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Need For Speed SHIFTs Into Hardcore Sim Territory

See? I got the dumb pun out of the way in the headline. Now I don't have to use it in these hands-on impressions of the game!

Need for Speed gets simmier than ever in SHIFT.
EA has been missing more than hitting with Need for Speed the last few years. After a strong next-gen launch with Most Wanted, the quality of the series' subsequent games--Carbon, then ProStreet, then last year's middling Undercover--has been steadily on the wane. Rather than go back to the drawing board and retool the series with a single new game, EA has taken a spitball approach to revitalizing Need for Speed, throwing all kinds of ideas at the wall to see what sticks. Those ideas include a hardcore racing simulation, an over-the-top Wii action racer, and an online, free-to-play racer to be released only in Asia. (We're scratching our heads a bit on all this, too.)

SHIFT, the sim, is the first of the new Need for Speeds EA is ready to show to the press. The game is in development at UK-based Slightly Mad Studios, a company made up partially of former employees from SimBin, the studio behind the popular and extremely hardcore simulation-style GT Legends series. Slightly Mad is bringing its experience in that subset of the racing genre over to SHIFT, which has a lot more in common with the Forzas and Gran Turismos of the world than it does with games like Most Wanted.

I'll be honest: I'm not much of a racing sim guy. Burnout is about as serious as I get with my driving games, so I can't tell you too much about the torque or handling of individual cars here. But I can at least say SHIFT made a reasonably approachable first impression, all things considered. Sitting down and grabbing an Xbox 360 controller to play a PC build of the game, I was able to follow the game's racing line and make my way around a fictionalized London course without wrecking my expensive racing car too many times.

Lots of attention is being paid to in-car visual effects.
That guide line certainly takes its cues from Forza, dynamically changing color based on how you're driving to let you know whether you should be accelerating or braking at any given time to handle the next turn. But while Forza only had three colors--green, yellow, and red--SHIFT adds in blue. See, innovation! Blue lets you know that you have room to accelerate; green means you're doing OK; yellow and red are various degrees of "Hey, you should think about braking now."

SHIFT certainly looked quite nice (though EA wouldn't disclose the specs and resolution of the PC running the game). They used a developer toggle to cycle through different times of day, switching from noontime to dusk to evening in a matter of seconds, casting the scenery in a really attractive range of lighting. The sense of speed is one area the team is focusing on in an effort to set SHIFT apart from Forza and Gran Turismo, going as far as to coin the phrase "driver experience" as an inevitable marketing point. Creating that experience entails little visual elements like mounting the in-car camera to the driver's head, rather than the roof of the car, so you get camera movement independent of the car frame's jitter and jostling. Other touches include a blurring around the edges of the screen to increase the sense of speed, and blurring and desaturating the screen when you hit a wall too hard, to simulate the concussive effect a driver experiences when his head gets knocked sharply around.

More, less-serious NFS coming soon!
No info on the game's career format yet; EA isn't ready to talk specifics in that department, though it did say there will be 40 to 60 licensed cars in the final version. Presumably, the career mode will tie into that "driver experience" business that makes for such catchy marketing copy.

Of course, I couldn't sit in on a Need for Speed demo without asking when we'll see another Most Wanted-style game, especially given the recent rumors of a secret fourth NFS game being in development. "You haven't seen the last [Need for Speed] action game on consoles," said the series' PR rep, adding that there are certainly other games in the series being worked on in some capacity right now. But one thing EA will confirm: you won't see any more new, unannounced Need for Speed games in 2009.

Since I'm not the biggest fan of this genre, I put the question to you racing sim fans: Is there room for SHIFT in your life, or are you too hung up on waiting for Gran Turismo 5 and/or whatever Turn 10 ends up doing next?

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
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Posted by Brad
Need for Speed gets simmier than ever in SHIFT.
EA has been missing more than hitting with Need for Speed the last few years. After a strong next-gen launch with Most Wanted, the quality of the series' subsequent games--Carbon, then ProStreet, then last year's middling Undercover--has been steadily on the wane. Rather than go back to the drawing board and retool the series with a single new game, EA has taken a spitball approach to revitalizing Need for Speed, throwing all kinds of ideas at the wall to see what sticks. Those ideas include a hardcore racing simulation, an over-the-top Wii action racer, and an online, free-to-play racer to be released only in Asia. (We're scratching our heads a bit on all this, too.)

SHIFT, the sim, is the first of the new Need for Speeds EA is ready to show to the press. The game is in development at UK-based Slightly Mad Studios, a company made up partially of former employees from SimBin, the studio behind the popular and extremely hardcore simulation-style GT Legends series. Slightly Mad is bringing its experience in that subset of the racing genre over to SHIFT, which has a lot more in common with the Forzas and Gran Turismos of the world than it does with games like Most Wanted.

I'll be honest: I'm not much of a racing sim guy. Burnout is about as serious as I get with my driving games, so I can't tell you too much about the torque or handling of individual cars here. But I can at least say SHIFT made a reasonably approachable first impression, all things considered. Sitting down and grabbing an Xbox 360 controller to play a PC build of the game, I was able to follow the game's racing line and make my way around a fictionalized London course without wrecking my expensive racing car too many times.

Lots of attention is being paid to in-car visual effects.
That guide line certainly takes its cues from Forza, dynamically changing color based on how you're driving to let you know whether you should be accelerating or braking at any given time to handle the next turn. But while Forza only had three colors--green, yellow, and red--SHIFT adds in blue. See, innovation! Blue lets you know that you have room to accelerate; green means you're doing OK; yellow and red are various degrees of "Hey, you should think about braking now."

SHIFT certainly looked quite nice (though EA wouldn't disclose the specs and resolution of the PC running the game). They used a developer toggle to cycle through different times of day, switching from noontime to dusk to evening in a matter of seconds, casting the scenery in a really attractive range of lighting. The sense of speed is one area the team is focusing on in an effort to set SHIFT apart from Forza and Gran Turismo, going as far as to coin the phrase "driver experience" as an inevitable marketing point. Creating that experience entails little visual elements like mounting the in-car camera to the driver's head, rather than the roof of the car, so you get camera movement independent of the car frame's jitter and jostling. Other touches include a blurring around the edges of the screen to increase the sense of speed, and blurring and desaturating the screen when you hit a wall too hard, to simulate the concussive effect a driver experiences when his head gets knocked sharply around.

More, less-serious NFS coming soon!
No info on the game's career format yet; EA isn't ready to talk specifics in that department, though it did say there will be 40 to 60 licensed cars in the final version. Presumably, the career mode will tie into that "driver experience" business that makes for such catchy marketing copy.

Of course, I couldn't sit in on a Need for Speed demo without asking when we'll see another Most Wanted-style game, especially given the recent rumors of a secret fourth NFS game being in development. "You haven't seen the last [Need for Speed] action game on consoles," said the series' PR rep, adding that there are certainly other games in the series being worked on in some capacity right now. But one thing EA will confirm: you won't see any more new, unannounced Need for Speed games in 2009.

Since I'm not the biggest fan of this genre, I put the question to you racing sim fans: Is there room for SHIFT in your life, or are you too hung up on waiting for Gran Turismo 5 and/or whatever Turn 10 ends up doing next?

Staff
Posted by LiveOrDie1212

*yawn*

Posted by LiveOrDie1212

*yawn*

Posted by SuperMooseman

Ho hum, I dunno. I prefer my NFS to be Most Wanted, not racing sims. Depends how good SHIFT turns out to be.

Posted by Vanquish

I will continue playing Forza 2 along with pgr4 until Dirt 2 hits. The bumper car sim known as gt5 will never come out. And I have a feeling that a NFS game wont win me over like most wanted did.

Posted by Rio

Looks like something I might be interested in.  NFS has done shit for me for a quite a while now, but its hard to say no if it turns out to be a quality sim.

Posted by Oriental_Jams

I will continue to say meh.

Posted by lordofultima

This looks pretty dope. Need for Speed has been a joke for many years, maybe this will finally get me interested in it again.

Edited by Hexogen

I enjoy getting my Forza and Gran Turismo on, but I'm not sure if I really want to play more than one of those types of games every year or two. I guess whether I get SHIFT or not really depends on the quality of the game and whether or not they announce a Forza 3 for release around the same time.

I hope it's accessible though. I enjoy playing racing sims, but I really suck at upgrading and tuning the cars. In Gran Turismo I would just slap stage 4 turbos on everything and be done with it.

Posted by FoolInjection

EA taking a page out of Codemasters book... so now we have.


DIRT,
GRID,
FUEL and now.....
SHIFT.
Posted by FuzzYLemoN

So I guess this means the "speed" part of Need For Speed no longer applies.
Still, looks impressive...

Posted by Death_Burnout

Oh so it IS a propper hardcore sim afterall, well, lame.

I like my first person driving views, but i don't like the Racing Sim's. I too like my Arcade Racer's, Burnout (obviously)  Flatout, MotorStorm. They all float my boat!

Posted by F1

I'll stick to GT5 and Forza in terms of sims. If I want to play an arcade racer, Burnout is always there for me.

Edited by Hexogen
FoolInjection said:
"EA taking a page out of Codemasters book... so now we have.

DIRT,
GRID,
FUEL and now.....
SHIFT.
"
Well SHIFT has five letters, so it doesn't count.
Posted by FoolInjection

Still in full caps though... and eventually Codemasters is going to run out of 4 letter words they can use to name racing franchises.  I mean they can't use RACE as there is already a PC game called that.

Posted by Double0hFor

i lost my need for speed after i was the most wanted.....................................i mean nfs is a dead series after most wanted

Posted by Aaron_G

I bet it will suck. 

Posted by NateDogg

But isn't Forza 3 coming out soon....? 

Posted by QuattroRS6

I'm looking forward to Turn Ten's next project and Codemasters Formula One game.  Though this is interesting for the NFS series branch it out into different games expand the franchise as long as they get the quality back and i would hope they make at least one Most Wanted style of game.

Posted by dvorak

With only 40-60 cars. No there is no room at all.

Posted by Mawryk

How about they just do an arcade racer without horrible frame-rate issues and some decent length to the main race storyline? 

I have no interest in sim racers, yet love a good arcade racer.  Burnout FTW

Posted by Kohe321

This could be cool, but I'm most interested in the next Forza.

Edited by ZeroCast

@ NateDogg:

I really hope so dude, if there is anything that needs to be added to the information that we already have about the game, then it might as well be some screenshots or by far videos, but until that happens, I'm looking forward E3 and what it has in store for the next Forza.
(or even PGR)

Posted by Scooter

Being a long time GTR series/simbin junky, this looks like it can live it up high if EA doesn't pull a "Nascar Sim Racing".

Posted by Khann

This game won't be enough of a sim to appeal to sim racers (Even though it has some of the team that worked on one of the greatest sim games made - GT Legends), and it won't be arcadey enough for the arcadey crowd. I see it hitting in the middle somewhere along the lines of GRID/GT5.

Posted by super_machine

NFS porche unleashed is still my favorite NFS.

Posted by tekmojo

Need for Speed: SHIT

Posted by Media_Master

I'll wait and see

Posted by Dirty_Harry

GRID?

Posted by removesstains

When was the last time a NFS game was any good?

Posted by ObsideonDarman

I am just waiting on GRID 2

Posted by DuhQbnSiLo

looks like GRiD

Posted by robbob88

Oh, what a surprise! The Wii gets the extremely over the top shit version of the game. Ugh.

Posted by ThrustMuscle

Holy FAWK im so stoked for this game i need a solid racing game. Been playing dirt straight time. Shift is EXACTLY what i needed.

Posted by Johnny5

I definately seems to be going for the best of both worlds like forza or GRID by making it a simulation yet a much easier more appealing style.

Like GTR2 and RFactor are fun but sometimes being too serious kills my enthusiasm.

Posted by ferrarimanf355

The haters can drink their haterade. This game looks great, and it's nice to see the rice removed from NFS. Now all I need is for Ferrari to be back.

  

Posted by selbie

Why can't Wii get the "hardcore" version, just with less graphics. They should add future support of the Motion Plus. At least then the Wii will have a decent racing game.
As for PC. I'm still satisfied with GTR2 etc. Even though the guys from simbin are on this new one, I don't think it will have the same outcome. Please prove me wrong this time!

Posted by GHT

I enjoy Gran Turismo and Forza, though I'm not hardcore about it, and I just don't see a reason why I would buy a Need For Speed: Me Too! game with those franchises around.

It would have to bring something new to the table.

Posted by Predasus

anyone remember need for speed porsche unleashed?  if this is ANYTHING like that ... i'm totally in

Posted by VWGTI

Ugh, we don't need anymore racing sims.

Posted by TripMasterMunky

Sim racers are the only racers that get my interest nowadays, so I'm interested in how this project turns out.

Edited by eTheBlack

When it will be NFS Underground 3?
NFSU2 was the BEST!
After that it was all lame

Posted by oobs

pass on this one

Posted by Psynapse

Sounds good to me, i kinda like this idea from EA, i really hope they pull it off!

Posted by JCGamer

I'm with Brad--I don't like racing sims.  In games like Gran Turismo and Forza, I feel like I'm fighting the car/controls the entire time.  Give me something like Burnout!!!

Posted by Jonny5

Hmmm... I would rather play some more MW, but I will be interested in seeing how this turns out.

Posted by Giant_Squid

I think if they want this game to gain any attention at all they'll have to get it out the door before Gran Turismo 5 or the next Forza hits. The name "Need for Speed" is associated with the arcade style racer not a sim.

I also feel like this is just making room for Burnout to take even more of a piece of the "arcade racer" pie.

Posted by Necrorectumonomicon

I'm a racing sim fan and I'll deffinetely try this game. There is always room for one more racing sim, it's not like there is a bunch of them out there

Posted by Libb

BRING BACK RAZOR CALLAHAN!!!!

That is all.

Posted by vinsanity09

I hate racing sims so I really don't care about this game

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