Dogstar060763's forum posts

#1 Posted by Dogstar060763 (11 posts) -

Shift 2: Unleashed - What's In A Name

 
Formats
: PC (reviewed) / PS3 / 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Released: April 2011
 

Electronic Arts' latest entry in the Need For Speed franchise, Shift 2: Unleashed, is caught between a rock and hard place - and the stresses and strains are starting to become obvious. Seasoned racing simmers might come to this title hoping that Slighty Mad Studios, the developer, has made good on it's promises of a 'serious' racing simulator, but - really - the clue is in the NFS prefix. This is a game straining to break free of it's parentage and become its own entity. The NFS stylings, such as they are, really do start to feel surplus to requirements in a game that seems poised on the edge of true 'sim-dom'.


Shift 2 straddles an uneasy line between being a semi-serious racing simulator and an all-out arcade racer. It manages to do this with considerable style - every race is a brutal, nervy jostle to the finish line, battling against wayward physics and suicidal AI, all wrapped up in a very pleasing visual confection of trackside detail, light and shadow and some very impressive car models. The excitable game play first exhibited in the original Shift is once again here in full force, managing that rare feat of bringing a palpable sense of delightful dread to  each and every race as the player negotiates unpredictable AI and some very demanding handling.

Of course, it was that handling that sparked so much criticism of the first title in the Shift franchise and this sequel will do little to silence such mutterings. Shift 2, like it's predecessor, can be a touch hyperactive. Cars bounce and sway, their physics often unwieldy and highly unpredictable; the celebrated (and in this release much hyped) in-cockpit views (especially the 'helmet cam') can be disorienting and feature graphical flourishes such as colour drain on impact and motion blur when hitting those high speeds. This kind of thing, along with self-indulgent track side details (hot air balloons, planes, tents and fairground rides, etc) and a fairly risible and godawful 'rawk' soundtrack, doesn't appear to go down well with the 'serious' racing sim crowd. Complaints have already begun - as have the modifications, removing such unpleasantness. All a bit too...well, 'NFS', to be frank.


Other annoyances creep in under the NFS stylings, too. The game is peppered with intrusive voice-overs from 'pro-racing drivers' (none of whom I'd ever heard of) which eventually become so grating one is forced through sheer exasperation to turn them off (thankfully) in the options menu. Introductory movies seem also to intrude upon every possible event and cannot be skipped on first play. Of course this being a NFS game, the language used in such videos is excruciating - aimed, one assumes, at a 14 year-old boy who might enjoy the 'duder' idiocy of it all. Marketing bods at EA don't seem to realise this franchise - Shift - doesn't find it's true market or longevity amongst fickle, unserious teenagers. Shift 2 might have been forced against its will to wear the 'NFS' moniker, but it finds its biggest - and most loyal -  fans amongst an older demographic, simmers eager to put their highly-spec'd PC racing rigs and expensive controllers to the test yet again - and the same people who will stick with and modify this game to within an inch of it's life over the next couple of years. Head over to the likes of NoGrip or RaceDepartment to see what I mean. These guys are serious.


Still, Shift 2 brings a lot of content to the table - and while many of the same tracks that featured in the first game reappear, here they have been re-lit and joined by a host of newcomers, all of them a joy to speed around whilst shaving seconds off lap times and earning the game's currency 'XP' to unlock new modes, cars and upgrades. Night racing (on all tracks) makes its début in the Shift series and provides some seat-of-the-pants moments whilst managing to look highly impressive. There are 150-odd cars in Shift 2, each of them beautifully modelled; often just poring over them in Garage or Photo Mode is a simple voyeuristic pleasure in itself for devoted car fans, especially if the model in question has been converted to a 'Works' edition; these cars looks mean, powerful and sexy and all kudos goes to the talented 3D designers who've faithfully recreated these beasts. EA's determinedly 'social networking' app, Autolog, first seen in Hot Pursuit, also makes an appearance here. Personally, I care little for this kind of thing, but if you really must let your friends know every time you shave a few seconds of their lap times (and vice-versa)...well, you might see the point. Autolog is also the designated method for posting photos and saved replays. It's possible also to upload replays to YouTube, but - bafflingly - only in 10-second snippets. Doh.

At the time of writing, soon after release, Shift 2 feels a little buggy. Apart from the aforementioned 'lag' issues with some controllers (although I personally found no such issues using a 360 controller, albeit with no visual concessions, annoyingly, to the gamepad in the PC interface), there are some graphical twitches and glitches still to be ironed out by way of patch, as well as a few other minor game play issues to be addressed, most particularly in MP, where due to the lack of options to boot or penalise idiotic players too many races can be ruined too easily. One can only hope that SMS stay as good as their initial word and continue to support this game through it's early months on release.


Shift 2 remains a solid and hugely enjoyable racer, despite these few niggles. SMS have demonstrated an accomplished approach to putting some raw excitement into a genre that can all too often feel somewhat staid and dry. It won't be to everyone's taste; Forza and GT purists may baulk at the game's rollicking nature, it's nervy sense of rough and tumble, while traditional NFS fans would be better off looking elsewhere for their fix of point-to-point 'street' racing and car chases. For the rest of us, this is a magnificent package well worth getting to grips with on your platform of choice.  
#2 Posted by Dogstar060763 (11 posts) -

At moment I'm not sure what I'll do with regards to the subscription. I am disappointed that it has to come to this, but I understand completely the guys at GB have to make a buck to stay in business and I can't deny I've enjoyed downloading all those free podcasts and watching all those videos for  free for the past few years. Hmmm.
 
This is only tricky because $50 (about £32 of my English Pounds) does seem a bit steep for...well, what, exactly? Hard to say, apart from a T-shirt and HD videos I'll never download.
 
I love the site, I love the guys - I genuinely enjoy their banter and their sense of humour and I have great respect for their views on videogaming and the industry in general.  The recent PAX video podcast was a genuine high-point and an example of what these guys do so well.
 
Think I'll just wait around and see how this all pans out. If the 'added value' really does seem to be there for subscribers I can see I'd be happy to pay. But not as things stand. Not yet.

#3 Edited by Dogstar060763 (11 posts) -

Frankly, I can't wait for the no-holds-barred book of the 'making-of' of DNF. If anyone ever writes it, that is. Come on, games journalists; you should be fighting over each other to get the gig: this will p*ss all over the last, best videogame show-and-tell, 'Masters of Doom'. 
 
Ryan, Jeff and gang: make it so. Please.

#4 Posted by Dogstar060763 (11 posts) -
@Al3xand3r said:

" They don't put this there just for the hell of it, they're obligated to:

"
 
That's very interesting to know. This is a real mystery. I know Activision have published iD games in the past and are listed here:
 
http://www.idsoftware.com/business/friends/
 
But Infinity ward are not listed by iD as a licensee of their game engine.
 
Hmmm.
#5 Posted by Dogstar060763 (11 posts) -
@atomic_dumpling said:
Dead Space on the other hand is a cross between Aliens vs. Predator 2, Doom 3 and Resident Evil and mad brutal, visceral and all about jump scares and revolting imagery. "

Well, nice to see someone making the accurate comparison with Doom3. Funny how so many reviewers went out their way at the time of Dead Space's release not to mention Doom3 at all. It was painfully obvious. Even funnier when you actually play Dead Space and realise it's essentially a next-gen remake of Doom3 (monster closets and all) - the irony wasn't lost on Redwood Shores, of course, who developed Dead Space: one of the written messages you collect in the game is from a certain 'Doctor Carmack'. I chuckled and quietly tipped my hat to the devs for slyly signposting a major influence on their own fantastic game.
#6 Posted by Dogstar060763 (11 posts) -
@Al3xand3r: Hmmm. I've heard it claimed before that Modern Warfare uses some vague version of idTech, but my research turned up a big fat 'no' - all I could establish was that the engine used was a proprietary engine developed in-house.
 
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_of_Duty_4:_Modern_Warfare#Game_engine 
 
Nothing to do with idTech at all, it seems.
#7 Posted by Dogstar060763 (11 posts) -
@oldschool:  Yep, I'm a frequent visitor to the 'Game Over' screen in FE: Path of Radiance, myself! : ) But it's such a reassuringly solid and old-fashioned turn-based RPG I just keep going back for more. I consider the game a real gem - beautifully presented and actually very detailed in terms of gameplay. This was a game I'd had my eye on for ages, so when I finally bought my Wii it had to be one of the first titles to grace my new console. It's going to be fun picking up various titles for the system - every time I read through Wii game review lists I keep noticing more titles I know I'd like to add to my fledgling collection! Must be careful, though - this is an expensive time of the year, so I'll hold off any more purchses until Xmas and New Year are well and truly out of the way.
#8 Posted by Dogstar060763 (11 posts) -

Brink definitely uses an iteration of idTech4 (which started life as the Doom3 engine). I'm a big, big fan of this game engine, tbh, and Doom3 in particular still remains one of my all-time favourites both for gameplay and for the beautiful visuals. A contemporary of Source and Unreal3, idtech4 offered dynamic light and shadows and some advanced normal-mapping techniques over it's competitors at the time (circa 2004). In the end, idtech4 lost out to both - Unreal3 has gone on to take the dominant place amongst third-party licensees, while Source has subsequently included most of idTech4's features such as dynamic lights/shadows.
 
From what I've seen of Brink (not much, but I've seen most of the released videos to date) Splash Damage don't appear to have implemented what is possibly the engine's most celebrated assets - I can't see evidence of dynamic shadowing in any of the videos. A real shame and does make me wonder why - apart from their own experience with the game engine (numerous games developed for and published by id) - they decided to go with the same tech yet again. Splash Damage do have an inside track to id - and presumably Carmack himself - so I can only conclude they weighed up the options involved in switching out to a different game engine and decided to stick with what they know.
 
So it is idTech4, but not really as we've known it to date.

#9 Edited by Dogstar060763 (11 posts) -

I just got myself a Wii (Black Edition) and I'm from the UK (London). I have also have a 360. Why did I buy a Wii? I just liked the look of some of the more mature games on the system, so I've already got RE: The Darkside Chronicles, RE: Umbrella Chronicles, Dead Space Extraction and a nice old skool turn-based game by the name of  Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. I have my eye on Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and HotD: Overkill. I appreciate the Wii is a different console with different ways of doing things - so I consider it a great partner to my 360. I'm not really interested in traditional Nintendo titles like Mario, Zelda, etc, nor am I interested in puzzle/party/sports games. I just wanted a Wii to play the kind of games I've mentioned. In the same way, I'll probably buy into PS3 eventually, too. There are a fair few titles now only available on that system that intrigue me enough to tempt me towards a purchase.
 
The Wii's success here in the UK is ubiquitous - I've got friends who have no real interest in video games as a general rule, but see the Wii as a fairly innocuous way to indulge in some relatively lightweight 'gaming' via the likes of Wii Sports Resort, etc. Not the kind of people you'd expect to buy Dead Space Extraction - because they don't - and nor do they own any other gaming platform (apart from PC for which they only buy downloadable puzzle games).
 
So I guess I'm a fairly unusual Wii owner; I came to the party late, waited for a large back catalogue to emerge and now just cherry-pick what I consider to be some of the system's more mature and accomplished 'gamer-orientated'  titles.