Shift 2: Unleashed – Xbox 360 Review

Ok, so it’s not just Shift 2: Unleashed. It’s Need for Speed Shift 2: Unleashed.

Now there’s a mouthful.

Yes, it’s another NFS title, this one in the interesting half-simulation/ half-arcade world of Shift – and how does it rack up against titles like the brilliant Hot Pursuit?

Not massively well, in three words.

Sure it’s a considerable step up on the last Shift title, which was distinctly average, as Shift 2 comes with better graphics, streamlined gameplay and some decent multiplayer, but it still toes the line with all the other mediocre racers out there, not really innovating in a market filled with racing stripes and dented helmets.

The campaign mode offers a decent variety of real life and imaginary tracks, and lets you build your way up from driving an old banger to the top supercars with relative ease.

After driving a couple of trial laps, Shift will give you a difficulty level and offer you a suite of driving helpers – just in case you’re a wall-hugging crash monkey like me.

With all the helpers on the handling is difficult, unresponsive and foolhardy on the corners – letting you drift impossibly far.

Sadly, the same is true of turning all the helpers off – even rumbling off the track and into the rough doesn’t affect the handling – the arcade styling shining through at inopportune points.

But, that said, stick with the campaign long enough and there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had, as you spend cash to buy and rig your motors with ever-faster engines and better brakes and take on a succession of tricky tracks.

Thankfully, you don’t have to compete with just the bad handling – the AI is much more competitive this time around, and will punish any accidental opening with a shunt, a sneaky overtake or the occasional slam into the wall.

That said, it’s equally violent with itself, and turning a corner to find a three car pile-up is a common occurrence – and ideal for stealing back the lead.

Outside of the singleplayer, the game’s multiplayer offering is an eclectic mix of traditional racing and a few fun game modes of Shift’s own.

One of my favourites, Catchup, puts one player behind the wheel of a relative banger, and gives him a decent head start.

This poor unfortunate is then pursued by a bunch of thugs in supercars, with much XP to be had if the banger-driver crosses the line first.

Sadly though, despite this frenetic gameplay, the multiplayer is let down by bad matchmaking and a worse lobby system, which left me spending most of my time trying to log back in.

Despite this, however, the game is graphically excellent, and backed up with a decent score and sound effects selection of screeching tyres, revving engines and the constant tinkle of breaking glass.

The graphics are also top-notch, and watching the sides of the track gradually get covered in dirt, twigs and burning wrecks as the laps go on is great fun.

The ‘helmet cam’ is also a nice touch – narrowing your vision to that of a driving helmet, and forcing you to drive more carefully (or more recklessly), through this narrow field.

The motion blur and added intensity of this view really bought the game to life for me, and though it might not be enough to save the experience for the driving fanatics among us, I find it made everything a hell of a lot more fun.

Overall, while Shift 2 is an entertaining game, it doesn’t really innovate, or stand apart from its peers. There’s enough there to keep a gamer interested for a while, but the poor handling, incomplete multiplayer and general annoyance of the half-sim/ half-arcade feel can grate on you after a while.

Verdict: 7/10

Good stuff:
‘Helmet cam’ is great.
Catchup is epic fun
Great graphics

Not so good stuff:
Dodgy multiplayer
Poor handling
Not innovative