When the original Need for Speed SHIFT came out in 2009 it brought a huge change to the before mainly arcade Need for Speed series. With it’s simulation driving model, the cockpit cam and track only racing it steered the franchise into a whole new direction. And track based racing is returning this year with SHIFT 2 Unleashed - which if you haven’t noticed doesn’t have Need for Speed in the name. Your biggest question at this point I’m sure is “What’s new?”.
Over 100 cars on the car list...
Quite a lot actually, with the biggest selling point being the “authentic racing experience” (such a marketing term) which basically sums up to the driving model, helmet cam and night racing. Starting with the physics engine I can confirm (along with the other more hardcore guys who also attended) that it’s gotten noticeably better. Cars more or less handle exactly as you would expect them to and there’s less feeling that the game is trying to help you drive your car. Being careless with assists off will quickly end up in you losing control of the car. Powerful RWD cars are a handful giving you a whole different experience than a more stable AWD. Take it to the extremes with an upgraded Caterham or Radical or experience the amazing speed of the Gumpert Apollo or the McLaren F1. In the end, each car has a unique feel to it and the vast collection of cars and the fact that you can upgrade all of them (except for licensed race cars) will give you lots of options to find a ride suitable to your driving style.
And 36 tracks, including Bathurst.
If you’re into the whole behind the wheel, cockpit camera concept, then you might like the next big feature of the game, the helmet cam. So how is it in fact different to the regular cockpit cam? While the position is slightly different, it’s biggest feature is the way it turns towards the driving line. In real life when you’re trying to pay attention to the road ahead, and when that road turns, you follow it with your eyes before you actually turn your car. That’s what they tried to recreate in game by having you focus on the centre of the screen and have the game turn the camera based on where you’re trying to go. In practice when approaching a corner, camera will turn towards the apex and then straighten out once the road ahead straightens out. While at first this might feel counter intuitive, especially because it looks like your car is turning when it fact it’s not, given enough time to adjust, it becomes natural. It is subjective to say if it’s more realistic or not, but when I used the in-car camera, I preferred the helmet cam over the cockpit cam. I also have to say however than when I was going for results (either online or offline) I switched to the hood camera - when it comes to good results, realism only gets in the way ;). A mode where the helmet cam was surprisingly good though is the drift mode. With the apex turning you get a well enough feel of the angle the car is at compared to the way you’re going and it can really be quite useful and really not that much worse than the classic chase cam.
Car list starts with classics like this Shelby Cobra 427...
Night racing is another big thing in SHIFT 2 and while it may not be a ground breaking feature, it is a nice addition as driving the same tracks at night is a very different experience. You’ve probably noticed on the screenshots that night is pretty dark and that your headlights, like in the real world, don’t light the whole track up. Combine that with the fact that you can knock them out in crashes and you have one challenging mode. Unfortunately not all tracks can be driven at night though.
...with the beefed up commuters...
That’s not all that’s new and improved in the game, remember how annoyingly aggressive the AI was in the original SHIFT? The whole AI and crashing physics have been seriously improved and while I hated driving against the AI in the original, it’s a whole different experience here. I got a feeling that the game is trying to give me a message that driving aggressively is a bad choice; first of all, trying to crash an opponent (either AI or a real person in multiplayer) will in most cases result in both drivers losing control. Using a car in front of you to help you brake before corners will again end up badly just as forcing yourself into another driver’s racing line. Now that might get annoying online where almost everyone is an aggressive driver, but they say the online matchmaking will take the aggressiveness of players into factor when setting races up. AI is a different story though as it drives clean and tries to avoid contact. At no point did I get a feeling they were driving on rails as there is quite a lot of overtaking and even an occasional spin out when they’re pushing too hard (not too often though). There are 3 difficulty settings and even with that, the AI will adapt to your level, getting slower if you keep finishing below the podium or faster if you’re first all the time.
Going sideways in drift
Drift mode has gotten much better too! Drifting physics are now in it’s core the same as the racing physics except for the fact that you have less grip. It might still be hard to initiate long and controlled drifts, but with the way the cars are handling now, it’s much easier as it feels more natural. And to help out even more, there is an open track where you can practice all you want. Or take a small oval like the Miyatomi, set a huge number of laps and start drifting until you get dizzy. You can take any car (yes any, whether it’ll drift is another question) on any track. To get good results in drifts you will need good angle and high speed and to achieve that you’ll need a fast car that’s properly tuned.
...and the exotic supercars...
And while upgrading a car is simply a set of menus where you click on upgrades to purchase and apply them to your car. Each category has 3 level of upgrades, and the more you buy, the more your car rating will go up. The rating also defines car class and every time an upgrade would make you jump class, you get a nice warning. The ultimate upgrades are the engine swaps and the works upgrade. The former is a choice of one bigger engine on several lower end cars, which usually gives you a lot more power, while the latter is, like in original SHIFT, an all round upgrade, including a unique body kit.
Performance tuning is similar to the original SHIFT in the amount of options given (basic categories are tires and brakes, alignment, stance, differential, aerodynamics, springs, dampers and gearing) there is one huge improvement: you can have multiple setups on every car assigned to the tracks of your choosing. After you create a setup, you simply assign it to the tracks where you want to use it which is really useful as you can separate setups for fast and for curvy tracks. The cool thing about car setups is that you can take your car on a track and change performance settings right there from the pause menu, making it much easier and faster to find an ideal setup.
If setting your car up seems like too much work, we will have a Car Setups section here on NFSUnlimited.net where you’ll be able to grab a fast setup.
Visual customization sadly didn’t get improved much and is again limited to paint, vinyls and rims. Paint comes in several options like matte, metallic, chrome, etc and rims can be applied in up to 3 sizes, different on front and rear. Vinyl editor has been improved a bit as it’s faster and more responsive with the option to copy or mirror vinyls to other areas on the car.
...all the way up to the pure race machines
Career is a big thing in SHIFT 2, starting with an intro race which evaluates your skill and sets the assists and AI difficulty accordingly (settings which you can change at any time). Events are broken down into disciplines, 7 of them, each with a “boss” team NFS driver who you ultimately have to beat to win his car. When starting each discipline for the first time you’ll be viewing an intro video for that event. Lots of events are available with the top being the GT1 events where you’ll be battling 15 other AI drivers on real race tracks all around the world. As there are no qualifying rounds, you’ll mostly be starting races somewhere at around one third of the grid, except on multiple race events where your position in next race is defined by your end result in the previous race. And while races itself are up to 5 laps (even the GT3 and GT1 events) the sheer volume of it makes the career quite lengthy.
Helmet cam in action.
And how does the game look visually? Console version are pretty decent, but the PC port looks amazing, especially at a high resolution with all detail on - it’s a game where modern PCs really show their superiority over the consoles. The attention to detail is also superb, starting with greatly detailed car interiors, the debris on the track (even parts of cars from past crashes) and the fact that you’ll hit a bug every once in a while or accumulate some dirt on your screen when driving off track (both slowly fade away). Track debris actually affects your grip slightly and your tires get worn out in time reducing your grip (especially noticeable in drift if you do too many burnouts). The sense of speed is great with the subtle effect of motion blur helping a bit with that. You won’t feel going slow even in the low class cars!
The level of detail is amazing.
Not everything is perfect in this game though and there is room for improvement (hopefully with future DLC), like with the lack of game modes; selection is quite basic and limited to drift, circuit races and time attack. Online has a couple more, like “Pack catchup” where one player gets a much faster car then the rest, starts way in the back and has to “catch up” with the “pack” to win. The return of drag mode would do this game a lot of good! I’m also a bit disappointed that the FIA license didn’t bring in more authentic races, especially with addition of qualifying sessions, longer races, possibly with pitstops. Loading times on consoles were also pretty bad; good thing the restarts during races were instant. And there’s also the lack of weather, but here is me becoming too picky...
Win in FIA GT1 series and get this SUMO Power Nissan GTR
All in all SHIFT 2 is better than it’s predecessor in pretty much all aspects, improving most of it’s shortcomings and adding more great content. On the racing experience I think it stands up to it’s biggest rivals, namely Forza and Gran Turismo, and even surpassing it in certain areas. While it maybe a bit short on content, it’s not a major problem and nothing that can’t be fixed with future DLC. PC users are getting the racing game of the year and I wouldn’t be too wrong if I said the same for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
More on SHIFT2:
Complete car list
Complete track list
SHIFT 2 Unleashed Detailed Preview
All the game's features explained in detail
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