Need for Speed: Shift Review

Written by Antony Leather

September 18, 2009 | 10:44

Tags: #gt-legends #gtr #gtr2 #modify #need-for-speed #need-for-speed-shift #nitro #online #performance #race #racing #shift #simulator #wheel

Companies: #ea

Graphics

Shift is a very mixed bag in terms of graphics. While overbearing HDR can make PC gamers gag at the console-like visuals, Race Driver: GRID showed that when it's done right, it can look fantastic, whatever platform you're playing on. For some reason, while there's an attractive motion blur, there's an almost total lack of HDR. While the cars look great and are very detailed with none of the fake, overbearing blur of previous titles, they are also very stark.

We're left with rather sterile looking cars that need some hefty AA to make them look anywhere near decent. 8xAA is available in the game but even with 16xAA forced on, jaggies were very noticeable. While racing this isn't too noticable but you get the odd glimpse that really takes the edge off what is otherwise a good looking game. It's fairly demanding too and you'll need at least an HD 4870 with a decent Core 2 Duo to turn on all the eye candy above 1,680 x 1,050.

The replay mode clearly adds some kind of processing that includes HDR and the game immediately looks great with those jaggies banished and instead smooth lines and a great looking track and atmosphere come into play. This is a great shame, especially as the Xbox and PS3 versions appear to have plenty of HDR. We're left wanting to pick up GRID again just to get some of those gorgeous visuals.

*Need for Speed: Shift Review Graphics and Gameplay

Gameplay

Overall we found Shift was fairly successful at keeping us hungry for more especially as you progress into the game and get some faster cars. However there's an added aspect to the game that got mixed reactions here are bit-tech. There's a points system in the game that rewards particular driving styles. For example if you're precise, following the racing line and making clean overtakes, you'll gain points to boost your driver level, unlocking various aspects to the game. You'll also get points for being aggressive and adopting a Michael Schumacher style of driving so trading paint, causing other drivers to spin out and blocking will see you progress through the ranks too.

You're essentially free to express yourself meaning whatever your driving style, you'll eventually pick up points and rewards, unlocking the different tiers in the game and boost your driver level. Each tier sees you compete in more challenging races with more powerful cars available too. Upgrades and extended slots in your garage are also unlocked too so you quickly build up a garage of cars all begging to be upgraded.

The problem here is the slightly overbearing nature to this points system. You're constantly trying to race well to earn money but at the same time to gain as many points as possible to progress in the game. It can lead to a conflict of interests and makes Shift seem a little confused in its direction. It's a bit too like an MMO style grind. There is a point to it all though.

The multiplayer aspect to Shift is quite a social affair with other drivers able to check out your driver profile to see what kind of driver you are thanks to all those aggression and precision points and rewards. They'll be able to challenge you to events with the winner or owner of the best lap time being plastered all over your multiplayer windows. Hopefully this should mean that the online aspect to Shift is quite enjoyable once the masses arrive.

There are several view modes available whilst out on the track. As well as an external view, various mixes of bonnet and dials only views are also available as well as the return of the cockpit view. The latter is much more usable than you might think and feels far less enclosed and tunnel vision like than other games we've played. This is partly due to the view shifting slightly to G-forces and also thanks to a wide field of view. Actually getting the more powerful cars in Shift round an unfamiliar track can be quite challenging.

*Need for Speed: Shift Review Graphics and Gameplay

The lack of practice and qualifying means you're thrown straight in at the deep end, adding to the frustration and unfortunately the on screen map is of little use. It's usually overlaid over the inside of the car and because the map itself is black, it's very difficult to see even at the best of times.

Moreover the wide field of view means that corner markers and the like are tricky to spot (they're pretty sparse too for some reason) so working out which way a corner is leading and how tight it is often needs a bit of memory recall - a little difficult if you're motoring round a track for the first time. The result is a slightly frustrating racing experience that only has the promise of upgrades and new cars to drag you through the races which will probably involved quite a few retries.

There is plenty of action though and spin offs, flips and rolls happen surprisingly easily. The damage models are also extremely detailed with the added benefit that you can have visible damage but not actually have it effect performance. This can be useful early on, although if you like nursing your car to the finishing line after a monster battle then you can of course turn damage on.

There's a new racing mode in Shift too called Driver Duel. This sees two similar cars battle it out over a few races with the aim of losing their opposite number in their dust, specifically getting more than four seconds behind. The aim is also to win the race so it's a constant duel with just four seconds separating glory or defeat.
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