Need for Speed: Shift Review
In trying to offer something for everyone, this jack-of-all-trades racing game is unlikely to completely satisfy anybody.
- Makes a point of rewarding you, regardless of your driving style
- Very good assortment of tracks
- Sense of speed borders on scary at times.
- Default controls are overly sensitive
- Modest car selection
- Drifting events are prohibitively difficult
- Career mode is very bare-bones
- Online play rewards other drivers for spinning you out.
Need for Speed: Shift is a racing game that tries to do a lot of things, and the good news is that it does most of them well. The bad news is that Shift does very little that other racers haven't done before it, and it excels at nothing. The racing, the car and track selections, the vehicle customization and damage modeling, the career mode, the online play, the opponent AI--all of these things are good, but none of them are great.
Depending on what kind of racing game you usually play, being thrust into the driver's seat for a flying lap at the start of Shift's Career mode might go well, or very badly. Your performance on this lap determines your default difficulty level and handling model, and it's appropriately named the "Trial of Fire." There are no opponents to worry about, but getting a handle on Shift's controls can be a challenge on their own. Like a simulation game, Shift encourages you to brake early for corners, punishes you for straying too far from the racing line, and, at least by default, presents you with a steering setup that's extremely sensitive. But, like an arcade racer, Shift rewards you for sliding around corners, for "trading paint" with opponents, and even for forcing those same opponents into a spin or off the track. It's an awkward middle ground that you might never feel comfortable with.
When playing solo, your only options are Quick Race and Career mode. Quick Race lets you set up races, time attack contests, and drifting events on any of 36 different courses with variables that include car class restrictions, the number of opponents and laps, and the time of day. The Career mode amounts to little more than 150-plus of these events, set up as themed competitions between cars of certain classes or from certain countries and then arranged into a tier system that matches the one used for cars. You start out as a tier 1 driver with a tier 1 car, and as you progress you move into tiers 2 through 4 before unlocking the anticlimactic 10-race World Tour, which marks the pinnacle of your career. Oddly, you need to complete only a fraction of the events available to you in order to unlock the World Tour. In fact, if you're winning races and completing bonus objectives along the way, you can unlock both tier 4 and the World Tour before you've even finished everything in tier 2.
That's because you progress through Career mode by earning stars, and because the number of stars you're awarded at the end of each race isn't just based on where you finish. You earn one to three stars for a finish on the podium, and typically there are two extra stars available for reaching experience point milestones (earned through acts of "precision" or "aggression"), plus one for completing a bonus objective. The bonus objectives are varied and include stuff like mastering every corner, performing a clean lap, reaching a certain speed, or spinning out a number of opponents. These objectives are a neat feature because they encourage you to focus on different aspects of your race craft, and it's great that you can return to events to try for any stars that you missed.
Unfortunately, adding more stars to your tally isn't the only reason you're going to be repeating events in Career mode. Even on the easiest AI setting, your opponents are a competitive bunch, which can make for some thrilling starts to races, but the flip side is that they're not bashful about trying to find a way past you--even if that means forcing you off the track. There's no second-chance flashback option like that in Dirt 2, so if you end up in a gravel trap, you've just got to deal with it and almost certainly watch a number of opponents race past as you do so. It's entirely appropriate that straying off the course slows you down considerably, but when you combine that penalty with aggressive opposition and controls that make it tough to recover quickly, it can make for some extremely frustrating incidents. Adding insult to injury is that AI drivers seem able to drive on gravel and grass almost as quickly as they can on asphalt, which isn't consistent at all with the way your cars handle.
Getting involved in a big crash or straying too far from the track toward the end of an event can be disastrous, and feeling the need to restart a 10-lap endurance race because an overzealous opponent forced you into a tire wall is no fun. However, if the race still has plenty of laps left to run, you shouldn't be too quick to give up. Your opponents, it seems, while clearly eager to compete with one another and get to the front of the pack, also like to keep things interesting for you, so if you lag too far behind them, they'll invariably start driving at a more sedate pace until you can catch up. Clearly it's a good thing that one early mistake doesn't have to mean the end of your race, but at the same time it's not particularly satisfying to beat opponents who slam on the brakes if you get in trouble.
For a more authentic racing experience, your best bet is to head online, where your opponents will afford you no such courtesy. Online options include a Driver Duel tournament mode, in which a series of head-to-head races pit you and an opponent against each other in randomly selected identical cars, and ranked and unranked races for up to eight players. The variables that you can play around with when setting up an online race are the same as those that you get in the single-player Quick Race mode. Once you're with a group of players in a lobby, you have plenty of time to see what the next race is going to be and to choose a car either from your own Career mode garage or from a selection of stock vehicles.
- Player Reviews: 85
- Game Universe:
- Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed (PS, PC, GBA),
- Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 (PS2, PC, GC, XBOX),
- Need for Speed Underground (PS2, XBOX, GC, GBA, PC),
- Need for Speed Underground 2 (XBOX, GC, PS2, GBA, PC, DS, MOBILE),
- Need for Speed Most Wanted (2005) (XBOX, PS2, GC, PSP, PC, X360, DS, GBA, MOBILE),
- Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit (PC, PS),
- Need for Speed: High Stakes (PC, PS),
- Need for Speed II (PC, PS),
- Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed (PS, SAT),
- Need for Speed Carbon (DS, GBA, XBOX, X360, GC, PS2, PSP, WII, PC, PS3, MAC, ZB)