[PS3] Need For Shift - Review

Need for speed, a name which we grew up with; a name which we are very comfortable with, even before we knew what a playstation was; what a xbox was. Every NFS release was looked forward to, with so much of pomp and glamour. So it was very disappointing when the brand name went downhill, and other names took its place. EA went back to its roots, roped in Slightly Mad studios to revive NFS. They had two difficult decisions to make. The first, to veer away from the street racing, cop chasing, story based drama, and take the racing back to the racetracks. This had to be a difficult pill to swallow after how Pro street went. The second decision was to release the game right when Forza 3 and GT5 were supposed to be released. Let’s see how the game fares then, just after the jump.

The career mode consists of 4 tiers, which finally lead to the NFS Live World Championship. The final objective is to win it. When the career mode starts, the game throws you into a trial race, which helps you and the game decide your driving skills, things like traction control, steering control, braking control etc. (This can be changed later). This race result also provides you with cash with which you can buy your first car.

Each tier consists of several events like time trials, normal races, manufacturer races and driver battles. Apart from these events, according to your performance you are invited to several invitational events, which are way ahead of your career level, and are great ways of earning loads of cash. All of these races give you profile points and stars depending on the profile points. The stars help you advance to the later tiers, and the profile points rate you as a driver. The profile points are classified as precision points and aggression points. Precision points are rewarded for racing on the racing line, overtaking cleanly and mastering corners. Aggression points are rewarded for sliding around corners, trading paint and spinning out opponents.

All the cars, be it the entry level Mazda RX-8, or the tier 4 Bugatti Veyron, tend to have a bit of oversteer to them, if the settings maintained are on default. But if you have the patience to customize your ride, which includes gear ratio, downforce, acceleration ratio etc. you can really make the car perform to your wishes. The car can really be held by the scruff of the collar, and be thrown around the track, and it will do exactly what you want it to do. This is where NFS Shift tries to lean towards being a simulation racer and leave behind its arcade roots. It does not compare to the customization in the GT series, but it has more than enough options to make it a more fun sim racer. The best part of this sim experience, is definitely the cockpit view. The best experience in a racing game till date. The sense of speed you feel, when your vision blurs, when going at high speed, is absolutely exhilarating. You actually feel scared going at high speeds, and want the next corner to come, so that you can reduce the speed and come back to sanity. The difference between this game and the rest out there is that the cockpit camera displays the game from the driver’s eyes and not from behind the driver. Small nuances like the driver’s head bobbing up and down when the car goes off the track, his head going forward when the brakes are slammed hard are all very well done. Other small features like the driver’s hands paddle shifting the gears are also well done.

Another very new feature is the driver’s reaction when the car crashes. The vision goes totally blur, and the driver gasps for air and coughs, trying to regain his senses. You actually feel guilty for crashing the car. Car damage is present, but it affects the performance only slightly. A huge crash can change the cosmetic appearance of the car, but it may still handle perfectly. Maximum damage can make the car veer to the left or right drastically, but nothing more than that. PS3 damage was comparatively lesser to the Xbox counterparts, which has been fixed now with a patch.

"The sense of speed you feel, when your vision blurs, when going at high speed, is absolutely exhilarating."

But Slightly Mad studios could have ironed out a few creases. The game gifts precision points for a perfect launch from the starting line, but a perfect launch doesn’t always mean that you get to be the fastest off the line. I noticed that maximum revs and not optimum revs give the fastest launch. This is the biggest gripe I had in the car handling. The concept of having points whether you drive aggressive or with precision also has its negative effects. Since you are gifted points for whatever you do on the track, there is no impetus to drive cleanly. If you are a true simulation racer, and you believe in racing cleanly, you will actually get lesser points than a person who is more aggressive on the track. I don’t see the logic in this. Furthermore, on completion of about 40-50 % of the events in a tier, the next tier opens up. It’s too easy to advance to later stages, and the cash you get is completely excessive, than what is required, or deserved. Moreover, when you sell a car, you get the factory price for which you bought it. Illogical and too easy!

But the AI is far from easy. The AI is really difficult to overtake, let alone get a podium. The AI is mostly aggressive, and will actively try to force you off the track. More than normal actually. The racing is quite intense, with other cars constantly in your rear mirrors, and more than happy to overtake at your slightest mistake. The pressure on you is intense, and needs a lot of concentration to pull off a good result.

"The vision goes totally blur, and the driver gasps for air and coughs, trying to regain his senses. You actually feel guilty for crashing the car."

Tracks are abundant, and are well designed. Most of the famous tracks including Spa, Laguna Seca, Donnington Park and Silverstone are present in full splendor. The cars look beautiful, and the cockpits are very well designed with care taken include every intricate aspect. Navigation menus are also slick, and hardly have any lag. One nice touch, after the end of each race, the replay of the race plays in the background, when the results are being computed. A provision exists to capture a snapshot and upload it to EA nation from where it can be downloaded. Well, nothing like the PS3 snapshot feature, but it is something. Car appearances can be customized using vinyls, paints and rims, but nothing more. Each car has access to a certain set of custom brand sponsored vinyls, which can be installed all at once. The game sounds are stellar, good music for the menus, and crisp engine sounds when actually racing. One thing worth mentioning by default there is not music when the race goes on. This is definitely a plus in my books, since I like to hear the tires screeching, and the engine growling, or purring. This gives me a sense of how the car is performing. The ambient sounds are great too, with wind whooshing, and the sounds inside tunnels represented well.

"Tracks are abundant, and are well designed. Most of the famous tracks including Spa, Laguna Seca, Donnington Park and Silverstone are present in full splendor."

The car stable isn’t huge, but contains all the famous cars that anyone would want to drive. Examples being the Bugatti Veyron, The Lamborghinis, Audi R8, the Porsches and others.

Multiplayer is adequate, and almost all the time it does not suffer from any lag. Profile points can be earned online and can be added to the single player score. The disadvantage of this? Online players have no obligation to drive cleanly. More often than not, your car will be lying outside the track by the end of corner 1. This is the very reason I am not writing any more about multiplayer because I did not get to finish one lap properly. Alas, a waste.

Is Shift is the answer to EA’s NFS’s woes? It is definitely a positive step, but not a giant leap. NFS suffers from more than a few glitches. The frame rate suffers when there is a lot of activity on the screen, and rarely during replays, all the AI cars are stationary, and your car drives through them….? The time taken to start the game is also rather long, considering it loads the trophies, then some data elements and then finally connects to EA nation before the game is good to go. The loading times between races are also quite frustrating.

This is by far the best Need for Speed game to be made, but it has quite a few miles to go before it can compete with the likes of realism of Gran Turismo or Forza, assuming EA wants to go this way. It will definitely be interesting to guess where the NFS series heads after NFS Nitro releases for the Wii later. But for now, with GT5 being delayed, Shift is a good alternative, and will provide about 12 hours of good entertainment without giving the slightest hint of being monotonous.


Gameplay – 8
Presentation – 8
Graphics – 8.5
Lasting Appeal – 7

Sound – 9

Average Overall Score – 7.7

Online Experience – 6

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