Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
by: Nicholas 'bapenguin' Puleo
Every now and again I get a hunkering for a good car game. Usually I'm lured in by the gorgeous visuals this generation of consoles have allowed for, and then I stick around for the tweaking and upgrading of my cars. The Need for Speed series has been around for a good 15 years now, and the latest entry, Need for Speed Shift is a return to the series' roots. EA wisely has gotten rid of the open world style of gameplay with a story and replaced it with a car racing sim that is playable by many different skill levels.
One question you'll probably be asking yourself while playing, especially if you are familiar with racing sims is - what sets this apart from the likes of Forza or Gran Turismo. The biggest thing EA has done is added a meta game to your racing that earns you agressive and skill style points. These upgrade your driver level and define your style, giving you little badges of honor. You'll earn badges for trading paint, having a clean take over, drafting, and a few dozen other maneuvers on the track. Before each race you are given a goals to complete, and in doing so you'll earn extra rewards and be able to move up the racing levels.
Like I said earlier, any good car game is visually appealing first, and Shift doesn't disappoint. There was great care in rendering the inside view of these cars, and with 65 cars available, that's quite a feat. The cars themselves look great as well, and the damaging modeling really shines. Controls are also key, and thankfully the game adjust and can be adjusted anytime between a more sim like experience or an arcade one. You'll be driving the cars on over a dozen tracks; some famous like Silverstone and Laguna Seca, and others modeled after areas in cities like London and Tokyo.
In the end Need for Speed Shift is a solid entry into the genre it helped define, and it does just enough to set itself apart from the competition. With Forza 3 right around the corner it'll be interesting to see how well it fairs. EA wisely got their game out the door first, and by the time Forza hits the shelves I might be bored with car games again.