four wheel drive leaves the Beemer standing and I speed towards the first corner, flicking the nose in to initiate a little four wheel drift before regaining traction to exit the bend and clipping the apex perfectly. Flowing throughout the remaining bends I beat him comfortably, but it was my fifth attempt! This game is addictive and I am really enjoying it.
Need for Speed Shift is right up there with the best of the racing sims.
My one complaint is that the braking feel is virtually non-existent and does annoy me at times, especially on the time attack courses where total accuracy is required and not being able to completely feel in control is a real problem. Overall it doesn't make me hate the game, but it does let down what is otherwise an excellent simulation.
So here we have a game that reminds me a lot of Gran Turismo 4 (GT4). Especially because of the inclusion of the Nordschleife (Nurburgring) which is always a hoot to drive and is one of my all time favourites. To be fair GT did it better but that doesn't detract from its appeal and enjoyment. It has a nice mix of disciplines to work through and I really like the precision driving vs. aggressive driving score system which is innovative and works well in this context. Need for Speed Shift is right up there with the best of the racing sims. It's enjoyable and addictive and certainly gets my vote.
Have EA managed to bring a game which competes with the reigning champs. Well in my opinion most definitely yes.
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