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Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed Review

Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed Review

When Need for Speed: Shift came out in 2009, it marked a slight change of direction for the franchise as a whole. While in the past, Need for Speed was more focussed on the arcade side of things, Shift took itself much more seriously; it was the closest thing to a simulation racer the franchise had ever seen. With Shift 2: Unleashed, Slightly Mad Studios want to take that mentality and raise it up a notch, as they've claimed that Shift 2 is more of a racing simulator, than a standard simulation racer. Parts of it work, but other parts feel quite unrefined.

As you progress through the career mode, you'll be mentored by different racers from the various categories you're competing in. This might be a retro racer or someone who competes in the GT3 category. Either way, it gives a nice little introduction to what you're about to face, while sometimes offering a few little tutorials to explain the finer nuances of the game. Throughout though, Vaughn Gittin Jr. effectively acts as your mascot, giving you advice pre-race and words of encouragement through the in-car radio.

The career mode is split into different tiers, which you can unlock by going up a driver level. It's a very basic system - when you improve your level, the next tier of events will unlock. How you get experience to increase your driver level is a nice touch though, as you'll always feel that everything you're doing is helping your rank to improve - it's not simply about coming first in each race. You'll get points for driving close to the best line, performing a clean over-take, going over a certain speed and more. And at the end of the race, all your exp gets totalled up. This can then be supplemented by exp gained from performing special feats, like "mastering" a track by nailing every corner and straight and getting certain lap times.

The main focus of the game is of course, racing against opponents. There are some different events to drive in though. The first is the hot lap, where you'll be given a select car and challenged to beat a certain time. Then you have eliminator, where the last-placed racer gets eliminated when the clock hits zero. And finally you have the one that's the most different - drifting. Drifting has been around in the franchise for a while, it was a prominent component in Need for Speed: Underground and in Shift 2: Unleashed it's a pretty similar premise. You'll have to drift around a track and you'll be scored depending on the line of your drift, its angle and its duration.

The drifting feels a bit cumbersome though. Sometimes you'll really get into the groove - you'll start off with an amazing drift. But then, when you try to do exactly the same thing again, it just won't work. If you mess up and get degenerated down to low speed, you'll then have to battle against the incessant wheel-spin, which isn't really necessary; something which is a real pain if the road has a slight camber, or isn't very wide. But this then goes onto the game's actual handling - it's just highlighted as a bit more of a problem in the drifting mode.

Overall, it doesn't really feel like there's a huge amount of down force on the cars - they seem to just glide, rather than feel rooted to the track. It's not a huge problem when using the slower cars, as you can compensate quite easily. But when you're using the faster cars and you want to go flat-out, it just doesn't work that well. If you make a slight compensation to correct your line, the car will sway way more than it should, meaning you then have to further compensate. If you're playing in a first-person mode, this might seem rather confusing, but if you switch to a behind-the-car view, it makes a bit more sense. Even when you're going around a very minor-grade corner, without applying much torque, the back of the car will still slide out slightly and it's this that initially causes the need to compensate - a downward spiral. When going around a standard corner, the car will almost always slide out to some degree. The physics are all there, as shown by the amended camera you can use, but it doesn't stop you feeling like you have very little control of the car.

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