With two lackluster outings in two years, the need for a redesign was inevitable. So, Electronic Arts enlisted the help of Slightly Mad Studios to handle the development of this newest entry. Why is this significant, you ask? They developed the highly acclaimed PC racer, GTR. Did this shift (see what I did there?) to a new developer give this franchise a shot in the arm that was sorely needed.
In two words: Hell yes.
The first thing that went by the wayside was the Fast and Furious style gameplay. Neon lights and night time driving, running from cops and the like were scrapped in favor of actual racing, ala Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport. Real life locations and race tracks are what you’ll race on. No more open-world, fictitious cities here. Starting to notice a trend? Everything from the driving mechanics to the the physics modeling is more grounded in reality than ever before. Except for the drift competitions, everything is well done and very believable. (But more on that a little later.) All in all, this adds up to a more focused and better racing experience.
When you first start a new career, you’ll get behind the wheel and be tasked with going around a practice lap to get a feel for the controls. Drive well, you know, avoiding the wall, stay on the racing line, brake and accelerate out of turns and corners, and do an overall admirable job, you will notice that at the end most of the assists, such as ABS, traction control, etc., will be lessened or in some cases, turned off. Do poorly, and the assistance will be much greater. I found that whatever the game recommends is usually a good starting point. In either case, you can change any of the options at any time in the menu.
The racetrack is where you will spend most of your time in Shift, and luckily it plays well with only a few exceptions. As I said earlier, it plays much more like Gran Turismo, than Need for Speed’s of old. That’s not to say that it’s a hardcore racing simulation either. It strikes a good balance between sim and arcade. Following racing lines and learning the turns, and how to brake and accelerate out of them can mean the difference between first and last place. That is the simulation half of the equation. The arcade part comes in play when dealing with the actual weight and feel of the cars. It’s, again, just not as accurate as a Gran Turismo or Forza. It’s not bad, by any means, just not accurate.
Everything, and I do mean everything, you do in this game is rewarded in some fashion. On the track you either receive precision or aggressive points. Depending on how you drive you will be given one or the other. If you’re a careful, meticulous driver who follows lines, doesn’t smash into other cars when overtaking them, and the like, you’re awarded with precision points. On the opposite side of the coin, if you like to drive like a madman, smashing into vehicles, causing crashes at 100 mph, and things of that nature, you will be given aggressive driving points. After you accumulate enough points you gain driver levels, up to level 50. With each level up, you unlock new upgrades. That could be cosmetic or performance, and/or sponsorship money. But the rewards don’t stop there. You can also earn badges. They are broken up into minor and master subcategories. To get them, you have to fulfill certain requirements during the race. If you draft behind a certain number of opponents, you will get a minor badge. Earn enough of the same type of minor badge and you will then receive a master badge. Driving a certain number of miles in a Japanese made car, making consecutive appearances on the podium, and even more will net you badges. You will also get stars through the performance behind the wheel. The better you finish in a race, the more stars you get. But even more stars are available. Most races will have special requirements. Get enough driver points in a race and get stars. The list goes on and on. After enough stars are collected, you can then unlock higher tiers of competitions and, in turn, better cars.
Slightly Mad Studios absolutely nailed the audio/visual department. The best aspect of it is the cockpit view. Not only is each car individually modeled, it can be upgraded, as well. When speeding up, the view simulates the g-forces applied to your body, and the camera will shake, and move realistically. It’s extremely well done and adds a lot of intensity to the race. The visual tricks don’t stop there, however. When you’re pushing north of 150 mph, you’re physically staring at the center of the television, focusing all of your attention on the road ahead of you, the edge of your vision will start to blur and creating a tunnel vision of sorts. Not only is the driving intense, but when you crash (which you will do), your vision will black out and then become so disoriented you won’t know left from right. The screen washes to black and white and gradually returns to color. Think this isn’t that big of a deal? Play this for a while, then go back to a “regular” racer and come back to me. It’s that impressive.
Not only are the visuals great, but the sound may be even better. For the most part, I wouldn’t know the difference between what a Mercedes and a BMW engine sounds like, but what I do know is that this game sounds furious. When you’re rounding a corner at 200 mph and the tires scream and screech on the pavement, it gets the heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing. And when you trade paint with an opponent and take both of you into the nearest wall, the sound of steel on steel and windows cracking is enough to make you sweat. That’s not an exaggeration. After countless heart-pounding races I had to wipe my palms on my pants because I gripped the controller so hard.
Article from Gamersyndrome.com