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Need for Speed SHIFT Hands On
First look of Need for Speed SHIFT on the Community Day Event

Quick facts
• First person view with detailed fully functional customizable cockpit
• Realistic and detailed driving engine
• True damage model
• Full replay
• Visual and performance customization
• 16 car races
• Lenghty career with several challenges
• Real world tracks

A large car manufacturer's recent marketing campaing revolved around the word SHIFT. In their eyes it revives them and captures passion and commitment. In a sense we could apply the same slogan to the Need for Speed series: Need for Speed SHIFT aims to make the NFS series stand out again and to reclaim it's recently lost fame of being a top racing game.

I've heard plenty of rumours about the next NFS game being something completely different than anything we've seen in the series, but when I got see the game and play it at the Community Day event in EA UK's studios in UK in mid February, I was stunned. Even though I expected the series to shift away from it's original concept after seeing the first screenshot and reading the press release, I never imagined they would go that far. After seeing the series evolve since Underground 1, this game is a revolution. You begin feeling the change as soon as the race starts and you're flown over the starting grid: cars look incredibly detailed with racing-like body kits and the environment is outstanding. And then the camera ends in the cockpit of the car - yes inside the car with dashboard view, a feature not seen since NFS Porsche! But that's not all - the cockpit is fully functional, meaning working rpm and speedometer dials, HUD in the Corvette, fully functional rear view mirrors, they even went so far that if you look down (you have interior free look) you see the driver's legs moving when you shift gears, hit the brakes and gas! Yet with all these distractions in the cockpit, it's still surprisingly easy to get used to the interior view. I usually use either the bumper or the hood cam, but here in Shift, the interior cam was the way to go!

The realism doesn't end in the cockpit though: as soon as the race starts you notice that at full gas, your tires will start spinning and the car will not move like you're used to in an NFS game. The physics engine is completely new and never before seen in an NFS game. They say it's about as realistic as the one in Forza 2 or Gran Turismo and I have to agree. Having tried several different cars (Lotus Elise, Audi RS4, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Porsche 911 GT2 and Pagani Zonda) I can say that each car handles very differently and mastering a powerful car like the Zonda will take a lot of effort and preferrably an analogue controller. Flooring the acceleration at low speeds in turns with a Zonda will end in spinning out and with bad luck hitting a wall. And crashing is not a good idea - your car will get damaged and your vision will be blurred for a while - like hitting your head hard into a wall. But once you get used to the car and start messing with the assists (turn off ABS and traction control to go hardcore, or turn on the driving line to go a bit casual), all the frustration will be gone and you'll start enjoying the demanding but genuine driving engine, the great sense of speed and the incredible detail in everything - the cockpit, the world and the AI controlled cars (or your car if you use the chase camera).

And what's best is that's not all Shift has to offer. Expect lenghty carreer with several challenges, 16 players races, online vs. real people, several real world tracks and tracks based on real locations (like downtown London), full customization, both interior and exterior, performance tuning and something that hasn't been seen in an NFS game for a while now: full race replays.
But like every other game around, Shift too is not perfect. There's several features that we would want in a racing game, but were not part of the demo we played, starting with night racing and weather effects. Another thing is visual parts affecting performance of the car - something that was present in ProStreet, but missing here. Also I would love to see one or two tracks based on roads (either real or imaginary). Remember the staged Alps and Coastal tracks in The Need for Speed?

Now if you are getting worried that this is not the Need for Speed you are used to, you'd be correct; it's not. It is completely different, but the core features are still here: great sense of speed and a large selection of top cars. The driving model does take a while of getting used to, but it's really enjoyable once you master it. With a few improvements and hopefully well made features like visual customization we can hope for a great product even before the traditionally November release date.

More screenshots in our screenshots section.

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Acura Lithuania
Acura`s avatar

Comments posted: 561
Date joined: February 2009
Last active: 2142 days ago
by Acura on 5. March 2009 18:34
It's so cool!
peterfaj United States
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Date joined: October 2006
Last active: 1957 days ago
by peterfaj on 15. March 2009 03:17
Sounds perfect to me. But we'll see.
GanZZo Romania
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Comments posted: 2126
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Last active: 884 days ago
by GanZZo on 16. May 2009 11:59
Sounds great...

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