Shift 2: Unleashed Review
developer: Slightly Mad Studios
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Mar 29, 11 (released)
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It's probably going to be hard for most of you to believe, but Electronic Arts' racing series Need for Speed has been around for 17 years now, which is pretty amazing. Most games in the series delivered a top-notch experience for racing enthusiasts. Since then, EA has been coughing up Need for Speed games on a yearly basis and things were looking extremely well for the franchise. Regrettably, there was a notable decline after Need for Speed: Carbon (2006), when EA made a change in direction with games like Need for Speed: ProStreet and Need for Speed: Undercover, both of which stand as the worst contributions to the popular racing series. Things improved slightly with the release of Need for Speed: Shift (2009), which wasn't as good as Need for Speed: Most Wanted (probably the best NFS game of them all), albeit at least it made a departure from its tragically mediocre predecessors. In order to redeem themselves completely, EA released Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit marking the series' return to thrilling cop chases and incorporating a few very addictive elements to the old formula. It worked. Hot Pursuit was a terrific NFS game.
So, yeah, it's undoubtedly been a turbulent history for the series and EA won't rest, of course, until the poor cash cow that is NFS yields more milk. In other words, it's time for Shift 2: Unleashed, a sequel to the aforementioned NFS: Shift.
Hey, what pissed you off?
Now that's machine!
The player starts from scratch and has to make some money, gain experience and earn the right to take part in more eminent races. As you make progress, you unlock better cars, bonus tracks and events and additional customization options. Gathering experience in each race is a very important aspect of gameplay. With more experience points you'll be able to level up and automatically gain access to better rides, more car parts and so on. The idea is to allow players to make an impression during each race. For example, if you go through the corners and tight turns quickly and with no errors, you'll get extra experience, which brings you closer towards those cool upgrades and fancy cars.
Finishing each race in 1st position brings the highest cash prize, as you'd expect. However, you'll also get money for finishing in lower spots, so don't give up the race immediately just because you are not in the lead. Try to cross the finish line second or third - that's a challenge too. The game also keeps track of specific actions, like each time you overtake someone, if you go through an entire lap without losing the lead and similar things. Longer drifts and other maneuvers, effectively increase your chance of gaining additional exp. and in turn becoming one of the top drivers.
All of the above makes for a pretty solid racing experience. But it still doesn't go the distance. In fact there's a number of nagging issues here that are more than likely to upset even the most tolerant gamers. After a few races you'll notice that not each car handles brilliantly. What the developers have done here is that they've tried to blend arcade and realistic racing as much as humanly possible. In some cases, the results weren't so good. Some of the more powerful cars such as the Lotus Exige, which as any episode of Top Gear will tell you, is a bloody amazing car, has some weird issues in this game. For example, no matter how hard you try it's extremely difficult to make turns with this car. Somehow the handling feels weird when turning, because the car just hurls you into a nightmare of understeer. Similar things have been known to happened in this game with other cars such as the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. I'm not saying driving powerful cars is hell in this game, but I just have the feeling that they have not all been balanced properly.
Shift 2 can be a decent experience for gamers who are looking for a combo of realistic and arcade style racing, the game challenges you to make an effort with each race and rewards you for making proper maneuvers on the track;
A few wierd visual bugs, handling feels wobbly and almost erratic when driving some of the more powerful cars, oh and I'd sooner play NFS: Hot Pursuit (yes, I know they are meant to be different racing experiences), because, damn, it's more fun and it has cop chases.