The best Racing Game of this Generation
So I got Need For Speed: Shift as a Christmas gift this past holiday, and after getting hooked for a good week or so, I picked up Assassins Creed II and never went back until this past week. I picked up a new 250gb Hard drive for my 360, and proceeded to install all of my games (except Halo 3, of course) and the last game in my stack was this lonely copy of Need For Speed Shift that hadn’t been opened for months. After installing I proceed to boot it up, and remember how much fun I had with this game. I will say it here right now, Need For Speed Shift is one of the best racing games of this generation.
The Driving Experience
Now keep in mind I said racing games, not driving games. So I don’t really take Forza and Gran Tourismo into consideration. I consider them to be more about the experience of driving rather then actually racing. Sure there’s racing to be found in simulation type games, but it really doesn’t get your heart pounding like other racing games do. So with those games crossed off the list of “Best racing games of this generation” narrows to 2 games, for me anyway. Shift, and Burnout Paradise. Now I’ve driven around Paradise City for over 150 hours, found every gate, every billboard, and every god forsaken super jump. When the island came out I did it again, found every single, stupid glowing gate. What I loved about Burnout was just the crazy out of control feel the cars always had. It always felt like I was in control, and out of control at the same time. The slightest touch of the break would send your car spinning into a drift, and at 200 mph, it can be a blast dodging traffic. What Shift manages to do is nail that feel, and then add to it. Barreling down a straightaway at 180mph chasing down a car never felt better. You can feel the wind just rushing over the car, and the slightest error can screw you over completely. Make the slightest of a turn, and you co spinning into a pile of tires, or a guardrail and into oncoming traffic. As the trees, and buildings go rushing by it almost feels like you’re a real racer, especially in cockpit view. Shift has the best cockpit view experience in any racing game, period. It is stunning how immersed you feel in the driver’s seat, you feel like your car actually has some weight to it. Your HUD bobs up and down over bumps, the gages blur out when you’re going super-fast just staring through the windshield. One my favorite parts is how your windshield becomes so cracked, it sometimes even becomes hard to see, encouraging you not to play too rough. It’s all of these small effects that makes you feel like you’re in the cockpit of a real supercar. The engine roars, tires squeal, nitrous blasts you ahead, the sound design also helps to nail that “I’m going really fast, and I’m terrified at the same time” feeling.
Depth of Field
Have I mentioned how much depth Shift has? There are hundreds of different races, all with stars to collect. Each even has either 3 or 6 stars, some of which seem impossible to get even for a racing game veteran like myself. 3 of the stars will always be podium stars (3 Stars for 1st, 2 for 2nd, and 1 for 3rd obviously) 2 more will be point specific goals, in which you have do stuff during the race to get points. Stuff like drifting, drafting, tapping out opponents, following the racing line etc. gets you points. Points are funneled into 2 categories, Aggression, and Precision. It’s almost impossible to get more aggression points than precision, unless you’re simply a terrible driver you’ll rack up tons of precision points. This is kind of a bummer I guess, as it would have been nice to see people rewarded more for driving aggressively, as it is a racing game after all. The last star in most evens tends to change depending on the course. Some might involve spinning out opponents, others might ask you to drift for 4 seconds, and so on. The 6th star is mostly skill based, to see if you can take your car, and apply it to the best of your abilities. The 6th star is always the one that has be me hitting the start button, and scrolling down to the restart button. I don’t want to finish a race without that 6th star, it’s an OCD thing in me I guess. Shift consists of 5 different tiers of races with increasing difficulty as you go up the ranks all the way to the NFS World
Championship. Each tier has a plethora of different events to complete from your standard time challenges, and races to special Europe vs Japan series’. Something that I also really appreciate in Shift is the variety of tracks, and cars. Each track feels different from the last, and each has its own spots where races can get crazy. This is especially true on some of the European tracks where long straight-aways are plentiful. Along with the tracks, each of the few cars in the game feels different and unique compared to the next. Even the slightest adjustment to the tuning of the car (Whether in Basic, or advanced tuning mode) impacts how the car performs, and you can really tell a difference between a stock car, and a tuned and modified car. My only issue with the cars is the small number of them. There’s really not that many cars to be found in Shift, which is a shame because as I said, each feels special, and unique when behind the wheel.
So why is Shift the best racing game of this generation? It’s all about the driving experience. The sense of speed in Need For Speed Shift, is unheard of as you fly down the straightaway. Need For Speed Shift takes everything that makes racing games fun and brings them into the next generation, and adds a fun new cockpit experience along the way. Shift is a gem that I whole heartily recommend to any racing fan.