Shift 2 Unleashed: Need for Speed Updated Hands-On

We go bumper to bumper in a nearly finished build of EA's simulation racer.

Annual updates from major publishers, such as EA, may be nothing new, but two releases from the Need for Speed stable in just over four months has got to be a new record. Thankfully, Shift 2 Unleashed is a completely different beast from last year's Hot Pursuit--it's even more focused on simulation than the first Shift, with all the customization and authentic handling options that we've come to expect from competitors in the Gran Turismo and Forza franchises. EA invited us to its UK headquarters to get a fresh hands-on with an advanced build of the game ahead of its release in March.

Once you get past the flashy front end, with a menu system that rotates around a beautifully modeled car, you begin to notice the prominence of experience points in the game. You're constantly rewarded for doing practically anything in the game, from winning a race to performing a number of supplementary objectives. Bonus experience points are on offer for mastering each track by sticking to the correct racing line or taking corners correctly. Building on what was started in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, you'll even get experience points for beating autolog time records from your friends, giving a tangible benefit to your progress in addition to bragging rights. The original Shift was a good game, but developer Slightly Mad Studios has recognized a number of key areas it claims it has improved for the sequel. It's hoped that the new elite handling model will take the game into the same authentic simulation territory as Forza and Gran Turismo, while the total crash damage tech appears to offer more realistic collisions than either of those games offer. Then, there are the new tuning options--you'll be able to save vehicle setups into tuning groups and then test and refine them on the track using the new live-tuning feature. You'll also be able to upgrade and add decals to vehicles, as well as take a photo and advertise them for sale online.

Another big new addition is real racing stars who, according to producer Jesse Abney, act as the game's bosses. These stars, including Vaughn Gittin Jr. and EA's own Patrick Soderlund, will introduce themselves in a video and talk about their particular racing discipline. These videos also aim to create a rivalry and add an incentive--if you beat the racer, you take their car. This new emphasis on what the development team calls the driver's battle is also reflected in the new helmet-cam option, which offers a visceral first-person perspective of the race. It also offers some driving benefit--your avatar looks into corners as you approach. It's an effect that can be off-putting at first because you have to adapt your steering to the off-centered view, but as you settle into it, it becomes a natural and even beneficial addition to the game's bombastic presentation.

While EA still wasn't talking about many of the features that will ship in Shift 2 Unleashed, we poked around in the game's menu system for clues. An option called driver duel championship looks to be available both offline and online, but Abney wouldn't reveal any more details at this stage. The store also looks like it will offer a mix of bonus content, vehicle packs, and time-savers, so in what's quickly becoming an EA tradition, you'll be able to unlock content in the game for a premium.

Shift 2 Unleashed looks comprehensive, even though EA admits it won't offer the same number of cars as some of the game's competitors. The races we played were challenging--an elimination on the winding roads of Tokyo in particular--but the promise of more experience points kept us coming back for more. Then, there was the Alpental circuit from the first Shift, now with the extra challenge of playing at night, which in combination with the helmet cam was a nerve-shredding delight. Shift 2 Unleashed: Need for Speed is set for a March 25 release in the UK and March 29 in the US. For more information, as well as a brand new video interview with producer Jesse Abney, check out more on GameSpot now.

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98 comments
gaurav_paul
gaurav_paul

I expected it to be same a shift. Turned out to be awesome.... Go out n purchase this game... 8/10...

omidsaint
omidsaint

i 100% buy it i love this jenre

lordofallpies
lordofallpies

This game is good but I'm not sure that anyone actually wants to buy it.

KlepticGrooves
KlepticGrooves

Sounds like it'll be a similar experience to TOCA: Grid.

hotrider12
hotrider12

yesterday I read on a foreign translated site.. "BLACKBOX studio" suppose to make a (NEW) NFS by end of 2011 (maybe nov.) anyone else heard about it?? might be announce at E3 2011. im hopeing its HOTPURSUIT 3 OR HIGHSTAKES 2 both done like criterions graphic's

Blitzkrieg129
Blitzkrieg129

@FunnySmellinCat, What are YOU talking about? I honestly don't know how what you said was relevant to my comment and this preview. If you're saying Need For Speed shift was up to the standards that Forza 3 and GT5 have set...then you're wrong. GT5 and Forza 3 have exceeded NFS: Shift's quality by a vast amount. And if you don't think GT5 and Forza 3 are qualified to be called a sim racing game...then what is?

Salgo53
Salgo53

This looks like a mix of prostreet and shift

FunnySmellinCat
FunnySmellinCat

@Blitzkrieg129: on my gt5 box it says: the ultimate racing simulator. based on that, the game is one of the worst i have ever played. dirt3? forza? justice for the simulation genre? what are you talking about?! have you ever played a sim racing game? guess not.

FunnySmellinCat
FunnySmellinCat

666NightsInHell Posted Feb 8, 2011 3:53 am GMT Another broken game, try hot pursuit ,previous game and u never want to buy ea racing games anymore, same like in dirt 2, d1 2010 nfs hot pursuit is broken ugged game, LOTS of people cant run these games because of so many bugs an d not optimized game wich is mage for consoles, READ WEB BEFORE YOU WANT TO SPEND MONEY ON BROKEN BUGGED GAMES! i never had a single problem with nfs shift or with nfs hot pursuit. and they are both good games. nfs shift for bringing nfs series to another level, where it should be present. and nfs hp for FINALLY coming back to nfs roots. bugs? i finished both games a couple of times, haven't had a problem at all. go learn to use a computer.

somekool
somekool

Why don't you all go buy Blur ! its the purest racing game ever ! never had a bug and its replayability is infinite.

666NightsInHell
666NightsInHell

Another broken game, try hot pursuit ,previous game and u never want to buy ea racing games anymore, same like in dirt 2, d1 2010 nfs hot pursuit is broken ugged game, LOTS of people cant run these games because of so many bugs an d not optimized game wich is mage for consoles, READ WEB BEFORE YOU WANT TO SPEND MONEY ON BROKEN BUGGED GAMES!

frazzle00
frazzle00

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

frazzle00
frazzle00

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

BuzzY-001
BuzzY-001

see i want another underground game underground 2 was my favorite nfs game so far

warhawksuper
warhawksuper

By: Guy Cocker hahaha very intriguing surname... xD

dr4ever21
dr4ever21

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

Anteraan
Anteraan

@Blitzkrieg129, spot-on. @nazwhoeveryouare - Simulations are for people who understand driving physics, enjoy tweaking them, and take their racing seriously. I enjoyed TDU for what it was, and it wasn't about great handling physics or the like. I'll enjoy TDU2 for the same reasons, but the Forza series is much more of a game than the TDU series will ever be.

nazhoyuriar
nazhoyuriar

look at to the left... to the games you may like... TEST DRIVE UNLIMITED 2.. driving simulators are for little kids... open city sandboxes M.O.O.R.. THAT BADASSS... TDU 2 WILL BE AWESOME..

siarhei
siarhei

Shift is where NFS should be headed, not those silly arcade racers.

juggaloJRB
juggaloJRB

first one was solid if u like the style of racing but i loved grid were is grid 2 it deserves a sequel more than this but shift 2 looks good

EISPower
EISPower

What is simulation? What was wrong with Dirt &Dirt2/Carbon & MostWanted/Burnout Paradise&Flatout,Colin Mc Rae Rally 2004.There is no such thing as simulation.Will the cars be able to drift threw corners or will this be a steel sh.t like ProStreet/Shift.Dont expect much!!!!!!!

MacDee23
MacDee23

What i REALLY want to see from EA is another Road Rash game, but running on the same game engine as Need For Speed Hot Pursuit. That will be a title i would REALLY be interested in purchasing. It would totally own.

mw2hardcore
mw2hardcore

The NFS shift wasn't bad.good graphics,cockpit view,.. . the only bad thing about it was the drift events.i'm looking forward to NFS shift 2. HP put the NFS franchise back on the fast lane

NEO101010
NEO101010

first shift was a joke ! i hope the second one be a better game.

totherim
totherim

Well said Blitzkrieg129...very true.

Blitzkrieg129
Blitzkrieg129

Let's put it this way...compared to Forza 3 and GT5...Shift was awful. Controls were horrible. AI was dumb. You couldn't "actually" drift...you needed to go to a special mode to do it...which is ridiculous. The bottom line is, Forza 4 and Dirt 3 are coming out this year - not gonna spend $60 for this unless it truly does the simulation racing genre justice. "A driving experience like no other" - you got that right - no one else has ever screwed it up that badly.

NND1
NND1

Can't Wait Hot Pursuit was great!!

bruce-e
bruce-e

hot pursuit could have been better im looking forward to shift 2

JuiceMcGoose
JuiceMcGoose

NFS Hot Pursuit is the last racing game I buy without worldwide leaderboards. Don't know if shift 2 has them or not.

Spartan90
Spartan90

Looks very flashy but I still don't think it will live up to Forza.

shimmy1973
shimmy1973

I've been criticized over & over for stating that N4S 'Shift' was one of my favorite games. I still stand by my opinion firmly ! If EA can work out the kinks and offer the consumer a game that doesn't require 2-3 updates/patch's to run correctly, then this promises to be a solid racing sim. & give the fans of GT5 & Forza a good run for there $...

joelrhodes
joelrhodes

OMG I'm sooooo sick of some lame ham fisted people saying the controls in the first Shift didn't work... how comes others could play it quite easily? Just because it was more challenging than Forza "Your Mum Can Play It" 3 doesn't mean it didn't work, it was just FAR more realistic IMHO. I bought both Forza 3 and Shift and I can honestly say Forza 3 was sold back to my local Game store pretty sharpish whilst Shift was played for months. Don't get me wrong, the game was far from perfect, opposition cars would just drunkenly smash into the player-controller car for no reason, the races were unforgiving and the precision/agression thing just didn't work... no matter what you become a precision driver... and the drifting was horrendous but other than that it was a great title. Hopefully Shift 2 will excel :)

GeorgeSyll
GeorgeSyll

nothing about the physics.....? this doesnt feel right. all the flash is good but it will fail if the physics are the same as in the first Shift. lets just hope.....

beardedkillacam
beardedkillacam

Ok well I just hope that in this one you can costumize to your liking instead of having 4 different body kits and 1 wide body kit, and actually have realistic car sounds other then some cars sounding the exact same

Wormkid_64
Wormkid_64

This all sounds like very good news indeed. There were things I liked about the first Shift that were definitely better than Forza. Not to grind anyone's gears,but I find simulators to be extremely boring,driving-wise.Mostly because they excluded any kind of effects,the steering just felt slow,and despite all their claims to realism,for some reason,they left out visual car damage,and even after a 200 mph collision,your car could move-albeit rather slowly,like a horse with a broken back. I know motion blur and all that isn't real,but it makes the driving more exciting,as does the very real visual damage.But Shift had a major problem with control.The Lotus Elise,the best handling car on the road today,handles like garbage in the game.And it took MANY retries on several tracks to get a good score because the cars handled so absolutely badly. Shift 2 seems as though it will fix this with the new tuning systems.I also like how it took the good from the other sims-total crash damage,selling your customized rides online and such-and combined it with new things like night races,a more realistic helmet view, and a few other neat tricks.Definitely keeping my eye on this.

Lynghiepminh
Lynghiepminh

After NFS:Pro Sh!t; Underwear, SH!T; ... I don't have much love left for the franchise.

GearSparks
GearSparks

This game will fail... They should be working on a Hot Pursuit 2, that was the first really good NFS game

momo372
momo372

looking forward to helmet cam, it would be good to see how close it is to the real thing

scimitar4701
scimitar4701

COME ON PEOPLE! MOST WANTED REMAKE FOR PS3

drakeship
drakeship

i think that GT5 IT´S MUCH BETTER THAN NFS

ambridget
ambridget

Talking about features not including physics and just showing a bunch of pictures of the game (minus the two 5-second-long video clips)? Yeah, that REALLY makes me want it....

poleposition16
poleposition16

elite simulation mode...nirvana, i may never play another game again

DeathProofDelta
DeathProofDelta

EA................I try to stay away from their ps3/360 games but this 1 may tempt me.

SPBoss
SPBoss

Sorry Gamespot but correction needed We go bumper to bumper in a nearly finished build of EA's *arcade/simulation* racer

360hammer
360hammer

Not one word on how the cars handle? Really? You can have all the features out and invent as many features as you want but how in the world are you going to do an article on a game wanting to be a sim and not talk about the handling physics?

aoneone
aoneone

naw gt5 ftw! best online stuff even if the damage sucks ^_^

ollepof
ollepof

the first shift sucked, and I'm not really convinced this one is going to be absolutely great like NFS used to be, years ago.. i think EA is going in the wrong direction with this game.

CageFury
CageFury

I'm not a huge racing fan, and rarely ever look forward to any their releases, but I'm very curious about this one. The first shift wasn't great, but it did actually manage to bring something new to the table; a much more realistic and visceral representation of the driver's point of view. If they can improve on that and combine it with some tight car physics, AI, and online modes, this could be one of the best racing games in years. FYI, I did enjoy both Forza and GT5.

solatron
solatron

yup. i totally agree with kennythomas26.

kennythomas26
kennythomas26

I hope the handling of the cars in shift 2 is better than shift 1, that is is the on of the things that I did not like in the first shift cause I hated it when I was making a turn and it power slid instead of just taking the turns smoothly and with ease. But still I hope they made some improvements if not then it might fail.