Oh Dear Lord. This game makes me squeal like a pig in custard. Or, more relevantly, a fat bloke wedged into a turbo charged V8 Caterham Superlight 500, on a 150mph follow-through. I intend to be rampantly biased about this game as i’m a car enthusiast but then, i think that the fact that it keeps a car enthusiast more than satisfied, is testament to the brutal realism this game achieves.
If you’re familiar with NFS Shift, you’ll remember that the blend was one of pioneering 1st-person driving simulator and points-based arcade elements to keep the kids entertained. You were striving for level-ups, badges and flashing lights, always with one eye on the points, seemingly rewarded for aggression, precision, turning left, beginning a race, not going backwards…. you get the idea. Although the reward system is still present in the second game and the level-ups are equally as rewarding and abundant in cash bonuses, Shift 2 Unleashed has focused much more heavily on do-or-die attitude and extreme attention to detail. This goes down to the coloured stitching on the dash of a Lambo to the blinding low-sun in the rearview on a dusk race. All this, combined with the accurate vibration, the superb attention to detail with the sound and madness of the night races ( no floodlights here…) make for a well-tweaked sequel indeed.
Oh yeah, and the crashes…….
With the full damage setting enabled, you have the true experience of clipping a barrier at what you thought was a moderate and sensible speed, only to find you’ve lost a wheel, ripped the bodywork and flipped it in true cinematic style. Just what you always wanted? Of course. It really adds another element of danger and excitement to the racing game genre. The sense of vulnerability will definitely instil the competitive edge, whether you like it or not.
There is a brief training session where your skills are assessed and a handling model assigned to you , as usual and build your way up through several easy wins which gives you a chance to start modding away like an acne-ridden teen with their Halfords fund in greasy palm. From here you progress onwards and upwards through the brilliantly designed menus. There is a far more artistic feel to this game, in fact it feels more grown-up than the first in many aspects. The Points system (for adhering to the racing line etc.) is far more subtle and unobtrusive. You get the feeling that they WANT you to be more immersed in the driving experience over point-grabbing arcade insanity, and it’s not a bad idea. As you get faster, anything less than 150% concentration at all times will take you out. The speeds get so ridiculous that you need to have full immersion to cope with the barrage of information. This is greatly assisted by the helmet view camera. This is clearly where the focus lies and you are encouraged to use it, i believe, to keep a competitive advantage. Any other view mode pales in comparison. They haven\t concentrated nearly enough on the 3rd person perspective, in my view, it looks amateurish in comparison with the in-helmet view which follows the apex with head movement. This feature in particular can’t be overstated as an advantage. The days of the blinkered head-on POV are dead, you need that flexibility to really feel like you’re driving a car, not driving a video game. If other racing games don’t soon follow suit, they are missing a trick.
The car selection is littered with rarities and driver signature cars. The Stirling Moss Mercedes and the Radical AR3 are but a couple. You’ve got your pick of all the greats. Enough said. The handling on all varies greatly and you will need practice in each to truly master their characteristics.
On the downside, it seems that SlightlyMad have tried to over-compensate for the difficulty of the game by throwing more and more race variations at you every time you make a minor achievement. Admittedly, at the beginning of a game like this, you want new tracks and cars to keep it fresh but it just goes too far. I think i was invited to/awarded or unlocked maybe 20 different race options before i was out of the class D season. At 10% game completion, it feels like you’ve unlocked maybe 70% of it and are swamped in choice and options of how to accrue and spend your cash. Also, i would have liked a more customisable handling model, a little more tailoring of the presets between Experienced and Pro. Currently, pro is A LOT of fun and really hammers it home how hard this sport really is. You launch off the line and in 4 seconds you’re moving a t a very loud 100mph in an open top monster. You come to the first corner and feel the back end go, then you lift off, oversteer and very quickly are going sideways and that’s that. Out of the game. But the satisfaction earned from stringing a few corners together and managing the throttle is intoxicatingly addictive. If there were a few more options between traction control on, or off outside of manual tuning, i’d be even happier. Tuning is actually much improved on the first game with the addition of the quick tuning option opposed to having to be an actual race mechanic to not just fuck it up completely and have to reset it anyway)
So, in conclusion, this game has been refined straight for the expert. The video cut scenes by famous pro drivers are all-American to put it lightly but still inspiring and lend credibility, the menus are sleek and stylish and the gameplay has been improved in many areas.
As i mentioned, there is definitely a bias towards a full immersion experience and those looking for a casual, finger-to-the-plastic racer will be frustrated, even on novice mode but personally, his is exactly what i have been waiting for from a driving sim. and am yet to be disappointed.
Perhaps a further review will be required on completion, if i don’t break my legs in a crash.
A guest article from Mike @ moderateinterest.wordpress.com.
Thanks a lot dude