Shift 2 Unleashed Hands-On

We got a first hands-on with the game EA is hoping will take on the Forza and Gran Turismo series.

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Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit may have only just hit store shelves, but publisher EA is already hard at work on the next instalment in the series. Shift 2 Unleashed comes from the same team that brought us 2009's original Need for Speed: Shift. The Need for Speed name will be a more subdued feature of the box art, but this game signifies EA splitting its uber-successful racing franchise into distinct arcade and sim categories, with Shift 2 squarely aiming its sights on the Forza and Gran Turismo series. Has it got what it takes to compete with such heavyweight critical and commercial successes? We went hands-on with the game to find out.

Our guide for the demo session was DICE's Marcus Nilsson, Shift 2 Unleashed's executive producer and the man who's overseeing the whole project. DICE may now be best known for the Battlefield series, but at one time it was also the force behind Microsoft's critically acclaimed driving series Rallisport Challenge. Eagle-eyed fans will have also spotted the Swedish studio's involvement in a number of other EA games recently, including Medal of Honor and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. Nilsson's role here is to lead London's Slightly Mad Studios through development of the game, under the watchful eye of Electronic Arts senior VP Patrick Soderlund.

It's a bold claim that the game will take on both Forza and Gran Turismo--Forza 3 won our driving game of the year award in 2009, while Gran Turismo 5 had the luxury of more than five years of development time. That said, Nilsson is bullish about the game's sim credentials, even if reaching a high number of cars isn't his main aim. Instead, his focus is on what he calls "the driver's battle"--heading into a corner at night at 150mph should induce pure terror, according to the Swede.

Night racing will feature in Shift for the first time.

As a result, the original Shift's distinctive visual style has been amplified for the sequel. Those who played the last game in the default in-car view will remember how bombastic the presentation was--knocks to your car would result in the camera being shaken, while more serious crashes would blur your vision. This time around, the helmet cam will also aid your driving, moving automatically to look into a corner as you approach, mimicking the behaviour of real drivers. The crashes will also be even more realistic this time around, with Nilsson claiming that the team has innovated at the core of the game, resulting in an improved physics engine this time around.

Anyone who has played Hot Pursuit should be pleased to hear that Autolog, the social engine that we said "does a great job of constantly comparing you to your friends and compelling you to compete with them" in our review, is a big part of Shift 2 Unleashed as well. You'll be given a profile, a gallery, friends, and a wall, and Autolog will constantly update to feed you with friend activity that you can compete against. You'll also be able to upload pictures for your friends to see, as well as comment on their achievements, or taunt them when you've beaten them, and the Autolog system will stretch its tentacles online so you can see what's happening from your Web browser even when you're away from the game. Like Hot Pursuit, Shift 2 Unleashed will also feature a point-based experience system that will see your driver levelling up as you progress.

EA claims that Shift 2 has been improved at the core, including a revised physics engine, so expect even more spectacular crashes this time around.

The highlight of our preview was getting to sit down in a force feedback D-Box gaming chair, which was rigged up to a high-end PC running a preview build of the game. Our demo offered us a range of tracks in locations such as Shanghai, Australia's Bathurst track at dusk, and the daunting prospect of Belgium's Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps at night. It was a challenge to race around the latter in a chair programmed to make you feel every bump and corner, especially because the number of driving aids was limited. Slightly easier was jumping on one of the PCs set up around the demo room, which were equipped with Xbox 360 pads, but in each setup, we had a lot of fun with what seemed to be a fairly advanced build of the game.

Our hands-on with the preview build was encouraging--there was a lot to play around with, bugs were rare, and it seemed polished overall. Since our preview event, EA has announced that Shift 2 Unleashed will be released in the second quarter of 2011, so it's likely that the build we looked at was in a fairly advanced state. With EA being so bullish about its simulation credentials, it will be interesting to see how Slightly Mad Studio steps up to the plate to compete with Polyphony Digital and Turn 10 Studios. Expect to see more on the game from GameSpot in the run up to release.

Discussion

223 comments
Cosimoro
Cosimoro

Let's hope they didn't insert hundreds of annoying videos in the middle of the race, with car crashes and police cars and so on, like the unfortunate team of NFS Hot Pursuit did, 'cause I become so frustrated, that I abandoned the game at some point. And I've abandoned it even if the graphics were really amazing. And when you think they could've simply put a button to chose if you want the videos or not...

oneofthefall
oneofthefall

Id like to see more on the damage, this seems to be left out in most so called next gen racing games for whatever reasons, but if its good in this game ill probably get it!

JuiceMcGoose
JuiceMcGoose

I won't be buying any more driving games without worldwide leaderboards.

Kleeyook
Kleeyook

Helmet cam doesn't sound better than GT5's head tracking. I think I'd better buy PC version which will support D-box (quite meaningless because I'd never be able to afford it, 15 grands) and probably Eyefinity and 3D surround. Playing racing sims on 3 screens is always better than just one. But the problem is that I don't have money to buy 3 monitors. :(

OilySuperWillie
OilySuperWillie

really anticipating this really like the first and with a new GTR and rFactor 2 supposed to be coming out this year it;ll be hard to choose

ashii8950
ashii8950

still way behind...................

M-Mniny
M-Mniny

"so expect even more spectacular crashes this time around" .. may i ask, what kinda crashes exactly??

Jackc8
Jackc8

I've already got this pre-ordered - can't wait. It's gonna be AWESOME :)

mw2hardcore
mw2hardcore

I believe the first shift was amazing. im sure this one would be even better

GaMingIcoN
GaMingIcoN

The first shift was good but not good enough! they had the basics but the handling was just awful; 4 real hopefully this 1 will bring the shift series racing across the finishing line it is lookin more polished but is it polished enough time will tell!

amourkiss
amourkiss

NFS will always be a fun arcade racing experience, period.

Elann2008
Elann2008

You are not prepared DICE guy.. he seems very nervous.. Executive producer? Damn...

sniperwol_basic
sniperwol_basic

Monster EA will kick hahaha. I know you understand....!

joshphillips
joshphillips

GT5 sucks and is not fun to play in my opinion. The first Shift has more polish all around than what I've played in GT5. Poly want a cracker? Well EA is about to feed you one with rat poison on it when this comes out.

bxr2urjaw
bxr2urjaw

haha 3 min of actual knowledge on the game an interview and another 3 min on stuttering

garcia_jx
garcia_jx

you know how the song goes fool, in the back sippin purple changos.

ExESGO
ExESGO

More sim than anything out there eh? iRacing wants to have a word with you sir.

sensei_hEnRY
sensei_hEnRY

No need to aim so high for forza or gran turismo. Just make a fun racing game like Grid or project Gotham racing

hth_1
hth_1

Not only that but there are at least 3 other racing games being developed by EA at this point in time.

MaddenBowler10
MaddenBowler10

@hth_1 I realize that it's Criterion's Need for Speed..but still, the title of Need for Speed is there and it's just oversaturing the market. Too many of them are coming out, no matter who the developer is. How do you develop an online community for any one of those games if you are coming out with so many of the games?

hth_1
hth_1

@MaddenBowler10 You've obviously don't know anything about the Need for Speed Franchise and/or EA blanket of developers. Criterion made Need For Speed : Hot Pursuit, and Slightly Mad Studios are producing this game. EA can make ANY genre of games cause they WILL have a developer for it, but the quality you can determine for yourself.

kenmanius
kenmanius

Can't believe DICE did Rallisport Challenge. That was my favorite racing game on the Xbox. Helmet cam is excellent idea for a racer.

superivanho
superivanho

hot pursuit is just too short and easy, shift 1 is at the right level i reckon (though i'm still not too sure why EA encourage players to drive aggressively like intentionally crashing or hitting opponents off the track even in proper touring car racings) defo looking forward to the next nfs shift episode!

xxBSAxx
xxBSAxx

@remysola nfs HP(2010) is crap,and a bad pc ported game! on the other hand i agree with shift2 and tdu2.... it will be a driving year :)

remysola
remysola

NFS HP, NFS Shift 2, TDU2.. wow!!!! I need to buy a decent Wheel

electryk_weasel
electryk_weasel

cant wait. PC has been waiting for a decent racing game. Oh, im with GeorgeSyll: console fans are too easy to get a reaction from!

gazabaza
gazabaza

@xarismaster you have hot pursuit for that.

Spaceweed10
Spaceweed10

GT5 is utter garbage - let's hope this offers drivers some hope.

Joob-head
Joob-head

@DEVILGAMERZ UMMMM YA? in 6 years

DEVILGAMERz
DEVILGAMERz

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Moonfast
Moonfast

I am INCREDIBLY happy to hear about that the helmet-cam will automatically look into the corner to mimic real drivers. This is something I´ve been hoping for all racing games I´ve ever bought! This is going to do wonders! MINT!!!

warlord_Kratos
warlord_Kratos

why cant they just get some street racing with cars tat can be customized like carbon or most wanted?? that has been a speciality with ea other than the other gaming companies. but this shift shift 2 and ro street really suck with the in track racing and not much of modifcation

Tommy861
Tommy861

I hope we can skip the whole helmet cam and stick with the bumper cam. Unfortunately those in car views and the shaking etc makes me nauseous...

masterchief_kar
masterchief_kar

@cooldude050 couldnt agree with ya more bro! GeorgeSyll obvious troll is obvious... and dont think i care about you giving me thumbs down either... XD

cooldude050
cooldude050

@GeorgeSyll really? your comment makes me doubt that you know what you're talking about. 1) GT is not a sim? wow. that's all i can say. 2) the first gt came out in '97, with polyphony digital existing a bit before that, so the time difference isn't that much 3) GT has one of the best physics engines in the genre, and is better than anything NFS, an *arcade* series, can throw at it. shift 2 just might make a physics engine that is comparable to GT5, but it won't be better. also, your comment about 1000 "recycled" cars? 200 of them are brand new, with full interiors and (finally) realistic engine sounds.

Gamebit257
Gamebit257

@ Wardman101 - about the cockpit views but at least GT5 has 930 cars a more than SHIFT XD! I agree

Gamebit257
Gamebit257

EA!What type of drug you've past using??? "EA is hoping will take on Forza and Gran Turismo series" if is to simulation FORGET!i've played GT5 and SHIFT and i have to say if really could take on,they REALLY have a LOOOOOOOOOOOOONG road to roll...LOL!

MaddenBowler10
MaddenBowler10

this series is getting milked more than the COD's. THEY JUST CAME OUT WITH HOT PURSUIT!

needsnointro
needsnointro

Bathurst? I hope this means V8 Supercars are included. There is not one game this gen where you can race one around an official track.

masterchief_kar
masterchief_kar

@GeorgeSyll oh george... m no 'genie',bro.. just trying to get facts straight... 1) Have you ever played any GT? yea? turn off the assists.. still not enough? then i rest my case. My definition of a sim may not fit yours,but 'm sure i can live with that :D 2) Polyphony were always involved with race-sims. Your comparison of NFS and GT does not arise. I was talking about Forza. READ your own post fore you go on a troll-age. 3)You can always get only the premium cars and youd still have 200 cars. If you ever played GT4 and GT5,youd have the better sense to understand not all of it is recycled.And the standard cars still look good. Now if I say they look better than cars in shift,who's to say m wrong? lol! If you're actually good at Rfactor or GTR,I guess you should stick to that then. Cos trolling just aint your game,bud.

GeorgeSyll
GeorgeSyll

@ masterchief_kar. hehehehe.... you guys are like geenies right? every time that someone says the words " Gran Turismo fanboys" you apear out of nowere and start bashing on anyone who doesnt like GT and anything that its not called GT! hehehehe! you made my day! thanks for that. oh and allow me to correct you on some things. 1st) GT is not a sim. it never was. its an arcade with just the the basics of simulation. just like Ace Combat. nothing more. you want to know what a real sim is? go play the GTR series or Rfactor. that's simulation. 2nd) dont talk about dates and history kid. EAs NFS came out in 94. in terms of history Polyphony is nothing compared to other companies. nothing. 3rd) i prefer a very good physics engine and a few cars with real interriors and sounds than 1000 cars created 5 years ago and imported in a "new" game again. that'll be all.(i'm apologising to everyone for this but i just couldnt resist! these guys are so much fun xD)

chicack
chicack

what i hope from this game is not a spectacular crash, or a more detailed graphics detailed graphic improvement is good, but what i expected from game like this is an improvement in control, which is poor at shift 1, and a hard drifting mission... it was a disappointments at shift 1

locmelis
locmelis

i thint why thet can't meake NoS most wanted ?