Two years ago EA tried to re-invigorate the Need For Speed franchise, by taking a year out to have a think about what really would be the next great step for the future of one of their flag-ship franchises.
The step they took was to hire UK based Slightly Mad Studios to make what would become the first sim based racer in the series, and a racer that was a hit or miss amongst many gamers.
So two years on, have Slightly Mad managed to capture that audience they couldn't seem to get in the first game, or did they lose their way and lose people instead?
Game Play. 7/10
As we all know Need For Speed is a racer, A racer that over the years as become notable for high speed cop chases and underground street racing - meaning lots of different Drag, Drift and Circuit events.
Shift 2 however takes all of these and somehow manages to make the game challenging for people that are new to racers and even the pro players, who play nothing more then say Forza or Gran Turismo.
The first shift game introduced a camera angle which was the first game to fully integrate the inside of any car that was in the game, and be able to make a motion effect, depending on what it was you were doing In the race i.e. accelerating, braking and even crashing. Shift 2 works on this by adding in even more motion effects and also by adding in the Helmet cam which Slightly Mad seem to be quite proud of seeing as they have it down as a feature on the Back cover of the game case.
The Helmet cam works I guess sort of how you would expect, your view is slightly more limited then if you was using the Cockpit view and also adds in a new effect that gives you the realism that you are driving the car yourself, The effect is that your driver will look in different directions slightly at different things I.e. Bends in the road or even a car about to overtake.
This view looks pretty but it can be a pain to race in though seeing as your view is obscured meaning cars are probably likely to ram into you when you think you are doing fine when in fact your racing into their line.
A major concern gamers had with the first game also was that they felt the games overall feel with the handling was very arcadey, and it seems to me that Slightly Mad went away listened to what people had to say and massively over tuned the racing mechanics.
But in my opinion I believe they went a bit way to over the top and made it too realistic for its own good, especially seeing as its supposed to be a game and not a proper driving simulator.
Of course though this means that I am in fact talking about when you crash or get crashed into in the game, no matter what happens you will ninety percent chance spin or lose some sort of control over your car meaning your going to lose a few places in the race grid.
Which brings me onto the next point in this review, and that is everybody loves a game with a challenge no matter how slight the challenge is or how hard that challenge is to overcome.
When you add the driving mechanic from this game and put it into a race with A.I that are relatively smart and will sometimes bash into you to make you spin or slow you down, then this game can get highly frustrating.
The reason I believe behind this is that with the first game it became very apparent very quickly you could ram cars out of the way and have maybe a ten percent chance of spinning yourself out meaning you could shoot straight to first and have an easy race.
Now with this game you have to race as if you it was real, no more bashing cars out of the way for an easy win, if you bash a car your going to spin or lose control most of the time. And even when you do race good, the A.I no matter what difficulty your playing on will always manage to stay relatively close behind you in case you make a mistake.
Now this mechanic is not a bad thing, but it really can get on your nerves when you lose control and lose a lot of places and know you're not going to be able to pull those spots back in time.
Drift racing as also been massively changed since the last game where you could pretty much drift any corner you wanted and get insane high scores, this time they made it more lifelike with the help and Aid of Vaughn Gittin Jnr, it now takes real skill to drift around a track and score points like a pro, and I'm not ashamed to admit it but these are now my least favourite event types because I'm just plain bad at them.
No doubt though this mode will become a favourite amongst many gamers seeing as how lifelike it can be now, only bad thing about it is though, does a drift car really 360 spin from a stopped motion?
Overall though the changes that have been made to the game play mechanics relate to about fifty percent good and fifty percent bad, Its good there is now a challenge their but that challenge shouldn't be ready to screw you over all the time, I won't go out to say I'm bad at racers, I managed to get 900g from the first Shift ,but with this game, I won't lie I find it hard to get into first at times, and that's what makes me want to turn the game off.
Everything about this games graphics have been enhanced, no longer is the Hud cluttered with lots of different stats or challenges, they stripped it down and made it more user friendly by just keeping what you needed to know on the screen, Exp, Lap, Place and Speed.
The games menus have been given an overall as well instead of just the square boxes you chose from in the first game, this game now features flashy menus, For example on the main game menu when your choosing an option your being rotated between many different fancy looking cars.
Even the career menu looks pretty good compared to again the old square/rectangle style from the previous game, this time you now have what look like Leaflet or handouts for events. Obviously these are made up but they all look pretty professional.
The cars all look superb but a part of me thinks that they didn't really do much to enhance the graphics of the cars, instead I believe they used their time to work on a better damage modelling system, so when a car gets beaten to bits in a race, it will finish it looking like it came straight out of a battlefield game.
One thing that let me down though was their appears to be no windscreen cracks this time around either compared to the first game.
If you took enough damage or a big crash your window would either crash or just smash, like I say that appears to be out on this game but then again I may just not of noticed it or maybe it only happens when you have your damage setting set to the highest.
The Cockpit/Helmet views are where many a gamer will spend their time racing and when your on a straight doing over a 100mph its always good to look at your cars interior and notice all the time and effort that went into modelling it, The only downfall though is when you upgrade a car to works, they all come with the same dashboard interface. Seriously is their no other interface design you could use?.
The night racing in the game is a brand new feature in the game and it really is something to behold, granted you can't really judge the graphics of the game when your zipping around a track in the dark with nothing but your headlights to guide you, But when you see that barrier ahead of you getting closer and closer, you start to feel like that is what night time racing would feel like if you was to be driving that car for real.
Onto the tracks of the game though and this is another area that Slightly mad appear to have worked quite heavily on, normally a track would appear to be quite dull and well grey, but in Shift 2 they all appear to have a sense of shine to them, from the cracks in the tracks from where and tear to seeing bits of other peoples cars lying over them from past laps, To just racing around the Nurburgring's tight bends, everything looks amazing. Massive props to the team for putting in all of that effort.
The last little touch I want to name upon when it comes to the graphics is that, when your hurtling down the track at high speed occasionally you will see fly's splatter onto whatever camera your using, It appears to be more frequent when your driving around in the car view outside, it may only be a small touch but its something that just adds to the detail and look great.
Sound and Music 8/10
When it comes to reviewing a racing game based off of sound it can be quite tricky as well apart from engine noises and music that appears in the menu's, their really isn't much else apart from Vaughn Gittin Jnr occasionally saying your doing well or not. So anyway ill do the best I can do to give you the low down on the sound.
The cars sound really good, but the main fall down where I'm concerned is that some of the cars can sound quite alike, sure your sports cars sound like your sports cars and your muscle cars sound like a tiger is about to break out from under the engine area. But in my honest opinion I don't believe there are that many different car engine sounds to go around all of the cars the game has to offer. Meaning some will sound alike.
The music on the other hand is quite remarkable and something that I guess kind of slapped me in the face when I first started playing the game, because at the time I think I was ready to hear some upbeat dance worthy kind of songs, but instead I got met with some chilled out and quite tranquil remixes or some well known songs, And it all for some reasons seems to fit in perfectly, from waiting for the game to load up to customising your car it sounds great.
The difficulty of this game is my main concern, as I started earlier on in the game play part, the game just appears to have become a little bit to hard especially on some of the tracks and depending on the level or skill you have your handling and A.I on.
If you never played the first and never witnessed the arcadey feel to the game then you may feel a bit swamped at first, seeing as on any difficulty the A.I will be able to keep up with you and even bash you out of the way.
To all the other racing pros though this game may seem like a bit of a breeze if you have a steering wheel for your Xbox, like I said earlier though I was pretty good at the first game but this game really can infuriate me at times with how difficult it can be.
I'm not sure if they made the rubber band effect from the first game more elaborate in this and included it for all events instead of just the rivals, but just use this as a warning that you may have to replay certain tracks over and over again, Once your in first as long as you don't make any mistakes you should be fine for the rest of the race, but getting to first can be an entirely different story especially with how the A.I like to ram you.
The achievements for this game are going to be either a love or hate situation, they are multiple achievements with high gamer score for doing stuff that you would normally be doing in the career like defeating rivals and winning events, as well as levelling up all the way to 20.
But on the other side of the scale there are achievements that are going to take some serious time like playing online for a set amount of time and winning so many races online in a row to win a certain trophy, also the achievements for mastering corners and racing lines in not only the day and dusk tracks but also the night tracks as well.
For the average gamer who isn't interested in gaining every achievement the game has to offer then I would say with a little bit of effort 700 gamer score would be pretty good.
And to all of the completion junkies out their, you are looking to be spending on the upwards of possibly 30-40 hours on this game.
Whilst Slightly Mad Studios managed to pull off a massive overhaul to the first game, some pieces of shift 2 feel unfinished or tested, mainly the difficulty but that could just be me having problems, sure its ok to finish 3rd in a race but I want to finish 1st for the big money.
Nearly every piece of the game has been improved upon whilst only managing to make a few small hiccups that can be patched at a later date.
Even though this game is good it still can't compete with the likes of Forza, but this game is still one to watch because maybe just maybe in the next iteration of the franchise, Just possibly this could become the next best sim racing game out their.
Final Rating: 8/10