Need For Speed’s latest instalment, Shift 2 Unleashed, set the tone with its opening title sequence – fast action, uncompromising competition and bone-jarring pile-ups.
All racing games constitute some form of compromise between pure arcade racing (where the emphasis is all about speed and outwitting the opposition) and true simulation (where you approach as close as you can to real driving). In the case of Shift 2 Unleashed, it’s about an equal split between these extremes, as you’ll have plenty of occasions to wrestle with the controls, while feeling the adrenaline rush from your competitors’ aggression.
All about the XP
EA has teamed up with real drivers to introduce each feature and provide guidance for those new to the genre – as well as encouraging them to keep driving. Motivation is key to this game, because designers Slightly Mad Studios have beefed up the XP system so that reward points are given not only for winning and meeting targets, but for a good start, completing the track, following the racing line, beating your friends’ lap times – in fact, pretty much anything.
The more XP you have, the more cars and events are open to you. At the same time, you earn money which can be used to upgrade your motor in the Car Lot, or simply add to your collection, before giving them a fancy re-spray in the Garage. Tuning has also been expanded so that you can not only save tuning setups for a specific location, but also do live tuning on the fly while you’re hurtling round the track.
Driver’s eye view
The game’s two momentous innovations, though, are the helmet cam and night driving. Helmet cam doesn’t just take you inside the car, it takes you inside the driver’s head, complete with bobbing motion as you weave round the track, homing in on the apex as you approach a corner. It’s undoubtedly the closest you’ll get to the thrill ride a real driver experiences, and it’s the ideal perspective to race in. Night driving likewise is without floodlights – just simple headlights taking on the dark at full pelt.
In addition, the Autolog system that was introduced in Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit provides you with a message wall, friends’ stats and news feeds, plus a chance to upload videos and issue challenges. Make no mistake, though, the learning curve is still quite steep – and the further you progress, the more your competitors will try to shunt you off the circuit.
But hey… that’s half the fun – and you do get to race some exceedingly cool, fully-destructible cars like the new Pagani Huayra on some of the great circuits of the world like Monza, Hockenheim and Silverstone (in the Legends content pack).
- Helmet cam's 'in your face' perspective.
- Still a steep learning curve for beginners.
EA has deliberately trodden a carefully balanced path between arcade and sim in this high-octane sequel, which introduces welcome innovations like the helmet cam and night driving while expanding XP rewards, Autolog sharing and live tuning.