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Need for Speed Shift 2 – London Event Hands-On Impressions

Need for Speed Shift 2 – London Event Hands-On Impressions

Yesterday, The Guardian hosted their Gamesblog Live event in London, giving interested gamers the chance to try Need for Speed Shift 2 Unleashed among other titles and meet Slightly Mad Studios’ Andy Tudor.

Thankfully, VirtualR reader Johnny P was among those that got some face time with the new title and tried very hard to get as much info for us as possible, below are his impressions of Shift 2:

“From my hands-on with the game, it appears they have made some well-needed refinements over the original game. I tried the Audi R8 LMS GT3, Porsche GT2 road car, DBR9 GT1 car, Maserati GT1 and Ford GT GT3 as well as a couple of others.

The game looks lovely. Bright, sharp and the car models are top-notch. The interiors also, as you would expect from the original Shift, seem authentic and look great (I watch a lot of GT racing on TV and have got a good idea how the real cars look inside).

There are marbles on the track, flies splatter on your windscreen and when you rev-up the engine, waiting for the lights to go green, the race car’s body panels vibrate in an authentic looking way (more so than Shift 1).

The tracks have also mostly been made more realistic and look all the better for it (i.e. they look a lot more authentic without graffiti sprayed all over every track‘s surface and ludicrous fairground rides all over the place).

The speed-blur effect that blurred out everything except the view of the road ahead (in cockpit view) that you got in the original Shift is now gone from the cockpit view of Shift 2, but is present in the all-new helmet-cam. The helmet-cam is good, but not the revolution I was hoping for. I don’t feel it adds all that much to the experience (although I am a confirmed cockpit racer). However, when you crash, you still get the disorienting crash distortion (like with Shift 1) in both cockpit and helmet-cam.”

Note: Johnny points out that he didn’t get to give the helmet cam a proper try.

“You can now roll your car (I saw one guy trash an R8 LMS quite badly – bumpers off and all – after rolling it in a gravel trap). Crash physics are much improved. No more cars riding up over yours if you tail-end them as with the original (thank god). If you clip the verge whilst cornering it spins you out most of the time.

AI was a lot less aggressive than Shift 1. I tried both medium and hard settings (as well as the Elite handling model) and it was OK, although I did get barged off track by a Ford GT at one point, harking back to the over-aggressive AI of the original. It has certainly been toned down a lot though and is all the better for it. The Ford GT incident was pretty much a one-off. I remember feeling quite impressed when a Porsche GT3 pulled a counter-overtake on me when I thought I’d nailed him into a corner.

Now for the main bone of contention, handling:

The handling in Shift 2 feels very similar to Shift 1. In fact, if you imagine Shift 1’s handling without the feeling of constantly sliding and you are pretty much there (as I said, I raced mostly with the all-assists off Elite handling model). It’s still involving though, and it doesn’t take much for you to lose traction and spin (or half spin like I did most of the time). It actually made me think about how much better Shift 1 would have been, if it had just been for a little bit of tweaking of the handling and how good the underlying physics actual were.

Shift 2’s handling really is much improved from Shift 1’s. I can’t emphasis that enough. I still maintain it’s because of what they took away (the constant sliding), but there have been a few tweaks (to the handling model) in there too, which improve the experience greatly.

There is a nice feeling of your car having momentum. If you screw up and badly out-brake yourself into a corner (for example), you don’t tamely trundle off into the gravel trap, you plough headlong through it – and if you’re going fast enough – into the barriers beyond, just like you would in real life.

It might not impress the hardcore sim brigade, but I thought the handling felt pretty good and managed to capture the excitement of racing without the constant feeling of sliding that you got with Shift 1. Overall, I liked it (and I ended up hating Shift 1’s handling).

Crash damage is also much improved and you can lose bumpers, bonnets, crumple body panels and smash windscreens. Not quite up to Grid standards, but better than FM3 and GT5 by quite a bit.

To sum up, Shift 2 rights a lot of the original Shift’s wrongs, it looks great, is fun and exciting and (as with Shift 1) also sounds wonderful too. However, those expecting a revolution will be disappointed.”

Adding to these detailed impressions, Johnny also got some answers from Andy Tudor that reveal some new facts:

– There will be no demo version of Need for Speed Shift 2 Unleashed
– The title does not simulate tyre wear or fuel consumption, there will be no qualifying either.
– There will be an improved livery editor with an emphasis on race car style design.

Need for Speed Shift 2 Unleashed will include the 2010 FIA GT1 World Championship & GT3 European Championship among lots of other racing content, new features include a new helmet camera, night racing and more realistic physics. The second Shift title will be available for the PC, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 in late March.