Need For Speed: Shift

October 4, 2009

With Need for Speed: Shift, EA decided to shift gears and go with more of a traditional sim racer in the vein of the Forza and Gran Turismo games. While gamers are used to the real-world city driving games in the series’ past, Shift is still worth a look.

The title’s career mode starts out with a test lap, an interesting addition that serves to tune gameplay to a player’s skill level. Those who find games like GT too difficult will have the controls softened for them, while racing purists can go through with unforgiving controls and brutal AI. The mode progresses with a series of tours with increasing car level and difficulty. Along the way, there are special themed challenges, where players all use the same car or brand. Since most players will only buy a few of the cars and upgrade them, the novelty races are interesting diversions that require control adjustments. There are also a few drift events scattered through the mode, and while they add a bit of variety, it’s not what you’ll come back to the game for. The drifting controls are hypersensitive, and the events themselves aren’t timed, so getting high scores involves a bit of underhanded delaying tactics.

For those worrying about the series going too far in the sim direction, don’t fret. While it’s possible to run a clean, disciplined race and succeed by earning “precision” bonuses, Shift also rewards players for “aggression” tactics like trading paint and slamming cars into walls. It isn’t quite Burnout, but for those who like their racing a bit dirty, they can get that here. The unfortunate side effect to this is that the game controls realistically. What does that mean for you? Well, if you bump into cars to be aggressive, you’re probably going to get slowed too, and if they hit you off the track, that might be a knockout blow to your chances to place.

The visuals are impressive, and the sense of speed is certainly there. For those who like the in-car view, Shift features fully functional dashboards and moving pieces for each car, so it really seems like you’re in the vehicle you’re driving. The car customization is solid, though not unprecedented, and a robust online mode will keep you playing for a while.

If you like racing, you’ll like Need for Speed: Shift. It may not have the entertainment value of the street racers or quite the precision of the other sims, but it finds a comfortable place somewhere in the middle, and that’s going to work for a lot of gamers.

ESRB: E– Just vanilla racing.
Pros: Solid racing, great in-car view
Cons: This is Need for Speed?

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.