Need for Speed is a series that needs a full on re-vitalization. Over the years, it’s kind of changed its identity on a constant basis. Pro-Street and Undercover both suffered mediocre reviews, and it seems like the series is either a hit or a miss lately.
According to the EA representative at the booth for questioning, Need for Speed: Shift takes the series into a more Gran Turismo-esque direction. Did it pay off?
Right off the bat, you can select one of two areas for the E3 build: London, which is a close quarters city race (like Gran Turismo), or a stage called “Autopolis”, a large circuit with numerous dirt sidelines to get trapped in. Considering I’ve done city driving to death, I enjoyed Autopolis a tad more than London. The only car you could choose in the demo was the BMW M3, which was fine with me!
Shift uses the GTR engine, which allows for intense realism, including monitors that track your gas, weight, damage, and engine performance that effect how your car handles. In my opinion, the only way to play Shift is with the first-person immersive view (similar to Sega GT), which shows your driver’s hands, wheel, and interior with great detail.
Your windshield even takes “crack” damage in real time, which is rarely seen these days. I’ve seen a few immersive views in my time, and though I usually end up just settling with a third person perspective, I couldn’t draw myself away from Shift‘s eye-view camera.
One really cool aspect of Shift is it’s dynamic “points” system, and intuitive AI reaction technology. You can either play as one of two styles in addition to neutral: aggressive, or cautious. If you start bumping other driver, you’ll get aggressive points, and if you drive slowly, or avoid confrontation, you’ll get cautious points. At the end of each race, you’ll be scored in terms of points, and your position, separately.
The AI system is very cool. There are twelve different preset AI emotions your adversaries are capable of. If you edge out some drivers into a wipeout, they may come after you: others will actually become scared of you and try to take the outside on corners just to stay away. If an AI becomes particularly enraged, a “rival” icon will appear above his head, and he’ll be coming for you.
Admittedly, I sucked pretty bad when I was playing Shift, and it wasn’t the control or engine’s fault (I had to – gasp! – actually use the brake button). It feels more like a “real racer”, but it isn’t quite as real as Gran Turismo, which was the game’s desired goal according to the EA rep. They wanted to provide a middle-ground experience for gamers that felt alienated by the different extremes in the genre. Racing is not particularly my bag, but racing fans should be on the lookout for Need for Speed: Shift.
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