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Top Gear- Need for Speed: Shift Review

Undoubtedly, one of the most reinvented franchises within the gaming industry must be the Need for Speed series. The title’s 1994 commencement utilized the power of the 3DO to create a graphically impressive, realistic driving simulation. Subsequent sequels over the next nine years offered a more arcade-like experience, which evaded the austere mechanics of the fashionable Gran Turismo series. These perennial disks incorporated a cat-and-mouse mechanic that challenged players to evade, and later, to take the role of police. 2003’s Need for Speed: Underground drew inspiration from the Fast and Furious films, which were instrumental in popularizing the tuner culture and street racing scene.

As the thirteenth installment of the series, Need for Speed: Shift takes a radical departure from the bulk of the franchise’s legacy, by returning to the game’s simulation roots.  Electronic Arts astutely gave development duties to Slightly Mad, a studio comprised of the famed GTR production team. Gone are the awkward Maggie Q cinematics of NFS: Undercover, which were used to propel the previous game’s narrative. Shift shrewdly forgoes any contrived plotline to make both racing and player development the foci of the game.

Similar to the IQ assessment built into the last few Madden titles, a player’s skill will be measured the first time Shift is booted up. After a few laps around the test track, the game will recommend a difficulty level, as well as a setting for Shift’s vehicular damage model. Once players determine these options, a driver profile is created, which tracks how skillfully and perilous your racing behavior is. Each subsequent race rewards players with points for both skill and aggression, both of which are combined to create a player’s driving rank. During competitions, everything from maintaining a textbook racing line to bumping rivals, helps player not only accumulate points but also promotes proper racing form. Even the game’s on-screen track map has a visual indicator that indicates if you’ve successful maneuvered through each challenging corner. Whereas Gran Turismo is overt and demanding with its tutelage, Shift gently fosters gamers to become better drivers. Slightly Mad Very Studios are a shrewd bunch, indeed.

With four tiers of racing proficiency, nine types of competitions, eighteen tracks, and 70 cars, Shift’s single player campaign contains enough content to keeps drivers industrious for at least twenty-five hours. Additionally, there’s a wealth of tinkering, and upgrading that should keep virtual gearheads suitably engaged.   The title’s multiplayer component offers ranking and unranked eight player races, drift challenges, and time attacks. Online competitions are effortlessly created through the title’s matchmaking system and performed nearly flawlessly with very little lag. 

Shift’s third-person perspective flaunts the title’s incredibly detailed car models and stunning track design, giving players a good sense of speed. However, the title’s ground-breaking cockpit view is so convincing that gamers are bound to see a horde of imitators. Not only is each vehicle’s dash and gauges impeccably rendered, but the player’s view dynamically changes as the car whips around the track. The effect is subtle, greatly adds the game’s already powerful level of immersion.  The game’s engine noises sound fittingly formidable, while the series musical soundtrack is appreciatively (by default) limited to replays.

Despite a 3GB install on the Playstation 3, Need for Speed: Shift loses momentum during its leisurely load times. Once the title is launched, gamers can expect a ninety second wait before the title’s main menu is displayed. Individual races make a half-minute to load, allowing energy to dip between matches.  While it’s certainly not a deal killer, the development team could have taken a cue from the DiRT series, and presented players with statistics to read during their interim.

Faithful followers of the franchise may be initially perplexed by Need for Speed’s Shift’s radical change in direction. However, once a few races have been completed, it become exceedingly evident that Shift is the rightful rejuvenation the series has been seeking. With a handful of truly revolutionary elements, hardcore racing aficionados as well as more casual fans will appreciate Shift’s skillful package. With Forza 3 and Gran Turismo 5 just around the corner, the battle for racing supremacy should be exceedingly interesting.


                                                       Need for Speed: Shift was reviewed on retail Playstation 3 code.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

56 comments

  1. Man, those car models looking great!

  2. Is going to look for some video of the interior view. Sounds cool.

  3. You guys realize that Top Gear was the name of a racing franchise right? It was on the SNES. Just checking.

  4. Everyone is raving about this one. Welcome back, NFS!

  5. I’m going to wait for Forza 3 before committing. GT5 I don’t care about.

  6. Does this work with any racing wheels?

  7. Great review, but what’s with all the GT put-downs in this and the Dirt 2 review?

  8. Man, those graphics are the shit! Shift is the shit, alright

  9. Good review, but I’ve heard the damage model is unrealistic? What did you think?

  10. There are so many games coming out that I want to get right now, but cant buy. I hate the pre-holiday season.

  11. I wonder if anyone missed the cops and robber modes? I do. Its like when they took the crash junctions out of Burnout.

  12. I saw this on display at Best Buy; it look really amazing. If people had a full set up with wheel and seat, they could lose themselves in the game.

  13. Why are you hating on Maggie Q? She’s hot, dammit!

  14. Top three pics look real, not videogamey at all. WOW.

  15. I’m sure the load times are shorter on the 360 version. Anyone?

  16. Forza will have more tracks and vehicles for sure, but their racing is a bit ‘boring’ to me for some reason.

  17. Yep, I gotta agree those load times are just a bit long. I didn’t notice about the start up time, as I usually load up and get myself a frosty beverage.

  18. Me, id give it a B+, only because there’s enough sims on the market or coming on the scene. Give me a fun, turn my brain off Need For Speed.

  19. played it for 360, the load times are probably 20 seconds for each race. I didn’t time them exactly, though.

  20. How’s the framerate in the Playstation 3 game?

  21. Which did you like better this or Dirt 2?

  22. Is each car interior unique? Is so that’s pretty amazing.

  23. Great review. I’m going to rent this today.

  24. I haven’t cared about the series in years. This one I may have to try.

  25. There’s a demo on Xbox live for this, FYI.

  26. I’ve had no problems at all. Maybe a few dropped frame here and there but that’s it.

  27. I really want this but ODST is coming next week. Must hold my ground and avoid the Gamestop at all costs.

  28. Are there more Japanese, European or American cars?

  29. I’ve never heard of a game with shorter PS3 load times.

  30. The 3DO had good graphics? What?

  31. Sound excellent. I’ll get this eventually.

  32. I’m thinking they liked this, as Dirt 2 got a B+

  33. http://games.kikizo.com/features/need-for-speed-shift-huge-interview-p1.asp

    Check this out, the same 3DO, Fast and Furious and GTR bits.

  34. Are you guys going to review Nitro also? That one seems more up my ally.

  35. I’m optimistic for the game, but I have to play it for myself.

    Some racers get good reviews, but I’m bored with ’em.

  36. Don’t really care for racers, but this seems like a good game for those that do.

  37. Great review. I need to race to the store to get it today 😛

  38. DE, you’re a reviewing machine.

  39. Wait you’re saying The Fast and Furious influenced the Need for Speed series? The game’s came first, though.

  40. I get the game almost every year when it hits $30. This year will be the first time, I’m paying $60 new.

  41. There’s a pretty good mix of all. Ever a few clunkers in there.

  42. No, they’re saying EA catered to the popularity of the films. They didn’t get to be a megapublisher by being stupid, you know.

  43. Just got some major framerate drop around the corner at Brands Hatch Indy on the PS3.

  44. How bad was it? I have to heavy a steady frame rate in my racers.

  45. No interest in NFS even if it is improved. I guess I’ve played too many racing games.

  46. How bad is it? Can any 360 owners comment if in in there game too?

  47. Hey the top pic changed. I noticed it has the game info now.

  48. Does the guy ever sleep or just game 24/7?

  49. I rented this tonight. I’m lucky I got a copy I was told. Seems very good so far.

  50. They are a little slow. Probably about the same wait. 30 seconds for a race.

  51. As a diehard GT fan, I’m going to wait for that game. If it doesn’t review well, then I’ll get this.

  52. Just bought this today. I’m loving it so far.

  53. Got this today and love it

  54. I saw a bit of slowdown while playing today, not too bad.

  55. Now I’m getting into the top cars, I’m not liking the game as much. They are hard to control.