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Shift 2 Unleashed review

An almost perfect blend of simulation precision and arcade adrenaline

As with any good sims, there’s a wide range of tuning options for cars, including full engine swaps, body kits, and full race car modifications that can turn even your Mk1 Volkswagen GTI into a fire snorting monster. Shift 2 includes a fantastic option that allows you to sell back any purchased car modifications for a full refund. Low level upgrades are automatically credited towards higher level upgrades, allowing you to experiment without fear of throwing a big wad of hard earned money down the drain. Tuning setups can also be evaluated on a test lap before you commit to them.

Shift 2 does fall short in the graphics department. It’s not horrible by any standard, but in a genre that prides itself on photo-realism, Shift 2 suffers from some jagged edges, long distance draw-in, and some pretty ugly off-track details. Crowds, trees and the like are all unimpressive. Of course you’ll only really notice these shortcomings at the starting line and after collisions, not when you’re blasting by them at 200 mph. Think of them as an incentive not to slow down.

Shift 2’s Drift mode is also a point of contention, as it’s extremely difficult to learn. It’s a total change of pace from regular racing and requires surgical skill with the throttle. The game clearly makes some big changes to the physics engine here, as even low horsepower vehicles will slide around the track like a lubed up hippo in a teflon wok. It’s a gratifying feeling once you figure it out, but the learning curve might be too much for the average player, even by sim standards.

Shift 2’s multiplayer is a little limited, offering a bare bones racing and drifting experience that’s best suited to races with friends only. As a racer who avoids playing with randoms at all costs, this suits me just fine. More important is the game’s inclusion of the SpeedWall and Autolog features introduced in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. As before, these features track your best times and inform other Shift 2 players on your friends list when their (and your) times have been bested. The SpeedWall also includes the Performance Index number of the vehicle they used, so beating your friend’s Ford Focus time with a Pagani Zonda won’t fool anyone.

While Shift 2 is unlikely to woo the arcade crowd over to simulation racing, it’s remedied one of the genre’s biggest problems, a crushing obsession with technical realism over the actual realism of racing. Shift 2 has finally created a racing sim that gives car geeks like myself numbers to tweak, but puts the real focus where it belongs, on the visceral joy of actually racing the car.

Mar 29, 2011

More Info

Franchise nameNeed for Speed
UK franchise nameNeed for Speed
PlatformPC, PS3, Xbox 360
US censor ratingEveryone 10+
UK censor rating3+
Release date29 March 2011 (US), 1 April 2011 (UK)