Having visited the Gamescom 2009 event in Cologne, Germany I had a chance of playing two upcoming Need for Speed games, SHIFT and NITRO and for something to compare it to, I also tried out SHIFT's two main competitors in this year's fall season: Forza Motorsports 3 and Gran Turismo 5. And what's unbelievable is that SHIFT in my opinion tops them both. You might say I'm crazy for saying that out loud, but read on to find out why.
The BMW M3 GT2 at the SHIFT stand
Need for Speed going sim?
Need for Speed SHIFT is a game made by Slightly Mad Studios who have team members who worked on highly acclaimed sim racing titles like GT Legends and GTR2 and are known for they highly realistic approach to racing games. With SHIFT they didn't make the engine less realistic but in fact they say it's their most accurate engine to date. But since Need for Speed has never been about the hardcore realism, they made the game accessible by adding assists, similar as in ProStreet. Assists start with the most basic ABS system, then with traction control which has several levels to it and the final assist level is the auto brake feature which makes the game drivable for the most easy going "floor the gas all the time" players. And while a Maserati MC12 with all assists turned on feels really easy to drive, you'll struggle with no assists even on a stock Honda S2000.
The triple view dbox setup
SHIFT vs. Forza 3 vs Gran Turismo 5
So how does SHIFT stand up to the major sim titles like Forza 3 and Gran Turismo 5? I drove several laps in Forza 3 in an â€œall assists offâ€ (except the braking line) Audi R8 and Porsche GT2. Both cars felt heavy, error margin was quite big - you really had to floor it in the middle of a turn to lose control of the car. In fact Forza 3's driving model felt a lot like Forza 2's. I must say I didn't race much in Gran Turismo, except for a few laps with a Subaru Impreza WRX and again like in Forza the car felt heavy and the error margin again being large. In SHIFT, on the other hand, the cars felt lighter, more responsive and, on the other hand, also more prone to error. Apply too much throttle in a turn and you'll have a hard time catching the car. Drifting through corners is a common practice and catching the car afterwards does require a bit of practice.
So the physics model is definitely comparable Forza and GT5 (and in my opinion better and even more fun) but where SHIFT stands out is the visual side. The rich smoke effects, best looking interiors and the driver experience features like interior blurring at large speeds and crash effects make the game the best looking out of the three. Great news for the PC players: game looks best on the PC especially on a three monitor setup!
NFSUnlimited in SHIFT!
Drift in SHIFT!
Drifting in SHIFT has a slightly different physics model meaning that the cars have less grip which results in some cars being incredibly hard to control compared to others. Great precision is required to have the car remain in a continuous drift and having a wheel will certainly help. However once you get used to your car (or sell it for one that handles better) performing long drifts is really satisfying. The arrows on the road will help you know where you should start and take your drifts. As it's a pretty hard mode, turning on the assists should be helpful.
Earn stars to unlock events
Career in SHIFT is comprised of race events which range from classic events where you bring your own cars to rival races (Driver Duels, where you have to win 2 times in 3 attempts, starting first, last or even), manufacturer races (drive a preselected car against cars of the same type), drifts and more. You progress by collecting stars which you get with a podium finish (3 for win, 1 for 3rd place) or by completing certain challenges related to your driver profile, like getting a certain amount of driver points (which you get for good driving), mastering a certain amount of corners or spinning AI cars if you're an aggressive driver. Collecting stars will unlock more career events but will not unlock game features which are only unlockable by improving your driver skills. After completing any race (career, quick race or online) you will get a certain amount of points for good (precision) and aggressive driving. Points relate to driver levels which unlock new cars, parts and give you money. The good thing about this system is that you don't have to win to collect the points, but simply be a good (or agressive) driver and race as much as you can.
8 play LAN racing on the SHIFT stand at Gamescom
Now I may sound like a fanboy (which to be honest I am!), but for me SHIFT is a clear winner in the best racing title at this year's gamescom and this year I'm really looking forward to the September 17th release! I'm getting my racing wheel ready and so should you!
I haven't covered many of SHIFT's features and if you want to know more about it, just ask in the comments or contact me directly in the website's chat and I'll answers as many questions as I can.
Need for Speed SHIFT Videos
Need for Speed SHIFT Screenshots
Need for Speed SHIFT News
Need for Speed SHIFT: A Sim (If you want it to be)!
Preview of Need for Speed SHIFT from Gamescom 2009
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