I'm what you might call a car guy. This is not to be mistaken for a gear-head, but I'm knowledgeable in just about every other aspect with cars thanks to my dad drilling it in to me throughout my childhood. I absolutely love cars, and so you can imagine I'm pretty in love with a good racing game as well. While I'll play just about any racing game, I like a pure arcade, or a pure sim, because the purgatory of the racing genre is an ugly, ugly place indeed. Recently both the Forza 3 and NFS SHIFT demos were put up on the xbox live marketplace, and so I quickly jumped on both of them to see how the compared. I have been interested in SHIFT ever since EA announced it, because I honestly was curious as to how a NFS game could possibly become a driving sim. I also have Forza 3 CE fully paid off on pre-order, so that should tell you how I feel about that series. I assure you that won't skew my views on SHIFT, as in reality, if both were good, I'd buy them both. Here's how they fared in my eyes:
The demo is very much NFS. The presentation and narrator/cool foreign accent dude kick it off, giving you your car options and even giving you pointers on how to attack the course you're about to race. This is all very well done, and to be honest, it kind of made me feel bad #@$. I immediately turned all assists off (because that's how I race in Forza as well) and jumped into the Viper (my favorite car of all time). Now, Forza is widely known for its realistic handling and physics, and so I had in mind that this would be relatively the same deal. It was not however, and it wasn't exactly for the better. Outside of the Viper's already horrendous handling and torque steer, the car was barely driveable. It kind of felt like I was in a constant state of hydroplaning. The handling was really jerking and squirrely (again, waaay more so above and beyond what you'd expect from a Viper) and I actually had to quit out. I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but I'm a pretty damn good driver. People are usually surprised when they find out I'm using a controller and not a wheel because I have great precision. I'm usually in the top 5% of drivers for lap times in forza, and so needless to say, not being able to drive well in SHIFT was a bit of a hit to the ego.
In any case, I backed out, and turned the settings from Pro to Expert, which turned on ABS and set the TC to low. I also moved from the Viper to the GTR for its all wheel drive, and superior handling ability just so I knew I'd be able to actually finish a race. I jumped back in to the London track, and low and behold the car was manageable. It was still squirrelly as all hell, but I could at least keep it relatively smooth through corners. The game has an odd way of dealing with low speed corners, and low-medium acceleration out of them. It's like all cars at 1/4 throttle are rocket propelled and so instantly want to do a 360. Maybe it was me, but that's what it seemed like across all the cars I drove.
The problem with SHIFT is that it's a NFS game trying to be a racing sim. It still handles and drives basically like NFSMW with a driver's license, and so it makes attacking the game as a sim very difficult indeed. I don't think I could be anything but the "aggressive" driver with SHIFT, and to be honest I don't think I could beat it with damage set to realistic, without serious stress.
On the up side, the presentation is actually nice. It's not GT5 or anything (neither is Forza 3, for that matter) but it's very much in the NFS vein. The car sounds a pretty good, although I think maybe a bit too exaggerated. After 5 starring both events and unlocking the Zonda F, driving it sounded like a jet engine being grinded up in another jet engine. In reality the car does sound like a muffled Indy car, true, but not nearly as violent as SHIFT portrays it.
Overall it seems like a decent sim. If you tune the settings to play it like you would any other NFS game I think you'll probably enjoy it WAY more than if you attempt to play it as a sim.
I played an unholy amount of Forza 2, and before my friend took my copy away from me, I was closing in on having bought every car in the game, and finish up the last few races to get all the achievement points. Needless to say I was pretty excited to get my hands on the third installment, and while mechanically it isn't a quantum leap, what the game promises in its feature set has me totally pumped.
The demo has only one track, and a handful of cars to choose from, including the ever advertised Audi R8 V10. Instinctively I hoped into the Audi first, turned off all the assists, and went to work. If you've played Forza 2, then you're going to basically be right at home in 3. The game handles very much the same (for obvious reasons). You will notice, however, that the game feels a bit floatier. This isn't the same floaty that SHIFT had, this is more of an on ice feel. This partially depends on the car you're driving, but it's also because the game handles more realistically overall. It won't take you more than one or two races to adjust to the sensation, and you'll find it more natural than Forza 2.
The AI is still massively tough, and if you want to beat a car with a higher ranking number, you'll have to really know what you're doing in the corners. Personally, I'm a bit hit or miss in the corners unless I'm super used to a car, and so my best against the hard difficulty AI was 3rd, and 2nd against the medium setting. The rewind feature is a HUGE help in a game like this, and while many purists will want to throw holy water at the thing, many of us mortals will be forever grateful for its inclusion. I may be good, but there's nothing more frustrating than butchering the very first corner in a race, or tanking one on lap 7 of 8, only to lose your position for good.
Presentation wise, Forza 3 looks beautiful. Granted, it's no GT 5, but it's no slouch either. If you're super picky (and I can be sometimes) you'll notice that the lack of proper lighting has forced the team to over saturate the color of the cars. This is a non-issue in GT5, but to be honest it's not a big deal. If anything, it plays to Forza's overall feel and character. The only gripe I really have with the graphics is the lack of enough AA. I LOVE the 60FPS, but it kind of kills me to see a jaggy grill on a car.
There are an infinite number of features not available in the demo, and if you're interested in the game you probably already know about all of them. There is no doubt in my mind that this will be a fantastic game.
So there you have it. Have any of you played the demos? What do you think of NFS' entering into the sim racing ring?
That's all for now! Have a good one,