Need for Speed SHIFT Review
- 07 July, 2018
- By Admin: Frederick Wilson
- Comments: 00
The Need for Speed franchise has lost plenty of drive over the past few years. After two mediocre entries in Pro Street and Undercover condemned the brand below the likes of Midnight Club and Forza, EA decided it was about time to wipe the slate clean and start anew. After setting a standard with the great Underground titles (which took advantage of the then super-popular The Fast and The Furious movie), it seemed that each new street racing title went down a notch in quality. So it’s great that we’re seeing an all-new direction for the franchise in SHIFT, easily the best Need for Speed in years.
The first thing that has to be noted is that this latest NFS isn’t your typical arcade racer. It’s actually the complete opposite. SHIFT really strives to be a new Gran Turismo, yet there are a few aspects that ultimately stop it from being just that. Yet that’s not a bad thing. Things like driver assist and other difficulty options make this title slightly more accessible for gamers not after a hardcore racing sim, and considering the game’s realistic racing structure and fantastic line-up of vehicles, it’s probably the best introduction to the genre on the market at the moment.
One aspect that really shines out about SHIFT is that it always seems to be rewarding you. You earn money, points, badges and stars after race meets, which add an extra sense of incentive to each individual event. Money can be used to buy new cars, upgrade your current garage and unlock new paint jobs, while points increase your driver level (which in turn influences what items are available to you). Badges represent what milestones you’ve achieved and stars help you unlock new events. The really great thing about this reward structure is that it really pushes you to finish as high as possible. Very often we have racing titles that can be easily completed just by finishing second or third in every race, but finishing on the podium sometimes just isn’t enough in SHIFT. If you want to unlock the next tier of events or cars as quickly as possible, your best option is to finish first and only first whenever you put your foot down onto that pedal.
The car handling though is a bit of a mixed bag. The game has an impeccable feeling of speed, however, it’s often difficult to distinguish the difference between each car’s traction on the road. You could be driving a small, light vehicle and still struggle to make a simple turn without rolling over onto the gravel, yet even a car with a superb breaking system and fantastic tire traction will have the same issue. At first, it seems like your own car handling abilities, but it’s a problem that is consistent right throughout the experience. Furthermore, every car swerves across the road like there’s no tomorrow, no matter how much of your hard-earned cash you’ve spent on customizing your car so it does no such thing.
However, you will experience quite a few spectacular racing moments in each event, if not because of the insane speeds you’ll be reaching, then purely from the actual sense of speed that the game portrays. Some events are simply one manufacturer against another, and the tension really increases when it’s just a one-on-one race with near-identical cars. While there are a few traction and turning issues, the gameplay itself is actually a lot of fun and quite challenging without being overly intimidating for the casual crowd.
If you can look beyond those problems, there is still a fantastic racing experience to be had. After you’ve put a few hours into the gameplay you’ll definitely learn about the quips of each course and how each car size handles, so while swerving and going off-road isn’t completely unavoidable, it is manageable and not something that will ultimately make you lose a race.
On that note, the computer AI is rather impressive, improving in skill and car quality just as you do. While nowhere near as mind numbingly challenging as Midnight Club LA’s, the AI in SHIFT performs realistically and not quite as robotically as seen in Gran Turismo games. While your opponents will still follow an invisible line on each track, you’ll see AI-controlled cars swerving to avoid a collision or break suddenly if they miss-time a sharp turn in the road. There’s a level of unpredictability that is rare in most racing titles and that’s really fantastic for the overall experience.
The career mode is great fun but is disappointingly short for a racing game. It’s broken up into tiers which each have a set number of events to complete before the next tier can be unlocked. The system is OK, although it doesn’t really encourage you to complete more of the events. For example, the second tier can be unlocked by completing less than 50% of the events in tier one, and while this percentage increases as you progress, you’re still left with a whole bunch of un-played events by the time you’ve finished career mode. You’ll ultimately have to go back and finish every event if you want to achieve the best possible driver rating, but the game doesn’t really do a good job of explaining this.
Still, the career mode offers plenty of challenge and is definitely the best part of the single-player. The AI offers enough challenge to make getting through some of the tiers quite tough, while the sheer number of vehicles available to purchase add only further incentive.
There are quite a few modes, with most of them being pretty typical for any racing title, although some have missed the mark quite considerably. The drift mode is almost a chore to play, with a severely broken scoring system and terrible overall handling. It’s frustrating to play and not really all that much fun. The one-on-one duels offer plenty of challenge and can get quite intense, but aren’t quite as fun as going up against a number of opponents on long courses. While the one-on-one events are just single laps, they’re normally very long ones, often making the experience feel a little tedious.
It’s so much more fun to go up against actual gamers instead of the AI, and while the single-player is still enjoyable, the multiplayer definitely takes the cake as the best driving experience SHIFT has to offer. There’s leaderboards, knockout tournaments and time trials to test your mates, and there’s a strong sense of competitiveness right throughout the whole online component that isn’t really the norm in racing titles. EA have hit the mark with multiplayer this time round, making it an experience that just has to be had.
While there’s a fantastic sense of speed in SHIFT, it does come at a small cost. While the presentation is generally pretty good, there’s occasional slowdown whenever the action gets intense on the racecourse. Whenever you’re racing down the track at 120kph, the environment can either look absolutely stunning or a little off, which is disappointing. However, the title does generally have a nice look to it, with fantastic car details and awesome menu screens.