has an interesting way of guiding you into the game. Your first task is to complete a test lap where a BMW M3 is waiting for you at the start line. It's your task to get round the circuit as quickly as possible but during your lap, Shift
analyses your driving style in detail and then proceeds to recommend difficulty settings. These range from driver aids such as brake assist and traction control to AI and a fair few other things that you can either accept or tweak depending on whether you feel you could do better, or if you want a challenge.
This is great in principle, meaning you can quickly get into the game without having to blindly work your way around the difficulty settings. However it invariably means the game is far too easy with experienced drivers more than likely finding it unchallenging and a bit boring as a result.
As such, be prepared to tweak the difficulty yourself. In particular the brake assist. We found this to be more of a hindrance than a help with the AI automatically slamming on the brakes when it
feels you should be slowing down. Basically you can kiss goodbye to those diving down the inside overtaking manoeuvres - where's the fun in that?
Having completed the test lap you move on to the main menus and buying your first car. You get a fairly good selection to start with. Amongst the 15 or so to choose from are the Renault Megane Sport RS, Volkswagen Scirocco and Mazda RX8. A good selection of cars is nothing to be sniffed at in any racing game, but the trouble here is that for the first few races, your car is basically showroom spec. As a result it's a bit like watching the safety car come out during an Formula 1 race - things seem to be going in slow motion. Of course the point of Shift
as with many NFS
titles before it is to upgrade and tune your car but until you've upgraded your first car significantly which can take quite a few podiums' winnings, things are a little tame to say the least.
There's a detailed replay mode allowing you review the race and even take a snapshot from any of the viewing modes and upload it to EA Nation for everyone to see. The looks great from the drive by view and is useful for seeing just how awesome your car looks after that new paint job or body kit.
Upgrading is one of the best features of the game though. Instead of the money pouring in, you usually have to spend some time working out which areas your pride and joy will benefit from some new shiny hardware. You can upgrade your engine and add a turbo but what's the point if you'll have to start breaking a mile earlier than anyone else? Luckily there are little voice tips and detailed performance stats for each upgrade that help you make those choices. The latter even breaks down each upgrade so you can see how many more horsepower it will give you, how it will effect your 0-100 time (adding weighty bodykits will slow you down but improve traction in those corners for example).
The added realism manifests itself in quite a few ways in Shift
. in addition to tracks being made from real telemetry from actual tracks, what's immediately obvious, even with the slow cars you start with, is the handling. Even at lower difficulty settings it feels much more accurate and like your car is really in touch with the tarmac. If you try and power slide round corners like you would in Race Driver: GRID
, the car gets very edgy requiring careful management of throttle and steering to keep that back end in control.
has the sounds to match these effects though with screeching tyres and thumps and rumbles as you hit chicanes. If you spin off, your driver often grunts as you hit tyre walls and the like with the vision going blurry and a spine tingling crunch as you cave in various panels. Engine sounds are on the whole a pleasure to listen to but they do lack that certain throaty note that we'd been looking forward to from seeing some of the trailers. Gone is the generic screaming from previous titles though, so we suppose that's a bonus.
Braking has become quite an art form in Shift
, especially with some of the more powerful cars. If you slam the brakes on too near the corner, your steering will lock up just as it would in real life and you'll find yourself balancing tyres from the wall on your bonnet. Following the racing line is essential to get round those corners quickly and smoothly so this is definitely one aspect of the game that's very simulator-like.