Shift 2 Unleashed
With the summer approaching, the range of games is getting smaller and smaller. Yet we are still in the 2 months where a lot is happening, with various toppers including Portal 2, Virtua Tennis 4 and Mortal Kombat opening the doors to the games world soon. However, another topper has just arrived before the start of April. I’m talking, of course, about the racing game Shift 2 Unleashed.
It looks like Electronic Arts is expanding all the subtitles within the Need for Speed franchise. Where we saw Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit rip past last November, Need for Speed Shift is once again being pulled out of the closet. Without specifically mentioning Need for Speed, Shift 2 Unleashed tries to become a new series in itself, with realism, drifting, but above all, simulation. So no more arcade cracks, but really gliding over the roads with feeling, that’s a motto in this game. With photo-realistic graphics, Gran Turismo 5 has to be approached, and if possible also beaten. But of course you have a tough job with that, especially given the fact that this game includes parts that were only introduced with Hot Pursuit less than six months ago, including AUtolog. But you will not start directly in this autolog.
You start directly in the career mode of the game, in which you basically have to unlock the Autolog function in some simple challenges. The ultimate goal is to reach and win the FIA GT1 World Championship. Before you can achieve this goal, however, you must progressively gain experience points, which you can use to level up to a final top level. Depending on your level you will be allowed to play certain challenges, which are very varied. For example, you mainly start with racing, and with a time trial, but later on you will also get elimination races, where periodically the last rider in a race is eliminated, in which only 1 winner can remain in the end, and the drift races, where the simply it’s all about drifting, which is what made the first Shift so cool. In addition, the Muscle car disciplines are also present in the single player career mode. While making progress you will also be able to test various cars, one faster than the other, the other has a lot more grip than the one. You start in the Performance class D, with the ultimate aim being Class S. Race on 120 different track layouts with more than 120 licensed cars, enough content in that regard.
In the Autolog we can again use various applications. This of course includes some well-known ones, which we also saw in Hot Pursuit. There is The Wall, where we can see which trophies/achievements friends have earned, records can be viewed, there are recommendations from friends, news, you can see what your driver profile looks like and there is a gallery in which all your best photos are processed. The autolog feature turned out to be a worthy introduction to Hot Pursuit, and is again very welcome in this part. Autolog mainly ensures that you get more involved online with the community, and especially with your friends. Partly because of this, you will see that you will compare yourself with mates, and unconsciously try to be more ahead of the competition.
Although the gameplay has been completely revamped compared to predecessors in the Need for Speed franchise, there isn’t even that much unique to the game. You can upgrade cars, play online races, and the race modes in the career mode are of course completely different from the previous titles. But otherwise it is mainly the gameplay that brings about the biggest changes. This is in fact more sensitive, and according to EA, more realistic than ever. Shift 2 is therefore a tough game for beginners. Bolides slip quickly if you take a wrong turn, or simply go through corners too fast. Shift 2 is even more sensitive in terms of gameplay and controls than Gran Turismo 5, which makes this title a very big challenge. Make a small mistake, and you’re spotted, especially given the pretty smart AI, who almost never go wrong, and also almost never clash with each other. That makes the error tolerance very accessible, so that you often have to drive virtually error-free races. The racing sensitivity can be adjusted by upgrading and tuning your car, which also increases your performance index, but the racing itself remains very sensitive, which means that Shift is no longer an arcade game, but a real simulation racer.
You will especially notice the sensitivity of the steering during the drift sessions, where it will be really excruciating in the beginning to realize a good drift. The controls are so sensitive that you can’t click the triggers and the analog sticks blindly, but you have to use them with a lot of accuracy. This can make the game quite frustratingly difficult, especially in the beginning. Shift 2 is sometimes a bit of a bite, after which you get to know the real realistic aspects of the game. Once you’ve crossed that threshold, you’ll see that EA has made a big turnaround with the franchise.
When Shift 2 was still in development, it was already said that the game could compete with Gran Turismo 5, also in terms of graphics. And no doubt they didn’t spread lies with that, because the game doesn’t look much less than the mentioned competitor. Apart from some ridges and yet some natural features that have been worked out a bit more simply, this game scales itself into a similar category. Especially the special cockpit view makes the game a very lively and realistic sim. It feels like you’re actually in the car, and the constant movements of your head really create the chaos that a real racer would experience in the cockpit. However, because the cockpit view (or rather helmet view) is so perfectly developed, it makes the other camera positions quite redundant. The camera positioned behind the bolide therefore works a lot less than in, for example, Gran Turismo 5 or Hot Pursuit, so that the easier drivers will have to switch to the more optimal cockpit view. That will not be an adjustment for anyone. In addition, we have the cool guidance and instruction videos and the night races, which are a feast for the eyes. Racing at night doesn’t make it any easier, but it does keep you sharp and attentive. A good move to put some more variation in the game with this.
The sound aspect is of a lesser caliber. Where the game still shuts up with great sound effects in the intro, there the ingame is all a bit less roaring. It is therefore a pity that the sensitivity that has been placed in the intro sound has not been extended to the overall game. The rumble of the bass is not really present, so you don’t really get those intense engines that you would like to hear roar. There is nothing wrong with the soundtracks.
And in general there is not much wrong with this game. Shift 2 Unleashed takes another big step forward compared to Hot Pursuit, for example, and is now really getting serious. Simulation has replaced arcade racing, which makes for a fantastic racing experience. Although the game will mean a big step up, especially for the novice racers, partly due to the hypersensitive controls, after some practice it is a real game to the heart for the enthusiast. The extremely realistic in-helmet view, which almost lets you sniff the track, and provides a lot of extra realism, is also a very big plus that can distinguish this game from other toppers within the genre. The not really special career mode, and the not very extensive multiplayer, are therefore quickly forgotten as minuses, although most people will not be annoyed by the fairly sparse modes, which are again positively highlighted by the variation that has stopped in this.
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Author: Jeroen Janssen | Genre: Racing | Release: 03-04-2011 | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Developer: Electronic ArtsGraphics: 8.8 † Sound: 8.0 † Gameplay: 9.0 † Controls: 8.5 † Playback: 8.5 8.7+ Gameplay has been greatly improved+ Variation in the challenges+ Great nice in-helmet view- Hypersensitivity controls increases entry barrier–