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Need for Speed: SHIFT Review

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Need for Speed: Shift does a lot of the things you'd expect a sim-style racing game to do, but it does so in a passionless way that's really off-putting.


The car models in Shift look really nice. 
"Shift" is a pretty good name for the latest game in the Need for Speed franchise. After years of floundering around in a post- Most Wanted malaise, Need for Speed: Shift strikes out in an entirely different direction, shifting the game's target audience from the everyman who just wants to nail down the accelerator and hope for the best to something that... actually requires you to use the brakes and attempt to drive the car in a realistic fashion. Instead of of fitting in with games like Burnout or Ridge Racer, Shift is an attempt to move into simulation territory, placing the game a little closer to games like Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport, or Project Gotham Racing. PGR is probably the most direct point of comparison for Shift, as this latest NFS release attempts to straddle the line between authenticity and accessibility. While it pulls that aspect off fairly well, other parts of Need for Speed: Shift don't stack up. So you're left with a game that feels like it can't make up its mind about what it wants to be, and it doesn't do any one thing especially well.

The first thing you'll do when you turn on Need for Speed: Shift is quickly race a short track. During this, the game gauges your performance and decides which level of difficulty and assistance you'll probably require to enjoy the game. After that race, it'll recommend an AI difficulty setting (easy, medium, or hard) and a handling model (casual, normal, experienced, or pro). From there, you can tweak the settings to your liking. The handling model setting governs the level of automated assistance you'll receive from the game. There are assists for steering and braking, as well as more real-world things like anti-lock brakes, traction control, and stability control. You can also decide if you want damage to impact your car's performance and, of course, you can switch to manual transmission. With everything turned on and set as casually as it gets, the game practically plays itself. The auto-brake slows you down for corners in a pretty conservative way, and all you really need to do is point the nose of your car at the game's dynamic driving line to stay on course. With everything turned off, obviously, the game gets more serious, but even when it's set as seriously as it can get, NFS doesn't quite feel like it matches up too favorably with the heavyweights of the console racing simulation world.

The cockpits look great, but the bumper cam gives you a better view of the action. 
A big part of that is due to the way the game's rewards are structured. Early on, the game makes a big deal about your driving style and presents it as precision versus aggression. On the track, this means that certain things you do will earn you precision points, while others earn aggression. Both of these end up fueling your driving level, which gives you additional cash and other bonuses as you level up. But the differences are minor. If you bump a guy while you're passing him, you get points for a "dirty overtake." If you don't bump him, you get points for a "clean overtake." The real issue is that even if you stomp around the track with no regard for your opponents and pass with as much brute force as possible, it becomes incredibly difficult to earn aggression points once you're at the front of the pack. But precision points are easier to stack, since you get those for things like sticking to the driving line and taking corners skillfully. Even in races where I spun out most of the competition on my way to the front of the pack, I'd usually end up with two or three times as many precision points by the end of a race. Plus, by rewarding players for colliding with other cars, the game doesn't really encourage you to drive with much skill.

There are also a few cases where the physics just feel off. Take, for example, my fully upgraded Nissan GT-R. For the last segment of the game, you'll be able to race in cars like this one, and with the way I can drive it, it feels like I've smuggled a very fast forklift onto the track. Whenever I rear end another vehicle in the upgraded GT-R, it pops up into the air, letting me drive right underneath it. Obviously, this has a more negative impact when damage is enabled, but it's completely ridiculous and makes the last tier of races easier than they probably should be.

The game is structured into tiers that are filled with different events, like standard races, lap time challenges, drift events, and so on. Each event lets you earn stars based on your performance, and you need more stars to unlock the higher tiers. Each of the four tiers has its own set of cars, though you can buy upgrades to keep lower-tiered cars competitive in the later races. Once you've earned 280 stars, you can take on the final set of races, the NFS Live World Tour. There isn't much to tie the different races together. Unlike previous NFS games, there's no storyline here to keep things moving, and the closest thing you get to a "character" is the British guy who comes over an in-car radio to tell you that a race is about to start before half-heartedly shouting "have fun" as you drive off. The constant reminders to have fun just made me realize that, no, I wasn't really having much fun as I moved from one race track to the next.

You'll unlock more vinyls and paint options as you level up. 
So what's missing from Need for Speed: Shift that holds it back? That's a tougher question to answer. On paper, it sounds fine. The game has plenty of cars and tracks. The graphics are solid, with great-looking car models. It has a cool online driver duel mode that lets you work your way up a ladder to earn online racing championships. The car upgrades, though not named with actual part manufacturers, come in stages to let you keep working on a low-level car, if thats your desire. Or you can save up for a supercar. You can tune the cars with either an easy set of sliders or an advanced mode that lets you get in and adjust wing angles and so on. It even has a decent cockpit view, if you're into that sort of thing. But Shift is lacking in that it doesn't really inspire any reverence for the subject matter. The cars don't feel real, and the racing doesn't feel serious. The fetishization of cars and road racing that powers other console racing simulators doesn't exist in Shift's world. The game is perfectly competent, but a lot of it feels hollow.

Looking at it from the other side doesn't paint a prettier picture. If you don't like simulator-styled racing games, and you happened to enjoy the last few Need for Speed games, there's no slider in Shift that makes it feel like those games. At best, you can make it an easy game, but gliding through all of the races without challenging yourself doesn't make the game any more enjoyable. The game feels like it's stuck between two worlds, and it doesn't execute well enough on either side to fully satisfy any type of racing fan. That said, if you're a fan of racing sims and you're looking for something to tide you over until the next big thing comes along, Shift certainly isn't a bad game. But you'd probably be better off with some older, more serious racing sims. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
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Edited by JJOR64

I thought the game looked solid after watching the Quick Look.  Maybe I should check out Dirt 2 instead.

Posted by Delta_Ass

If this is the best NFS game ever, I'd hate to see what Jeff thinks of Most Wanted.

Posted by Csaint

After watching GT's review, I was actually excited about this game...Now I'm just confused.

Posted by Kycon90

I hate NFS, all of them, it's a third class racing game that all those non video game educated people buy.
 
 I'm still befuddled as to why, it's like every year there's very little news or coverage about the game and then a few weeks before release they start running ads for it and everyone and their grandma picks it up because it says NFS on it.
 
Bottom line, never buy NFS. My brother is one of these people, don't be like him. Every year when I notice he picked up the new NFS game, I always laugh my ass off, and say why??? And his response is always, "Dude, it's need for speed".

Posted by EgoCheck616

Glad I got DiRT 2 instead.

Posted by skunk

Dirt 2 is gonna be tits, still waiting for PC version with DX11. Still wanna check this out though since some of the staff that worked on GTR worked on this.

Posted by PapaLazarou

I just don't see what the game is meant to be. It does nothing amazingly well and everything it does has been done before and better. Just feels like this rather average racing game with good graphics.

Posted by JoshS

Anyone interested in buying this game shouldn't be discouraged by this review. Unless this speaks to you, "  If you don't like simulator-styled racing games, and you happened to enjoy the last few Need for Speed games, there's no slider in Shift that makes it feel like those games."  We know that Jeff and most of the guys here at Giantbomb don't like sim racing as much as arcade racing. It is just the nature of the review, which is not a problem, just a difference. It's a good sim racing game.

Posted by TyphoonSwell

Whoa, nice review! 
 
I appreciate you, Jeff. As a person. And I mean that! No weird "internet" sarcasm crazy stuff.
 
Keep it up.

Edited by Kontrapunkt

  ....the British guy who comes over an in-car radio to tell you that a race is about to start before half-heartedly shouting "have fun" as you drive off. The constant reminders to have fun just made me realize that, no, I wasn't really having much fun....  
 
Dang.

Posted by Venatio

So umm....where is a Dirt 2 review?

Posted by ascholzk
@Csaint: you should rent it to try it out, then see if you like it
Posted by buzz_killington

Huh... the first low score for the game. I'm still holding out, maybe until they put out a demo.

Posted by Hamst3r
@Delta_Ass said:
" If this is the best NFS game ever, I'd hate to see what Jeff thinks of Most Wanted. "

If I recall correctly, Jeff liked Most Wanted. It has Razor Callahan in it.
Edited by KnifeySpoony

Nice to see that my thoughts on the game weren't outlandish. It definitely looked like another Grid or PGR game, but minus something unique of it's own. That said, Forza 3 is in just over a month, hopefully you'll review that one as well Jeff.
 
Have Drew review Dirt 2 or something crazy like that, since he played in the quick look.

Posted by RHCPfan24

Well Jeff you certainly have some valid points there. Nonetheless, I still want to play this game and I find it somewhat exciting. I am sure your points are fine and I haven't played it yet so I don't know but I still think it looks cool from all I've seen.

Posted by Delta_Ass
@Hamst3r said:
" @Delta_Ass said:
" If this is the best NFS game ever, I'd hate to see what Jeff thinks of Most Wanted. "

If I recall correctly, Jeff liked Most Wanted. It has Razor Callahan in it. "
Mia Townsend was way hotter then Razor Callahan.
Posted by Rotnac
@buzz_killington said:
"

Huh... the first low score for the game. I'm still holding out, maybe until they put out a demo.

"
i wouldnt call 3/5 low. its an average fair score and review that honestly brings up both the pros and cons to the game. 
 
from reading the review and quicklook i would have to agree with this review. ill wait for forza 3. 
Posted by LosDub

can always catch live NFS shift streams on JustinTV 
 to help ya decide
Posted by Kinarion

Neither review really answered my  main question: is there any reason I should buy this instead of Forza 2 for a quarter the price?

Posted by nail1080
@Delta_Ass said:

" If this is the best NFS game ever, I'd hate to see what Jeff thinks of Most Wanted. "

He wrote a review of that game way back in some shit website which I forget the name of... :p
 
However he did like it alot, give it a solid 8/10 or so
 
 
Posted by handlas

meh.  Review that says the game seems solid and can't really point out what is wrong.  I'll have to side with the good reviews then and probably pick this up.  It was this or Dirt 2 and Dirt 2, the whole aesthetic of that game, I think would get on my nerves quickly.

Posted by Death_Burnout

i'll say the quick look at least looked very passionless.

Posted by LosDub
@Kinarion:

actually if ur deciding between this and FM2 may aswell wait lil over a month for when Forza 3 is released on Oct 27th 
 
FM3 demo this 24th also
Posted by manathirst

I'll think I'll buy it when it goes on sale.

Posted by Packfan104L4

If you like sim racing, you'll like this game.  I never was really a fan of sim racing games before, and I started out today with all the assists on.  Once you realize how much of a crutch it puts you on, I started turning them off, and thats when the fun began.  Shift is NOT a push the accelerator and go type of game, as many of the opponents that drill the wall in front of me online know now  :p  If you take the time to understand the abilities of each car and find people online that know the same thing, aggression and skill both take over to create a very immersive experience.
 
Just screw the load times, dang!

Edited by TheHBK

Guys I think he is saying it is an ok game, but that there are lots of better games out there that can be had.  He says it right there and why exactly its not as good as it could be.  Forza 2 is out there and with Forza 3 coming soon and Dirt 2 out there, it is not really that hard to see this game is the ugly duckling of racing games coming out soon. 
Also, I see this old review of NFS MW, and makes me think... 
I WANT ROAD RASH!!!!!
Posted by Branthog

This sounds like it goes on the "when you've finished all the other games in this genre and can buy it used for $30 or less" list.
 
Also, can we get over the car customization with "vinyls and graphics" already? It's a god damned car. It's not a fucking high school locker or grade school kid's Trapper Keeper. There is nothing I hate more than playing a game where I can't just get a plain car that is.. you know... PAINTED.. you know.. A COLOR... like.. you know... A CAR... instead, they all have to come with thousands of stupid "stickers" to plaster on your car so you can look like a major douche bag.
 
Oh well, my copy of Dirt 2 just arrived, so really no point to even consider Shift for a few weeks.

Posted by Starsimon

Wow 3/5. That's pretty low. In all fairness though I haven't played the game.

I wonder if Jeff has thought enough about the kind of people who might buy the game (i.e. casual gamers). This is the kind of game that my Dad might buy. He can't play shooters but he likes playing some racing car games (in particular PGR 3 AND 4).

Posted by hilld

This middling review disappoints me. I'd been looking forward to Shift due to the pedigree of the developer. Now it seems that it's more GRID than PGR2. 
 
At best it'll be a great arcade style sim racer. 
 
At worst, it'll be a nice deviation until Forza 3 / GT5.

Posted by Count_Zero

A bit of a question. The last time Need for Speed went simmy was in ProStreet, which I tried, and generally liked, except for how it handled recovery from damage (I went into this a little more in-depth on my blog). What I'm wondering is how this game handles repairing damage, and can you run into a simulation where you total your best car and end up grinding races to pay for the repair of the other car. Or, to put it another way, is it (in theory) to possible to have a "Game Over, Start The Game Over From The Beginning" scenario here?

Posted by ferrarimanf355

I'm going to pass on this, wait for Forza 3, and then get this when it's at $30 or something.

Edited by Seppli

Why Jeff shouldn't be the guy to review this game.
 

  • Jeff didn't play the game in the cockpit view (apparently).  Which NFS : Shift does better than any other racer yet. Obviously, it ain't just decent, like he says.
  • Jeff doesn't like any sim-racers (other than Forza 2). With being responsible to finetune the game to ones personal needs, if there isn't a need there, how can Jeff set up the game to be fun to him? He cannot.
  • Jeff doesn't get the point of the driver profiles. It ain't about leveling up to 50 in an aggressive or precise way. It's about what profile you end up with, once you hit level 50. It's most important for online matchmaking. Ruffians play against Ruffians and so forth. If you are an aggressive player, who drives unsportsman-like, then your driver profile will reflect that. It ain't about deliberatly leveling up, it's about naturally leveling up.
 
Obviously, Jeff ain't the right guy to review the game, unless you yourself aren't into sim-racers and you want to hear, why Need for Speed : Shift isn't for you. Obviously. That's why reviewers usually stick to their favorit genres, since they shouldn't be reviewing a game for those who wouldn't buy it, no matter the quality, since it ain't their genre. Reviewers should provide a review for those, who are about to buy it. The genre fans. To tip them in one or the other direction. These kind of people want to hear about the main selling points. Stuff like the cockpit perspective, the car handling and the driving physics. None of which is provided with this review.
 
Jeff's review is written from the perspective of a guy, who didn't want to get into the game in the first place. Which is the main requirement to do a representative review. I believe Drew might have been better suited for this one. Time to let him at it already. Jeff is as always too honest to his own opinion, which isn't the opinion of a sim-racing afficionado, but the opinon of a Razor Callahan fan, which makes Jeff the wrong person to write this review.
 
But hell, that's why we are all here. For Jeff's, Ryan's, Vinny's, Brad's and the whole rest of gangs opinions. Since we know them quite well from the podcasts and whatnot, we know who they are and what they're about. Jeff isn't about Need for Speed : Shift. A game, which I personally adore. That doesn't make Jeff a bad person or a bad reviewer. He's just not the right reviewer for this game by my standards.
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Posted by Mechanized

Passionless? I bet the guys who made the game would disagree with you on that one. I have to say I'm not feeling this review at all, I just think it's not your kind of game. Every other site is giving this game high 8s and 9s. I think it has just enough depth for someone like me, and balances the line between casual and sim just the right amount. I owned Forza 2 and got about 20% through it because it was so dull, last GT game I enjoyed was GT2.  I think this review had some valid points, but every other negative comment sounded like nitpicking for the sake of it. Also the cockpit view is one of the main selling points of the game, just from looking at the caption of that picture I knew you didn't "get it". Oh well, I'm still gonna play it and enjoy it. 

Posted by DukesT3

I would rent it to see if I like it, but blockbuster here in houston is charging almost 9 fucking dollars to rent a game. I really wish they would do like 2 bucks a day or something. 

Posted by tmlim

Great review as always.  This does not feel like Need for Speed, and I will not be buying this or future installments if they continue on this path.

Posted by Steve_Ramirez

I want to see a drew review...

Posted by Octaslash

I've been enjoying it so far.   
 
It has by far, the best cockpit view in a racing game. Every mirror and gauge is clearly visible and it's all very detailed.

Posted by Milkman

This is once again another good reason why there shouldn't be comments on reviews. It's just going to be filled with people just looking at the stars and saying  "Low score? Bad review." Which doesn't do anyone any good.

Posted by hilld
@freshym said:
" Passionless? I bet the guys who made the game would disagree with you on that one. "  
Agreed on that one. The game is made by one of the single best racing dev teams in the world. I cant understand how they've gone from making GTR2 to making a middle of the road game, when they've been given a much bigger budget, and a decent amount of time.
Posted by IronScimitar

I'll give it a shot.

Posted by FrankCanada97

Drew should've reviewed this, no offense to Jeff, but NFS Shift is a niche game. Only, people who understands motorsports and serious racing would take a look at this game in the first place.

Posted by PentaCube
@FrankCanada97 said:
" Drew should've reviewed this, no offense to Jeff, but NFS Shift is a niche game. Only, people who understands motorsports and serious racing would take a look at this game in the first place. "
have to agree here, good review though.  Just not from the perspective that reflects my personal tastes.
Posted by BawlZINmotion

Maybe this is a step in the right direction for the franchise and EA? Afterall, they don't have a simulator and Burnout has made quite the name for itself in the arcade racer sub-genre. Regardless, I hope the mistakes are correct and missing idea implemented for a future installment.

Posted by HeroicDrinkingSong

Having not owned a NFS game since the less than stellar Carbon I have to grudgingly admit some love for SHIFT.  I've never liked sim style racers but this game comes close enough to sim without going to far over the edge to be enjoyable, and it's challenging without making me grind my teeth.  I just cant enjoy the "underground" style games anymore.  They've gotten ridiculous to the point of insanity, and the drivings a joke.

Posted by Stang
@FrankCanada97 said:
" Drew should've reviewed this, no offense to Jeff, but NFS Shift is a niche game. Only, people who understands motorsports and serious racing would take a look at this game in the first place. "
Agreed.
Posted by ep_driver

I haven't played the game, but my thoughts leading up to its release were pretty much exactly what your last paragraph of the review says. Not sure if it wants to be an arcade racer, or a sim, it fails. As soon as I saw the whole agression vs. precision thing I was turned off. That right there is the most prime example of NFS: Shift not being sure what kind of game it wants to be. I'm waiting for Forza 3.
Posted by ep_driver
@Kinarion said:
"Neither review really answered my  main question: is there any reason I should buy this instead of Forza 2 for a quarter the price? "

Forza 2 for sure. Even if F2 was still $60 I'd buy it instead of NFS: Shift. F2 is just a lot more authentic.
Posted by JoelTGM

pretty much what I expected.  It doesn't push any limits when it comes to simulation racing or arcade racing... it's just in the middle, like the rating jeff gave it.  it's probably fun to play and all, but it doesn't really need to exist at all, one day EA realized simulation racing is big, so they decided to put their own title into the mix.

Posted by troyx

i respectfully disagree the game is fantastic check out GT's review or ign's
jeff does not like racing games to began with

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