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.
Online play is lag-free for the most part, and if you approach it with the right mentality, it can be a lot of fun. If you go into an online event hoping for a clean race, though, you're probably going to be disappointed. Like Career mode, online play awards you experience points for both precision and aggression, so when you race alongside people with very different ideas about how the game should be played, things can get ugly. Furthermore, cutting a corner while playing online results in being slowed down to a crawl by way of punishment for a few seconds that feel like an eternity, regardless of whether or not you gained any advantage as a result of your actions. It doesn't sound like a terrible system on paper, but it's frustrating for drivers coming up behind you because you effectively become a slow-moving chicane that they have to navigate.
In addition to races, this jack-of-all-trades game incorporates drift events into both its Career and online modes. Only 11 of the cars that appear in the game can be used for drifting, and finding one that you feel comfortable with is even more difficult than finding one for racing. These cars are automatically tuned to slide so easily that pressing down on the accelerator even a fraction more than you absolutely need to can send your car straight into a donut. With practice it's certainly possible to perform some satisfying drifts around corners, and because the events aren't timed, you can win them by employing some cheap tactics and just swinging from side to side on the straights. Sadly, no matter how good you get at it, drifting isn't one of Shift's strong points, and perhaps the best thing that can be said about it is that it's easy to avoid entirely without feeling like you're missing out on much or hindering your Career mode progression.
Another of Shift's features that doesn't realize its full potential is car customization. There are around 55 cars to collect in Shift, though you never have enough spots in your garage for even half of that number. These cars can be painted, you can apply a handful of different racing liveries to them, and some of the performance upgrades you can purchase for them include cool-looking bodykits, but the custom livery designer is awful. Vinyls at your disposal include the usual assortment of primitive shapes, logos, flames, and tribal designs, as well as plenty of creative groups that you unlock as your career progresses--including badges that show off some of your accomplishments. The problem is that applying these vinyls and working with the tools that you can use to rotate, resize, and reposition them is a real effort. There's no option to constrain a vinyl's proportions when you resize it, there's no way to mirror a design from one side of your car to the other, and, worsening that problem, there's no Forza-style coordinates system in place to make transferring your design manually anything but a painful process.
Fortunately the preset racing liveries, like just about everything in Shift, look pretty good. This isn't a game that's going to wow you with incredibly detailed car models or photo-realistic environments that stretch as far as the eye can see, but it's not a bad-looking game by any means, and the sense of speed when you get on a long straight in a fast car is so good that impending turns become daunting prospects. On some tracks, those same corners can be made even trickier by opponents who make a mess of them in front of you, because they kick up great-looking clouds of sand and dust in the process that partially obscure your vision.
Outside of races, Shift's presentation is functional but lacks any sense of refinement. Dark backgrounds work reasonably well when the white text of menus is popping off them, but when you're shopping for cars with paintjobs that are reflecting the dark environment all around them, the lack of light really doesn't do the vehicles justice. The Lamborghini Reventon that appears in this dimly lit showroom is dark gray, and you might need to adjust the contrast on your TV to make it out. The dark-blue-and-black Bugatti Veyron doesn't fare much better. Shopping for cars should be fun in a game like Shift, but it's actually a bit of a chore because the models take a second or two to appear as you scroll through the list, and for some reason you don't get to move the camera around them yourself. You also don't get control of the camera when you come to put new bodykits on your cars, so you have to wait for them to do a full rotation before you can check out both the new front and rear wings.
Like the visuals, Shift's audio fares better on the track than it does off it. Some of the cars' engine noises are a real treat, and they change as you upgrade your cars with new exhausts, turbo systems, and the like. The sequences of sound effects and radio chatter that play while you're navigating menus are bizarre, though, and anytime you think they're going to transition into something resembling a tune, you're wrong. The short, looping track that plays during loading screens is less offensive, but the frequent load times can be so long on occasion that even that will start to grate after a while.
Need for Speed: Shift has a good selection of cars and plenty of varied tracks (ranging from small ovals and a figure-eight track to lengthy street and grand prix circuits) to race them on. Other than a somewhat interesting experience system, though, it offers nothing that hasn't already been done better elsewhere. Shift is neither an arcade racer nor a simulation; it's stuck somewhere between the two, and while there's plenty of good racing to be had here, it's unlikely to completely satisfy fans of either.
- Player Reviews: 77
- 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)