With a G25 and a tire mod.. you have to be willing to fine tune all your cars to finally enjoy what this game can offer.
eriktkire wrote this review on .
Now, that's going off Shift 1.0 and Shift 2 1.0.... it's not a reasonable comparison to compare Shift 2 on release with Shift 1 after it had received almost a year's worth of patching attention AND an unofficial community patch that made it into an actually 'good' racer.
So, pre-modded and with the first patch applied, this Shift 2 can give you mixed feelings. Some of the lower powered cars are pretty damn satisfying to drive. The first car I picked, which was the weakest BMW in the game, handled brilliantly and I happily won every race in the first class of events. I tried the Limited Edition vehicles that came unlocked in my copy and they handled rather nicely as well. The NFS Hot Pursuit bonuses were very satisfying to drive, and I particularly enjoyed the Dr Pepper promo vehicle I had unlocked as well.
Keep in mind there is a mod/hack to unlock Limited Edition and Promo vehicles in the PC version, so it is possible to grab that very elusive Porsche promo vehicle that could only be obtained through some German car magazine.
Anyway... those first bunch of cars I drove were great... but odds are you've read other reviews as well as had experience with the first Shift and have this "hovercraft" expectation in mind.
Well, I did encounter the hovercraft. It came in the form of my first GT car. Can't remember which one because it doesn't matter... they all handle like crap. You literally cannot drive in a straight line because the moment you go beyond urban street speed limits the car starts to slip and slide all over the place. Grip onto your wheel as tight as possible and make sure not the slightest movement is slipping into controller and it will still slip out of control.
But there is a reason... it's an absolutely ridiculous reason, but it's not an unfixable issue.
See... this entire game has vehicles that are basically horrific in terms of default tuning. You really have to make the effort to tune anything you drive that is even half upgraded, and any supercar that isn't all-wheel-drive... it's going to slip like crazy.
Now we all know in the real world a $5 million GT prototype is going to handle like butter, but this is NFS land where logic doesn't seem to apply.
At this point I'll throw in the tire mod. This is a must. You can get away with a relatively enjoyable experience with the default system, but the tire mod that is out there for PC... basically what it does is improve response from the controller, whether gamepad or wheel, to the actual game. It happens to come with suggestions for twiddling with your Logitech profiler to set the right ForceFeedback, deadzone, etc. settings in relation to the ingame wheel settings. I don't know how that's going to work with non Logitech wheels, all I can tell you is it feels 100x better now with my G25. There is a genuine sense of traction coming through the wheel when I turn. It's still not as responsive and satisfying as what Live For Speed can offer in terms of Force Feedback response, but it's still 'good enough.'
So getting back to the cars... events where you're given loaner cars, like the initial GT events... most mid and high end loaner cars will handle terribly. Once you have on of those horrible cars in your garage, you will absolutely need to tune it. At the very least lower the stance of the car otherwise you'll have rear wheel monsters that are so badly tuned by default settings that they can be prone to both under AND oversteer.
Get some basic settings right and you start to feel like maybe you are playing a racing 'sim'. I'm yet to twiddle around enough to say I've found the perfect settings... I spend more time driving the cars I like most at the moment than to quest after the ideal settings for the hovercraft monsters.
But yeah... this game has genuinely high potential when properly tuned. And the tire mod does give you a more realistic set of responses like the potential for power sliding when you come into corners too fast instead of locking your steering and forcing you head first into a barricade. At least with the mod you'll slam side on into the barricade like you would in the real world.
AI.... still disgustingly useless as ever. With the exception of NFS HP where crashes are actually an intended game mechanic, any NFS title I set the AI on easy... and guess what, they still make psychotic moves when you're within reach. Funny how they manage to drive sane amongst themselves, but the moment you're trapped anywhere in or near the pack, they start dodgem-barging you.
If you don't break away from the pack from the start line so many things become a matter of chance and completely devoid of skill. The eager cars behind you will shove you into a wall even though normally they'd slow down to a crawl to try and get around a 180 degree tight corner, but because you're near they'll lock bumpers and accelerate or do something else that is completely un-sim-like.
Or if you do something reasonable like trade paint with them, or them with you... that will trigger a psychotic episode and they will decide that it's more important to follow you into a barricade than to race responsibly... in the real world they'd not only be kicked out of the racing league, they'd be up for attempted murder with that kind of behaviour.
This equates to extremely lazy programming, as is usual with AI in so many games.
Tracks.... tracks are actually really good. And again, this is where serious tweaking is required for cars. Tracks with bumps, you can really notice this when you've got yourself a supercharged A class vehicle, especially if it has the works. Tight little tracks with bumps in the tarmac set lowered and super fast cars flying off the track over little rises and oddly sloped curves when you go too fast. Perfectly maintained and built tracks let properly tuned and lowered vehicles stick to the track like glue.
Again, you'll only be able to appreciate any of these nuances if you make the effort to tune your cars up. Loaner car events will absolutely suck.
Helmet Cam... it's good. It's going to be distracting and even annoying if you've never driven a real car in the real world, or possibly suck at driving in the real world. For a single screen user, the turn of the head when corners come up does feel fairly intuitive to me. I enjoyed it and found it to be very well implemented. I'll even go so far as to say it improved my in-game driving skills because it gave me a more natural sense of perception of the track as I drove through it.
If I had an ultra wide 3 screen setup, it would be redundant. But I'm fairly certain that's the whole point of why they came up with this feature... for single screen users.
Visuals are great. Shift 1 in alot of ways looked more impressive in the eye candy department, but it also had stronger lens flares and things like that. Shift 2 is pretty enough and doesn't feel like your view is being impaired for the sake of showing off special effects (with the exception of the blurring of the dash at high speeds/accelerations... it doesn't bother me but it might for others)
Sound... is a gigantic problem. The engines, like others have said, are constantly screaming. It's like one of those stupid action films whenever someone moves a gun around you hear clicks and clacks to keep your attention on the fact that someone has a gun. This goes beyond the enjoyment of hearing the deep roar of a powerful engine to being farcical.
But that's still fairly tolerable. The thing that is incredibly annoying is this main narration racing dude. It's not him exactly, but the way he's been shoved into the game. Fine he can do those intro videos and announcments, but why does he have to constantly make comments at the beginning of every race.
This is a serious flaw in the game. Are young gamers really that devoid of self confidence that they need to all this motivation crap at the start of each race? "Let's hit the green light, I'll call it... GO GO GO GO"
Thankfully you can lower the voice volume settings to have him drowned out by the engines or completely muted altogether... but muting him at the start of races also means he announcements and tips on first unlocking certain events and things will be muted as well... so remember to listen to what he has to say about certain events and how they work, or driving styles like drifting... if you need to hear those kind of tips. The motivation crap though is a seriously stupid design decision that does nothing but annoy you!!!
Drifting... is as ridiculous as in the first Shift so I'm not counting that in my appraisal. How the same car that can stay stable up to 200kph on a track can spin out of control when just slightly turning at 30kph still makes no sense. Adapt to the drifting in Shift 1 or 2 and you're doing your skills and sense of perception a great disservice. Play Grid or wait for Grid 2 to come out for a proper drifting challenge. Maybe Dirt3 can deliver on that front too, but Shift 2?... nuh
Multiplay? My experience with this so far has been limited. I really only got Shift 2 so I'd have a modernised 'pretty' racer to satisfy my racing urges until either rFactor 2 or Grid 2 come out. What little I've tried seems pretty cool, but like any multiplay it all depends on who you're playing with/against. Take into account everything I mentioned above and you'll probably find it's going to take some dedication to tweaking before you can really enjoy online matches... but it does seem very likely that online races would be very cool with a wheel controller.
The Autolog feature is pretty much like NFS Hot Pursuit... it's a cool feature that encourages point scoring/time beating and all that crap.
Overall this game could have genuinely been a very cool sim racer.. and I do mean a real 'sim'... but having left the default settings for all cars at arcade settings (or worse in the case of the GT cars). The huge requirement to learn how to tweak things absolutey right for each vehicle is what sucks the load-and-race fun out of this game.
I enjoy playing it, but not as often as I'd like. And it's not that it loads slow for me either, but I have to refer back to my fondness for Live For Speed... tweaking car settings, testing, then retweaking was just so quick and easy for that sim. And you got REAL results. In Shift 2 you do feel alittle like you're fixing something that the developers should have at least met you half way on.
And despite the first patch giving the game the potential for DLC content activation which EA said they wouldn't pursue with the PC version... even if they are planning to go back on that claim, I have a feeling it won't be "enough" to get things right.
But once you've got some tweaks going your way, the game feels really cool, I will give it that. I'd have to say it's a really good in-between racer until something better comes out for the world of PC track racing (ie rFactor 2, Grid 2, a fabled Live For Speed S3). If you have the patience this could be great for competitive play against friends, but because of the tweakiness hidden behind default mediocrity, don't expect this to have a proper competitive-community life span... or suck you in in any other way either.