Published on September 5th, 2009 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Need For Speed: Shift Hands-on
Fans of the Need For Speed franchise will be getting a face full of tailpipe in a few weeks with the release of Need for Speed: Shift. Need for Speed: Shift doesn’t just put you in the driver seat, it creates a whole new driving experience that leaves a similar aftertaste of Grand Turismo, but for NFS fans, its a little more inviting. From swiveled head movement inside, to collision blurs outside, and over 70 licensed cars to keep your pallet equally satisfied, this jump from arcade style to arcade-simulation is an easy SHIFT.
What I liked:
Even for those who are not into big simulation racing games it was easy to jump right in and the controls were not necessarily frustrating. There are theses green guidelines throughout the course that give a sense of judgment on turns and speed so that you are not left banging walls and being totally lost on the right angle to hit a turn or even to drift a turn. Also, when it came to the sheer look of the game, it was the most impressive Need for Speed yet. It’s like they stripped it down and built it back up with simulation totally in mind.
The AI is also just as impressive. Based on your driving skills during the game, you can achieve points as an aggressive or precision driver. The AI will note these during the gameplay.
Dislikes: Some of the dislikes were just the lack of weather attributes to the game. Racers might not be given the opportunity to drive out on a wet course and see the rain, but this is just one small minus in a whole equation of positives. There were so many good things to say about this game that it was hard finding something to dislike.
Greg and I were recently invited by EA to go check out Need for Speed: Shift and being served sliced meats on silver trays by women while enjoying an open bar. I had a good time. But enough about that, on with the show! NFS Shift takes a drastic turn from previous titles in the franchise. Instead of the more arcade style of racing that we’re used to, NFS Shift, simply put, is a racing simulator set in the style of games like Forza and Gran Turismo. This is usually not a good thing for me since I am not the most adept player of racing games. Fortunately, as Drew, the Community Manager we met there, tells us, the game is being designed for classic Need for Speed fans as well.
For racing fans and for NFS fans alike, the direction that it goes from here looks like it will be very pleasing for fans on many gaming levels. The release of Need for Speed Shift is just one tier. Need for Speed Nitro will be the arcade style racer released on the Wii. According to the NFS team, it promises to have an over the top racing style and have many of the licensed cars as well. Also, the release of a free PC online only version will become available.
What I liked:
Vroom Vroom! Alright since I realize that writing a sound for a speeding car won’t exactly convince anyone that the game is fun, I guess I’ll just have to do it the old-fashioned way. The controls for the game feel tight and it felt strangely natural to be driving a 250 horsepower machine using the controller instead of a steering wheel. It was tough to get the hang of steering and braking at first but after some practice I was able to pull off turns and move through cars like a pro. Greg notes above that the game uses arrows on the road that are designed to help new racers move through a track with as few crashes as possible. It achieves this by changing colors: green means you can speed up, yellow means you need to start slowing down, and red means you better slow down or your ass is flying off the turn. Pretty simple to understand and as you get better with the game you can raise your skill level in the options menu to make the line more difficult or eventually remove it altogether.
The list of cars in the game totals up to 72 and includes what one would expect from a racing game of this caliber. There are your European speeders and American muscle cars for your driving and customizing pleasure. The tracks can be as basic as donuts or as complicated as the streets of a busy city. The game also features intelligent AI that remembers you if you try and stand out. By standing out I mean ramming a CPU character’s car off the road then speeding away giggling. The AI will then try and chase after you throughout the race, hell-bent on returning the favor. The game classifies your driving style and also rewards you experience points based on your performance. Cars and parts become available to you as you raise your level.
The game does a great job in making you feel that you are really driving such powerful cars. There was a moment during the demo where I was hitting speeds over 200mph and my vision, through the eyes of the in-game driver, began to blur around the edges giving the effect of tunnel vision. Of course with me driving it was only a short time before those arrows turned red and I desperately tried to break before the wall but it was too late. Crashing into a wall or another car at certain speeds will cause your vision to blur and double while the in-game driver verbally grunts and tries to regain focus.
Like Greg, I didn’t find much to really dislike. I suppose the one thing that I didn’t like in the event is not what I experienced, but what I wasn’t able to experience firsthand. Asking Drew about the upcoming online features and DLC caused him to shake his head slowly while telling us that he couldn’t reveal their online plans yet. Still, we can definitely expect that we will see more cars and tracks with DLC, that’s a given, but hopefully we will see many more options besides versus racing.
With a slick interface and tight controls, NFS Shift is a racing game that can easily attract racing fans and traditional Need for Speed fans as well. I definitely enjoyed the game and the treatment while visiting Drew in San Francisco. Fans old and new will be able to race the streets in their favorite cars when the game launches September, 15th. Not only will we be looking forward to this release, but I do think that the Wii release of NFS Nitro will please Nintendo fans as well.
Special thanks to the Need for Speed Community Manager, Drew, and his team, for answering our questions and helping us play without laughing at our pathetic driving skills.