Death Race 2009

Release Date: September 22nd

The NFS series takes a turn for the hardcore with a renewed focus on what it’s like to be a driver, and not necessarily of a Nissan.


-65 realistically unique cars spanning the last 35 years
-In-Car view returns to NFS for the first time in nearly a decade
-50 unique layouts across 18 tracks
-First game to “True Driver’s Experience”
-Numerous mid-race, objective-based incentives


Well, the emphasis on the Driver Experience could be the game’s crown jewel. But of similar importance, I’ve been dying to see what exactly the devs had meant by the promise of mid race “milestones,” or the achievable goals beyond simply pole position. After all, most traditional racers are kind of like our Comments section: It’s all about being “first!!!” and little else. One of the greatest strides EA has taken to distance itself from ordinary racing game is eliminating the need to quit every time you clumsily plummet to last place with a brand new points-based reward system.


Points are basically put towards your overall profile XP (applicable online and off) and are broken into two categories: Precision and Aggression. The former rewards stuff like immaculately drifting around corners and emerging through course sections unscathed, while the latter encourages you to trade a little paint.

But mind where you channel that aggression, Mr. Wheeler. As boring and deceitful as most promises of driver AI get, SHIFT’s non-playable drivers have are looking to kick the tired tradition of rubberband bullshit. It’s true that AI drivers won’t swipe you off the track as if you were invisible while trying to realign themselves to a poorly designed carousel. But better still, they can develop personal vendettas against you if they perceive you to be an aggro-asshole.


Leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone… but hit them, and they’ll hit you back. Whether specific NPCs are born pricks or you simply have to teach them remains to be seen, but since the creators are referring to the dynamic system as “emotions,” one could assume that you could start out a race against the occasional enemy with a personality disorder.  


I was floored when I first laid eyes on SHIFT last March, although not necessarily in a good way. It was a little unsettling to be informed that a series I’ve comfortably come to know for hot pursuits, open-world maps, and neon body kits was about to go the Forza route of real-world tracks and precision handling and physics. (Even more so, when you consider the last game starred an undercover cop who had to overthrow a crime syndicate using only his Porsche.) 

But after playing it again on the show floor, I’m happy to report this mature-minded departure is shaping into the NFS series’ most significant evolution in years. Perhaps ever. While it’s without a doubt more realistic than any Need For Speed in years, I caution you folks not to write the game off as a boring simulator. “The True Driver Experience.” Certainly sounds like PR babble… yet, it’s actually something fresh, innovative and downright arcadey.

Modern racers have all but forgotten there’s an actual person behind the wheel, but SHIFT’s gonna make damn sure you remember. Not only will you find your hands interacting with all facets of automotive minutia, but the cockpit view quite gorgeously displays a living, breathing human reacting to the road with every bit of detail as your vehicle. Haphazardly pinballing yourself around courses results in disorienting onscreen concussion effect that varies depending on the brutality of your impact.


As apprehensive as I was over Need For Speed: SHIFT’s change of pace, the developers behind Skate and the critically lauded GTR series have made me a believer again. If you played ProStreet and Undercover just long enough to be underwhelmed, you’re going to see this as a vast improvement. The driver experience is no bullshit, and although I could care less about customizing my interior, watching stuff like your drivers neck crane back at high accelerations and feeling the force of an impact on your skull is both subtly sublime and jarringly immersive.


I love an on-track guideline, but it’s the concussion elements will make you a better driver. Momentary blindness is far more of an incentive to master courses than any dented fender could ever hope to be. The same could be said for the point/reward system, even though they’re basically Project Gotham’s Kudos points. But it’s not like you’ll be getting anything like that this year…


Right when I was getting over the shock of NFS and Forza actually being comparable, I received another kick jolt once I realized I was actually more excited for SHIFT, which quite simply looks way better in terms of next-gen presentation. Visually speaking, SHIFT actually looks prettier, all the while offering significantly enhanced gameplay from its last title (Thank God).  Sure, its scope is significantly smaller, and you know it won’t have a fraction of the community and DLC support as Forza, but all the upgrades feel infinitely more substantial.

If I had to pick a winner - and I do - I’d go with SHIFT. It looks a little more fresh and exciting, while Forza looks like hours more of the beautiful same (but what a value!) Fortunately for me, by the time I finish SHIFT, EA will doubtlessly be hyping its next NFS title AND I won’t head into Forza 3 unprepared!

Never did I ever conceive of a day when an annual Need for Speed game would rival my interest in a new Forza… but here we are. Feel free to call me an asshole in the comments.

Jun 18, 2009


  • CAPST3R - June 24, 2009 2:44 p.m.

    an answer to my question would be nice, it wasn't rhetorical you know.
  • usmovers_02 - June 23, 2009 2:22 p.m.

    I've loved the NFS franchise (minus the last 2) and I've loved the Forza franchise. Unfortunatly for SHIFT it lacks too many of the features needed to compare to other true sims, mainly 400 cars and 100 tracks. I like to tune cars and I like to race them. Odds are, I WILL use and tune at least 50 or 60 of Forza 3's cars which is nearly the entire car count for SHIFT. reCAPTCHA: drought makes
  • Selectedpayload - June 22, 2009 6:53 p.m.

    They both look impressive but I'm going to get Forza 3. The paint options for that should be awesome. Also theres a huge part of me that thinks NFS will be aimed at the mainstream rather than more hardcore gamers.
  • abetterplayer - June 22, 2009 6:14 p.m.

    "outside of the Rewind button, there’s wasn’t much new here" eh you seem to have forgotten race driver: grids flashback button?
  • Mackster-901 - June 21, 2009 5:05 p.m.

    i love nfs but it started 2 go down hill wiv pro street. nfs is all about illegal street racing and 4 me underground 2 and most wanted were the best but wen they dun track days 4 pro street i woz pissed off but wen i herd that they had gon bak 2 illegal street racing in undercovers i woz so happy...until i got it. undercover woz so easy and borin and im not even goin 2 by shift coz its gettin 2 much like gran turismo and that is a worst racin game i ever played. EA, please do another game like underground or most wanted and make it like a proper boy racin style game and not wiv super cars. it should hav cars like supras,skylines,evos and stuff.
  • xFnKxTaLeNtx - June 20, 2009 8:52 p.m.

    To me both Forza and SHIFT look really simmilar, but i'm leaning NFS because of the in-car visual stuff. probably end up getting both eventually :P
  • Cerberus1838 - June 20, 2009 4 a.m.

    Lol its hilarious you actually compared SHIFT to Forza 3, Forza is in a different league, SHIFT is going to go down horribly. Also @ Chris, saying that only 10 people know how to use the cars in Forza is also ignorant, theres actually alot of people on Forza 2 (my brother for example) who own every car in the game and have the ability to tune the cars at anytime they want, the tuning system was extremely detailed which brought down people who didn't know anything about tuning, but apparently this issue has been fixed. tl:dr version, Forza 3 > Shift, fixed tuning makes Forza 3 perfect.
  • gigiosantos - June 19, 2009 10:19 p.m.

    PLEASE GOD MAKE BLACKBOX MAKE AN NFS HOT PURSUIT 3!!!!!!but SHIFT may make pressure on codemasters ,forcing them to make GRID 2 ,and about forza i only have an pc
  • MBspeedstr07 - June 19, 2009 5:02 p.m.

    try to convince me...
  • industriedude - June 19, 2009 4:32 p.m.

    okay everyone knows that Need for Speed needed to revamp they're approach to their games cos the whole cop chase thing was getting old fast but they should leave the sim racing games to the forza crew because no-one does it like them. wrong turn for Need for Speed, come up with a new style of racing games because were not impressed. Its like getting the monopoly guy to create a GTA game, its not what he's good at
  • just86 - June 19, 2009 1:28 p.m.

  • xXHaloKillerXx - June 19, 2009 1:27 p.m.

    I might get Forza 3 never played the first 2 but its just racing so i dont need them anyway just like i skipped Gt 1 and got 2 and skipped Gt3 and got 4 lol.
  • rxb - June 19, 2009 12:27 p.m.

    Shift has a certain violence to it but it could get distracting. I love the way Forza 2 feels, you can feel grip between the tyres and the road. Its easy to know where 'the limit' is. Also the way Forza 2 handles Aero grip at high speed is the best Ive ever driven. You dont need to be poor to just buy 1 game but to get good you need to focus on just 1 game really.
  • idrinkyourmilkshake - June 19, 2009 12:04 p.m.

    Another Antista masterpiece!
  • MechGyver - June 19, 2009 10:54 a.m.

    Its a case to say that SHIFT is "Burning like Gasoline" eh eh......kinda funny if you think about it....anyone?.....
  • smallberry - June 19, 2009 4:46 a.m.

    Forza 3 is finally getting me interested in a driving sim other than GT5. Too bad I bet on the other horse and only own a PS3. SHIFT? No thanks. -First game to “True Driver’s Experience” So there is a minigame where you must successfully pee in your diaper during a 24 LeMans race while driving?
  • TURbo - June 19, 2009 3:39 a.m.

    The Need For Speed series does a lot of add one feature here and get rid of another feature there. It is nice that you can have a driver's view, since Underground you could only see the outside. Need For Speed Carbon, Pro Street, and Undercover have been disappointing, but this does look really cool.
  • TheMonarch - June 19, 2009 3:01 a.m.

    For me I'm looking forward to Forza. One thing Chris didn't mention was the video editor. @$$hole : D I could totally see making a sweet video of rollevers when I eventually push my car way beyond it's limits.
  • iluvmyDS - June 19, 2009 1:41 a.m.

    I've always batted an eye at Forza, as far as the customization. I blow at car sims though.
  • MechGyver - June 19, 2009 1:18 a.m.

    Need For Speed But seriosly where´s the hot model/actress for this game? I´ve only seen cars and tracks till now, this ought to be a bad sign for NFS

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