Need For Speed Shift is back with more of the same, in this realistic racer for iPhone and iPad…
The Need for Speed brand generally shies away from realism. In recent years though, EA created the Shift sub-brand, allowing for a more realistic based racer, leaving all the cop chases and takedowns to its more arcadey cousins of Undercover and Hot Pursuit.
We’ve already had Hot Pursuit this year, and it surprised us with its intense speed and crazy cop chases. Now though, Shift is back with Shift 2: Unleashed, and it’s time for a reality check.
To be honest, at one point while playing this I had to do a double take, as it really isn’t a huge departure from the first Shift. The tracks of London, Tokyo and Chicago look the same, and it features many of the original line up of cars. There are three new locations added however – Rio, Abu Dhabi and Black Forest, which boosts the total to six. There are a few new vehicles too, such as the new Pagani Huayra, but I did expect more. Where is the Ferrari 458 Italia, or the Lamborghini Aventador?
The core gameplay is pretty much identical, requiring you to earn stars in various events, in order to unlock more events, earn cash and upgrade you car. The career mode, which is broken down in to classes A-D and S, is the meat and potatoes of the game. It includes some 50 events, spanning the different locations and offering up variety, including head-to-heads, drifting (still too hard), time trials, duals, and straight up races. Again I was hoping for something new here, but what we have is the same linear approach. I’d prefer a free approach that at least lets you tackle the events in a class in any order, instead of having to unlock them sequentially. If you are really suck at drifting, then well it’s hard cheese really.
Outside of the Career mode is single race; which lets you take any unlocked car onto any track, and quick race trials. These new quick race trials are like a mini career of sorts. It comprises of different cups, which in turn host the different types of events. Again you must earn stars to unlock newer events, but you must also earn cash to unlock better cars. Unlike the career mode where you can use any car, here you must select from just three cars per cup, with both the 2nd and 3rd out of reach in the early races. As you progress you can unlock the new cars with credits earned, which allows you to do better and earn more stars.
This being iOS, you can of course spend real cash to unlock pretty much anything in the game. It’s cheating really, but if you want to play around with the big toys then it’s the only way to go, this side of completing every level and cup with three stars. Strangely, and a little cheekily, EA have split the two modes into different pricing types. The new quick race trials use credits, while the Career mode uses cash. Both are available to purchase with real cash, including a bargain pack that offer both, but you can only use one type of currency with each.
I bought myself the Pagani, which I immediately took out in single race mode. It’s the only place you can play with the fasted cars, without having first unlocked the higher classes (only a certain class of car can enter a certain class of race). For me this is the best way to experience Shift 2, and shows that when all is said and done, the best thing about racing in any game is when you can do it with the fasted cars. Yes, the point of the game is to skillfully progress through the career mode, but like many RPG’s it can feel like a lot of grinding just to get to the good stuff. No doubt this is done on purpose to ensure players spend more cash, but for me I’d prefer to pay a little more than the games £2.99 price and then have free reign to do what I like.
The graphics have not received much of an update over the last game either. It features the same low quality background graphics that show famous landmarks in an overly stretched way as the last game. Buildings and environments don’t feature any light and shade, and you won’t see any shadows cast from the cars onto the tracks. Cars do look the part though and are rendered accurately, particularly the cockpit views (with real-time rear-view mirror), but overall it all looks a little jaggy. When compared to the much older Real Racing 2 then, which features beautifully rendered tracks and cars, it seems like a huge missed opportunity on EA’s part. Particularly when the Shift series continuingly pushes the graphical boundaries on the consoles. It’s not an ugly game by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s playing catch up with the competition… Which includes its Hot Pursuit brother.
New to Shift though is Origin. Origin is EA’s new social gaming network, and was announced at this year’s E3. Much like GameCenter, Gameloft LIVE or OpenFeint, it tracks your scores and achievements and shares them with your friends. However, while the other networks only track iOS, Origin is cross platform, and will even allow for the merging of game info between formats. So, if you are playing FIFA on iOS, then your team’s score will affect how they are doing on the PS3 version too. In Shift 2 on iOS, Origin offers up online events and cups, much like the original Real Racing. I couldn’t see if there are any links between this version of Shift 2 and the console version, but I’m assuming that if you post a lap time on the London track on an iPad, then it will compare that time with that of all the formats too (though this cannot be confirmed at this time). Oddly, Shift 2 does not feature any real-time head-to-head online multiplayer. The Origin features are lap data based only. It’s a crazy omission in my book, and will certainly put many gamers off – where online racing is the only draw for some. The game does feature local multiplayer over WiFi, utilising the same race modes available in single player as well as two new modes; precision and aggression, but the lack of online multi-player makes little sense when the game is Origin online capable.
Overall, Shift 2 is much of the same. It’s still a good racing title, and racing fans will get a buzz, particularly from the high power vehicles. Out of all the Need for Speed games we’ve had so far though, it just doesn’t quite get the four red lights when compared to Hot Pursuit. Yes, it was more linear, and less grounded in reality, but I think that when it comes to racing games on handheld devices, the more arcade-like the better they are. Especially if you are going to leave out the multiplayer.
So, for those looking for crazy racing fun, look no further than Hot Pursuit. But, for those of you who do like their racing games on the more realistic side of the road, then you still can’t beat Real Racing 2 and it’s great online multiplayer.