A look at Need For Speed: Shift – Part 2

In Part I of this look at Need For Speed: Shift, we took a look at the progression aspects of the game. Earning points and stars and money helps keep the player motivated to do better and/or retry races until they squeeze every drop of progress out of them.

Today I want to talk about the races themselves. Unlike most of the earlier Need For Speed games, Shift races all take place on closed courses. There’re no cops to chase you, no ‘civilian’ traffic to get in the way. The courses seem nicely varied, from basic Indy-style modified ovals to twisty narrow courses carved out of regular roads, Monaco-style. In all races, efficient cornering is the key to winning: this isn’t a game where you never touch your brakes.

The two main varieties of competitions are races and drifting. They’re almost like totally separate games. In fact, they’re so different that I’m more or less ignoring the Drifting while I work on my racing skills. Drifting feels ‘right’ to me (based on my mis-spent youth raising hell in cars), but that means it’s tricky; rather than hitting the emergency brake and steering while pouring on the gas, Drifting here is about much more subtle controls. At least that’s how it seems in my limited exposure to it (thus far).

Traditional races are broken down into several types. The basic race is you in one of your cars (which you’ve probably upgraded and tuned) against 9 other cars. That makes for crowded conditions on most of the tracks since they tend to be fairly narrow. Bumping and jostling is expected and inevitable (some courses reward a star for causing opponents to spin out). For this reason I suggest setting Damage to visual only, but I’ll talk more about options later.

In addition to the basic races, there are invitational events where you’re given a specific car to drive, as well as “Car Battle” races where you pick one of two offered cars and race against a single competitor in the car you didn’t choose. These battles are best 2 of 3 deals. First you start in the lead, then you star behind, and for a tie breaker you and your opponent start side-by-side. To win these Car Battles you have to pull 5 seconds ahead of your opponent or cross the finish line first.

Between the variety of race types, courses, and the general crowdedness of the tracks, Need For Speed: Shift hasn’t grown dull for me. I’m currently at 116 races and driver level 18 or 19.

Next time: Crashing, options and control.