The driving lanes for simulation racers have become pretty crowded over the last couple of years. Not only has there been a multitude of racers but also many of them have been top-notch entries. One of the newer series to make there way into the racing spectrum is Electronic Arts with their second entry in the “Shift” franchise. Does Shift have a chance or is it behind the rest of the pack? Read our full review to find out.
More then anything I am surprised Electronic Arts stuck with its Need for Speed roots as a title for their simulation racers. There is no denying that when the average gamer thinks Need for Speed they are probably not thinking of a Forza or Gran Turismo style racer but rather an FMV filled arcade racer. Regardless the first Shift title came out almost two years ago and to pretty good fan fare. Does the second do enough to keep us wanting to come back for more?
If there is one thing that stood out feature wise for the first installment in the series it was the immersive cockpit view that made all other games seem lacking. The sense of immersion is even more impressed in Shift 2 Unleashed with the all-new helmet cam. For the first time in a racing game I actually wanted to race in the cockpit view as now only did it give you a more realistic feel of driving it just looks downright amazing. When your taking a turn or going at high speeds the camera does some nice subtle movements that give you the sense that you are the driver. It’s downright incredible.
If you were hoping that Shift 2 Unleashed would behave more like a simulation racer then the original you’re in luck. The controls of the game feel quite a bit touchier then they did in the last outing that meant I found myself crashing and mistiming turns a lot more often. Where as the last game felt like a cross between arcade and simulation, Shift 2 Unleashed is shortening the gap between this game and a pure racing sim. To me that gap actually works in the games favor as it makes races approachable and yet still ultra competitive.
To me the big issue with both this game and the previous is that the depth is just not there. When you look at vehicle customization (ala Forza) or depth of career (ala Gran Turismo) these are just two areas when Shift 2 Unleashed cannot compete. With that being said there is still a lot of great content in here and with the addition of Auto Log (first seen in 2010’s Need for Speed Hot Pursuit) the developers are taking the right steps to get to that point.
Visually Shift 2 is one of the prettiest racers on the market today. Not only do the cars look great when they are at the starting line but they also have a great deal of damage effects. Some of the most terrific parts of Shift 2 Unleashed are times where you’re in the cockpit view and you slightly miss a turn and end up in a major crash. Not only is the sensation of crashing in that view electrifying but also the subsequent damage effects aren’t too shabby either. All in all the visuals are great, the frame rate is solid, the courses are beautiful, the visuals are really just downright great.
One of the areas that I haven’t mentioned yet that bothered me right away about Shift 2 Unleashed was the AI. To me the AI is still far to aggressive for this style of racing where even slight “shifts” can make big impacts on your success or lack there of in a race. Far to often the computer seems to want to go for broke and that can cause a lot of frustration especially on the longer tracks. The cockpit view also won’t be for everyone and does require a learning curve. It does take up some of your viewing space so that is just something you have to get used to or shift to a different camera angle.
Shift 2 Unleashed is a solid racing game. It may not be on the same high level as a Gran Turismo or Forza, but it’s sure getting close. If you enjoyed the last game or are looking for a new simulation racer to get into Shift 2 Unleashed is a good one to check out.