Shift 2 Unleashed Xbox 360 review
Publisher – EA – Developer – Slightly Mad Studios – Genre – Racing – Players – 1-12 – Age Rating – 3+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3
The cracked tarmac and moodily lit collisions of the title sequence emphasise one thing – this sequel to Need for Speed: SHIFT moves even further into racing territory and away from the series’ roots. Promising innovations including the Helmet Cam and bringing the Autolog feature from last year’s Hot Pursuit, is this worth putting on a flameproof suit and strapping yourself into a racing seat for?
The majority of time will be spent in Career mode, working through a ranked series of events to earn XP. Those vital experience points are earned in many ways, from making a clean overtake on a rival to mastering all the corners of a circuit. More XP means higher Driver levels, opening up new events. These include Eliminator races, where the last driver is regularly withdrawn, and a series of specialist Drift challenges. Real drivers provide commentary and set extra challenges, talking tactics at the start of each event.
Out on the track, the cars come with a series of driving aids to help the novice, from the braking assist and traction control to the helpful “best line” being shown with coloured arrows. Actually viewing the action can be done from several angles, including the traditional behind the car view. Confusingly there is a separate Cockpit view that is hard to distinguish from the vaunted Helmet Cam feature. Racing also takes place at different times of day, opening up the spectacle of night racing.
The Quick race option allows you to tweak the parameters and get out on the track against a group of AI opponents, while the Online mode has a similar equivalent and a straightforward lobby system to invite friends to a game. Restrictions on car type and race length will help keep the action moving.
The cars themselves are very good looking with over 100 models from top manufacturers, and more are gradually unlocked for your garage as the career mode progresses. Controversially the player is also able to purchase cars and unlock everything with Microsoft Points. Certain events let you test out a much higher-powered car before earning it. The track modelling is excellent, with recognisable landmarks and attention to detail. Sound works well with only minor annoyances – the repetitive beeps of Eliminator mode and the very loud impacts among them. It is perhaps to the game’s detriment that its most unique features – the Helmet Cam and the display of collisions – actually work against the player. Impacts grey out and blur the screen, making it harder to get back on track quickly. And the movements of the Helmet Cam, with the “eyes” shifting towards the inside of corners or an opponent involuntarily, make it the most challenging of ways to view the game.
One good aspect is the fact that patches have been made available quite readily in the short time since its formal release, balancing aspects of the game from player feedback. A series of DLC packs has added famous cars and more tracks, with the future drag racing add-on for eight players taking part at once.
There is, however, a feeling that this has all been done before… and some players may feel it has been done better. Drift events soon feel repetitive, and the steadily increasing AI becomes a challenge even on the easiest settings. Those with the racing wheel and a fondness for on track action will undoubtedly get a lot of satisfaction from working their way through the game. Online play does offer plenty of variety as well, with the Autolog recommending events and creating competition among friends. The feeling of being involved in a race is certainly one that Shift 2 Unleashed creates, with a very solid performance all round.