STAFF REVIEW of Shift 2 Unleashed (Xbox 360)

Friday, May 13, 2011.
by Adam Dileva

Shift 2 Unleashed Box art Ever sped down a road or highway way faster than you were supposed to or taken a corner with more speed than you should have, making the wheel squeal just a little bit? That adrenaline rush you get that comes with speed is what Shift 2 is trying to recreate with some interesting new mechanics to help convey speed.

Every game needs something a little special to stand out against the competition. Forza has the ultra-realistic simulation in its back pocket and Burnout has the true arcade experience going for them, so whats left? Well, Shift 2 Unleashed will bring you into the cockpit of the cars and actually take over through the eyes of the driver. Now, this isnt the standard in-dash view that many racing games have, this is a true Helmet View where you will actually be looking out the helmet of your driver through their eyes. This will include all the bouncing, shaking and eye movement that actually happens when you race. This view is completely disconnected with the cockpit itself and youll even look into the turns as if you were actually driving so that you look where you want to go. It sounds odd, and it is at first, but once used to it theres truly no other way to play Shift 2 as its a much more engaging experience.

Career mode is much like any other racing game; pick your first cheap car, race, win money, upgrade and buy new cars then repeat. Its a tried and true system that always has you working towards progressing but it is like almost every other racer out there in regards to the career. Youll have a large selection of cars to choose from where most are unique from each other with a plethora of makes and models youll recognize by looks alone. Racer Vaughn Gittin Jr. will be your guide through career and will constantly be giving you advice (though sometimes completely useless and obvious nuggets of wisdom). Actual footage of him will be spliced in and it sometimes just comes across as odd and out of place.

The XP system from Shift returns, but improved in the sequel; youll gain extra xp from driving well, mastering corners and courses, leading for full laps and driving clean. Leveling will net you new rides, paint and part unlocks, and new events to test your skills on. With enough experience and cash, youll be able to convert a modest road car into a racing beast.

Customization can be done through upgrades and tuning your ride. Youre able to change parts for almost every section of your car for visuals and performance. If you dont really want to get too deep into it, you can buy an ultimate upgrade package that will transform your simple car into a track worthy competitor. Doing so will also change the ranking of your car though called the performance index (categorized from D to A). The better parts you put into your car the higher your PI will raise, making races and opponents more difficult. This means you cant simply upgrade your car to an A class and think youre going to bowl over the competition; they will also be in the same category as you.

The faster the car (and higher the PI number) the better youre going to have to drive. Youll need to brake at every turn, slow down sooner and be mindful of the competition around you. One wrong move and youll be sliding into the dirt or wall. With racing lines on, youll learn very quickly that you need to ease into braking turns and while there may not be weather effects like rain and snow, the new night races will challenge even the most veteran racers.

Autolog made its debut in the previous Need For Speed game returns this time that is its own self-contained social network of all your friends. Autolog will constantly remind you that your friends have beaten your best laps and times and show you what car (and PI) they used to do it with so that you can see why your best time was halved. Just like in Hot Pursuit, youre able to share screenshots and send challenges, but it didnt feel as incorporated as a whole or as easy to access as it was previously. Multiplayer modes are par the course with up to 12 players online competing across different modes.

Just like the first Shift, youll be racing in streets, famous courses and of course drifting as well. I once again found the drifting extremely difficult to control; to the point of avoiding those events all together as youll be unable to even keep your drift car going in a straight line most of the time. Youll need many hours of practice to become proficient in the art of drifting as its very unforgiving to the inexperienced.

If youre a car enthusiast youll want to crank up the volume since every car sounds unique and you can easily tell the difference between your average car and a supped-up racing machine without the distraction of music that will most likely not be to your liking anyways. Hearing the engines wail and the wheels screeching in tight corners is always a pleasant audio experience.

While Shift 2 may not be as sim-heavy as Forza or arcade-like as Burnout, it does cut out its own groove in the genre with its amazing helmet cam and driving aids that can be toggled to suit any racers experience or play style. Helmet Cam is what sets Shift 2 apart from other racers out there as its unique and for someone like myself that usually uses the furthest back camera, even I really enjoyed this new 2 is able to hold its own as a racing experience and Autolog will have you racing courses repeatedly to try and best everyone on your friends list. Career mode will take up to a dozen hours to complete and online multiplayer modes will always be there for when you want a change of pace. Autolog and Helmet Cam is Shift 2s saving grace, because without it, it would simply feel like almost any other racer out there, luckily youll now be able to experience the track through the eyes of the driver for the first time.

Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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