5 Reviews

Need for Speed Shift 2: Unleashed

REVIEW: It's what's inside that counts

Hot Pursuit might have blown us all away with its shiny, high-speed antics in 2010 - but it's not the only EA racer that's worth keeping an eye on.

Shift 2 borrows Pursuit's brilliant and compulsive Autolog system, and pairs it with brutally realistic simulation. Even with difficulty turned right down, don't expect an easy ride. Shift 2 is unashamedly specialist, and if racing sims aren't something you'd usually steer towards, expect to be left in the dust.

Rather than aiming for widespread accessibility, it's chosen subtle refinements over attention-grabbing glitz and innovation. Glance down its list of new improvements and you'd be excused for cynically raising an eyebrow - touting 'night racing' as a key feature doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

Take a spin through a few midnight chicanes, though, and it's immediately evident why Slightly Mad Studios has chosen to proudly list something so seemingly mundane. Impeccable lighting and glowing reflections find you suddenly realising that it's probably the first time you've actually felt like you're driving a car at night, rather than just in the dark. The effect is subtle, but impressive.


Other aspects aren't as immediately striking, but it's the attention to detail that defines Shift 2 - a painstaking attempt to perfectly replicate the driving experience. This focus is clearly reflected in it's main innovation - a helmet-camera, which encourages you to stop ogling the back of your chassis and actually get behind the wheel for a change. Accurately recreating the head movements of the driver, it's tough to get used to but incredibly immersive.

Glorious lighting and a tone-perfect colour palette mean that you don't need to be a driving fanatic to appreciate the attention to detail - but if you're planning on enjoying the actual racing, it's an unfortunate prerequisite. It's tough to master even on the easiest settings, and less experienced racers will find that road rage is the aspect of driving most accurately simulated here.

Throwing accessibility out of the window like a misjudged motorway Ginsters, Shift 2 is an unashamedly stoic love-letter to hardcore driving fans. For casual fans of the genre, though, it's the kind of correspondence that leads to restraining orders.

The game's out on 1st April. What's your favourite of the included rides?

The verdict

Incredibly refined, but mega-niche

  • Helmet-cam works well
  • Gorgeous lighting effects
  • Night racing is awesome
  • Too difficult for most
  • Dreadful music
Xbox 360
Slightly Mad Studios
EA Games
Racing / Driving