Shift was a classic title, I played it for months. For me this is a big deal as I find most racing games about as appealing as putting my hand in a blender. Shift 2 is a great game, which I had a blast reviewing over the last week.
Electronic Arts have clearly placed a lot of time and effort into developing the new title, and trying to find a niche market which isn’t directly competing against titles such as Gran Turismo and Forza. Shift 2 is a ‘semi’ racing simulation, but it focuses on making the driving fun. Before all the racing simulation fans email me with snide comments, let me clarify. For many people racing simulations are just too much work. It is this balance of fun gaming, with a little more ‘depth’ behind the glossy exterior which make Shift 2 so appealing.
Shift 2 has a slightly arcade style feel to it, which means it is instantly accessible to the masses. Shift 2′s presentation is immediately ‘full on EA’, there are loads of graphical touches and high detail effects and the design is certainly there to keep you on the edge of your seat. It is exciting, and I can’t often say that about a racing game. The voice overs did annoy me, and the videos can be painful as you can’t skip them … and trust me you will want to.
Unlike arcade racers, you can’t get away with crashing into solid objects in Shift 2, the game will punish you for a bad turn, or stupid overtake. You can’t crash into anything and get away without any side effects. The handling may be less realistic than titles such as Gran Turismo, but it is certainly a lot more accessible.
Electronic Arts have certainly changed their game direction, with a focus now on making the franchise slightly more serious but just as appealing to long term fans.
When you start the game, you are placed into a series of tests and depending on how well you perform the game gives you a control setting and difficulty level. If you race very well in the trial section you will get hit hard with a difficulty setting. My friend played the game and deliberately did very badly, meaning the game started off much easier for him. I really am not that devious, but I would be next time. It is tough!
Starting off on a high difficulty level means the game is much less forgiving and the computer AI will kick ass. Controls are harder and after a few simple mistakes I had to restart. Purists will be pleased to hear that many car settings can be tweaked and adjusted to suit specific racing styles. Driving aids can make the difference between death and victory … I tried to continually adjust them so I felt I was in control of enough settings to make the victories that much sweeter.
This was one of the annoying elements of Shift 2- I could never seem to get the right balance of computer assistance and difficulty level, it was either too easy or just too damn hard. With all the assistance turned on, it is hard to crash, but it makes winning seem almost redundant. Turn them all off, and you need the reflexes of Lewis Hamilton. In a way this might appeal to many people – after all the really skilled racers can make the game as challenging as they want, and the sad newbs like me can have most of the assistance enabled.
After the first hour or so I managed to get the settings as close as I could to perfect and I started to enjoy the racing. You win races, unlock cars, buy cars, and then modify them if you want. There are a ton of settings to make the overall experience extremely immersive, even old classic cars can be doctored visually and technically to look and compete with modern machines.
There are a wide variety of races available to the gamer, including drift events which are entertaining, if a little silly. EA have incorporated view angles to help cater to a wide range of gamers, if you like outside the car, its an option. ‘Drivers seat’ view is my favourite, but I like the experience of being ‘in the car’. There is also a ‘dynamic helmet cam’ mode which looks into the corners as you turn, but it is slightly distracting. The view was shifting, not the car.
Electronic Arts do deserve some credit for making the game as customisable as possible. Almost everything can be tweaked, tuned and disabled if you want. Spending a few hours with the settings alone is actually very possible.
Graphically, the game is very impressive, the night racing in particular appealed to me, with the ambient lighting and reflections enhancing the experience. Damage impacts show on the cars, with bumpers hanging off, and paintwork trashed as the action heats up. It doesn’t demand a massively high powered gaming computer, and if you have a GTX460 it will run great, even at higher resolution.
Single player mode will last a fairly long time, and there is multiplayer available, tracking scores and setting up social matches. If you have some buddies who play, it makes the game even more fun, as you can compare stats, race against each other and claim victory. The online elements seem to be popular and there is a wide range of people across the globe playing at all times of the day, so getting a game isn’t difficult.
Shift 2 is a great game with a wide appeal to suit gamers who love to race. It won’t appeal to simulation purists as the handling isn’t true to life, but the developers have clearly wanted to make it as fun as possible, even if it means its not totally realistic. It is fast paced and will help get the blood pumping, but most importantly it is a hell of a lot of fun. You can’t often say that about a racing game on the PC.