Shift 2: Unleashed is the second simulation racer in the Need for Speed franchise from Slightly Mad Studios. Whilst Hot Pursuit sought to take the arcade leg of the franchise back to its routes, Unleashed seeks to build on the strong performance of Need for Speed: Shift, at the same time as taking on the giants of Gran Turismo and Forza.
The most impressive facet of the preview build we were shown is the graphics. Whilst we were playing on pimped out PCs, and I’m used to playing the previous title on my lowly Xbox 360, the graphical fidelity was astounding. Some of the gameplay videos, which are presumably somewhat masturbatory, show in-game car footage juxtaposed with real life cars; highlighting how difficult it was at times to distinguish between the two.
When playing most driving games, with the notable exception of those that involve a full simulated vehicle ‘like that what you see at the arcades and ting’, the most effective view to control your vehicle is behind the car itself. A kind of third person racer if you will. This phenomenon apparently makes Slightly Mad Studios, well, slightly mad.
Shift 2: Unleashed seeks to remedy that with the introduction of Helmet Cam. With the view firmly inside the helmet of your racer, Unleashed does a great job of providing an unrestricted view of the track from inside the vehicle. As you approach each corner the camera will helpfully tilt towards the apex to guide you towards the racing line, and therefore the best way to master said turn. This becomes increasingly relevant as you move up the difficulties and the highlighted racing line on the track disappears.
The final thing I’ll mention, as I wouldn’t want to ruin our imminent full review, is the difficulty level. Shift 2: Unleashed is a truly accessible simulation racer. At lower levels you will find you can get to grips with the tracks and game mechanics without feeling like your hand is being held completely; rather the game has a loose grip but won’t totally let you go.
Now it’s time to throw in some metaphors… As you move up the difficulties and the hand holding ceases, you’ll really begin to feel the training wheels coming off. By the time you move up to Elite, you’ll be completely flying solo.
Unleashed dynamically changes the difficulty within the event you’ve chosen depending on your performance: if you suck on the lowest difficulty, your fellow racers will become a little slower after several attempts. Likewise, if you’re smashing Elite difficulty left, right and center, the game will increase the speed of your competitors up to as fast as the realistic performance of each car will allow.
- Tom Wallis