Need for Speed – Shift – Review

g-needforspeed-shift200Need for Speed: Shift

(EA for Xbox 360)
By Mike Delano

The Need for Speed series has been unfocused recently, veering between simulator offerings like 2007’s ProStreet and the campy street racing of 2008’s Undercover. Now, it seems that the series will stay in permanent flux, alternating between simulators and arcade-style racers every year. 2009 may seem like a bad year to’ve to release a sim racer, with heavyweights Forza 3 and Gran Turismo 5 on the horizon, but Shift is able to hang with such exalted company. The key to its success is its sharp focus on the actual feel of racing. Not a mile-long list of car models, not the ability to trick out your ride with any decal or brake pad, and not the painstakingly captured audio of a Lamborghini muffler. Instead of the bells and whistles, Shift excels at conveying the sheer violence of being behind the wheel. Its thrilling, white-knuckle cockpit view is king, but the more traditional outside-the-car view is more precise, so you’ll have to trade off occasionally between the rush of the first-person view and actually winning some races. Either way, though, the game showers you with congratulations at (literally) every turn. Taking the “Kudos” system of the Project Gotham Racing series to the extreme, Shift gives you points, badges, and rewards for every good start/clean lap/car bump/failure to car bump/tight turn possible. It’s great for the ego, but it also means that progressing in career mode isn’t contingent solely on first place finishes, there are tons of ways to earn money and bump up your stats to unlock new cars and tracks. Instead of stressing over whether to cater to the casual racing crowd or to the sim crowd, the developers of Shift created a game that will appeal to anyone who likes racing games, period.