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Customer Review

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What's this - a NFS game that's worth playing?, 20 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Need For Speed: Shift (Xbox 360) (Video Game)
I've not come close to completing the game yet (I'm still on tier 3), but initial impressions are pretty good.

The graphics are really excellent, better than Grid in my opinion. Tracks and cars are drawn with huge amounts of crisp detail and the screen runs smoother than new tyres on freshly laid asphalt, although there is a bit of pop-up on some bits of the trackside scenery. The way that the screen deforms and greys-out when you have a crash is a nice touch, rather like the effect of being shot at in one of the CoD games. This game probably has the best in-car view of any racing game so far due to the dynamic view. That is, if you push the accelerator down hard the view recedes as though you're being pushed back into the seat. Likewise, the windscreen comes towards you when you brake. Every jolt of the road results in the view bobbing around. Mind you, the over-the-bonnet view is still the best for actually going about the business of racing. While the in-car view looks nice on the replay, too much of the view is obscured to make it much use as a game option.

Shift makes a meal of the sound. The sickening crunch of a collision is accentuated by hearing your driver in the game grunt in pain, and take deep breaths when he is recovering (and it's always a he I'm afraid - there is no option to have a female driver grunting and groaning - just as well I suppose). The tyres don't half shriek when you're spinning out either. However, I think PGR4 pips it on the engine noise. Superfluous noise like pit crew chatter is happily absent. In the Codemasters racers of late all the inane banter through your helmet got right on my thre'pennies. The in-game music is also off by default, which tells me that the developers want you to take the DRIVING seriously in this game.

I'm happy to say that driving the cars in Shift is a pleasure. There are assists for braking, handling, and race line, all of which of course should be turned off. While not quite a Forza beater, the handling is modelled better than in most driving games, and sits somewhere between a sim and an arcade game. In fact, the whole structure of the game seems to be to appeal to arcade have-a-goers as well as beardy simmers who probably spray WD40 under their arms. Tweaking the cars to get the most out of the handling and performance is relatively painless. While you can go into advanced setup menus to tweak every aspect of the car like individual gear ratios, tyre pressures, wheel angles and so forth, Shift mercifully lets you ignore all this if you want and make the main adjustments using a few simple to understand slider controls. You don't need to be a physics professor to know how to pimp your ride. So if you want a sim you can do all the performance mods manually and turn off all the assists. If you just want to zip around the tracks with little cerebral involvement, you can do that too.

The tracks are modelled fantastically well with plenty of humps, bumps, dodgy camber and the like. These really bring out the experience of driving and make the tracks a different challenge for different cars. A bump that will make the steering judder in a low performance car will send you airborne when approached at speed in a more muscular ride. The corners in Shift need to be treated with respect, and perhaps even some fear, but like Forza there is a feeling that the handling is tough but fair. I must again make a comparison to Grid racer which had shocking handling and flat-earth track topography. Like Grid, however, Shift suffers from a shortage of tracks in general, and yet a surfeit of oval tracks. Why would any racing game have more than one oval track? More to the point, why would any racing game even have ANY oval tracks? They make for the dullest racing experience imaginable.

The number of cars on offer is plenty, but not as many as the stupid number available in Forza. Still, less is more in a way, since Shift encourages you to stick to a single car and get to know it, tune it, and upgrade it. Races in a single `tier' of the career ladder, with the exception of races where you are forced to drive a provided car, can all be played using one car if you like. There's none of the to-and-fro'ing between car selection and race selection menus that one has to endure with Forza. However, once you've bought the best car available in one tier there seems to be little to encourage you to try for another car, so if you like driving games where collecting loads of cars is important to you, Shift might be a bit of a letdown.

There are a few race types available. The normal race types are the best (one-on-one, time trials, track meetings, etc.), and although drift races are present they seem out-of-place given the generally serious tone of the game. A nod to the Need For Speed franchise's history I guess, but one which I would have happily seen dropped.

The scoring system of Shift is a bit obscure. You get awarded Aggression and Precision points during races a bit like the PGR Kudos system; but then you also get `badges' for completing certain challenges such as 10 clean overtakes or mastering a course's corners (a bit like the online Challenges in CoD); money for completing races; and `stars' for other challenges like achieving a podium finish. The points upgrade your driver level, the stars unlock new career levels and vehicles, and the money lets you buy new vehicles and upgrades. I think this could have all been simplified. It makes me think that the scoring system was glamorised to make it a bit more Need-For-Speedy. Also, while in principle I like the idea that the game wants to categorise racers as aggressive nutters or technical experts, it makes little difference in the end, since aggression and precision scores are dependent on the race type. If you're doing a time trail on an empty track, aggression points are harder to come by, whereas if you're scrumming with a pack of other cars it's virtually impossible to avoid clipping other cars or having them clip you, and earning a few aggression points by accident. When it comes to online racing, the aggressive types who win by perfecting the art of knocking opponents off the track (you know who you are) always win, regardless of whether the game identifies them as a precision or aggression driver. I make an appeal to all race game programmers: please do online game options where there are PENALTIES for crashing into opponents, corner cutting and the like. How about racing flag rules? I'm not suggesting that everyone should play by clean rules, but it would be nice to have the option when setting up a game.

I'm not sure whether Shift outdoes any of the other big race games on the Xbox in terms of basic gameplay, but it certainly ups the stakes in presentation, leaving Grid in a cloud of oily smoke. If it came to recommending just one racing game, I think that PGR4 is still the best, especially if you just want to race and car modding and damage don't interest you much. It's a bit unfortunate that Shift will probably be left forgotten in a few weeks when Forza 3 comes out. From the demo version, it looks like Forza will trump Shift in every respect - graphics, online options, car and track availability, modding options, graphics, etc...
For the time being, however, Shift should enjoy its time being sprayed with champagne.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Sep 2009, 23:45:15 BST
just wondered did you play the same need for speed as everyone else as it has to be the worst modern driving game released on any console ,I mean cars just do not act in any way like they do in the game, EA must have a special book on how cars drive that no one else know's about as there cars bounce and slide unlike anything in the real world and most GAME worlds as well.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Sep 2009, 19:57:22 BST
Last edited by the author on 30 Sep 2009, 20:12:42 BST
Spuddy Spud says:
Thanks for your comments Mr Penney. This is what I think:
1. The game I played is Need For Speed Shift on the XBox 360 console. I assume that's what the other reviewers played as well.
2. The worst driving game of recent times is, in my opinion, Grid. I found Burnout Paradise to be a massive disappointment as well, although admittedly it's a very different game. Shift isn't the best racer (that'd be PGR4 or Forza), but not the worst by a long way: it's streets ahead of all the previous NFS games for example.
3. I cannot comment whether the cars or tracks represented in the game drive like their real-life counterparts because I've not driven most of them. Cars (normal ones I mean, never mind high performance ones) certainly do bounce and slide if they're driven too fast, which is one of the reasons why we get road accidents in the real world. Any cars with more torque than traction will spin-out if pushed too hard, which is why acceleration should be gentle and in a straight line. Under normal day-to-day driving conditions, this is only noticeable on slippery roads in low gears, but a car with loads of engine grunt could spin in a high gear. I like the fact that the roads in Shift have bumps, hill brows and so forth that make you lose traction, because real roads do that too! It adds to the interest of the game. As for other games, Grid cars bounce and slide far more than the cars in this game, to an absurd degree in fact, if you try to play with no assists. Forza cars can also be overpowered with upgrades to the extent that they become virtually undriveable without a lot of tuning, so I don't agree with you on your point that the bouncing and sliding is unlike cars in the real world or in other games. I tend to play all racing games with a wheel with all the assists turned off, so I might have a different experience of the game to yours if you played it under different circumstances.
4. EA is the publisher, not the developer of this game. As to whether they have a special book, if no-one else knows about it, I suppose we'll never know!
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