Need for Speed Shift First-Look
The new Need for Speed Shift is currently in development and will be released at the end 2009. NFS-Planet visited the Slightly Mad Studios in London and got some impressions of the upcoming racing game. Read here about what you can expect in Need for Speed Shift:
Barely 73 days have passed since the release of Need for Speed Undercover, and EA already announced its successor Shift? What, at first glance, looks like some kind of hasty panic reaction due to Undercover's rather moderate critiques, turns out to be a long-planned, in the NFS universe independent racing simulation.
"Change" was a certain guy's main slogan for his election campaign – it seems like the developers from Slightly Mad Studios have taken the same motto to heart: New concept, new engine, new driving physics – Shift shares with previous Need for Speed titles just little more than the name. Speaking of name: “Shift” could certainly refer to shifting gears, but in this case, a meaning like "change" seems more appropriate.
The preview versions of previous NFS titles were all running on a Xbox 360, Shift, however, is an exception: This time a PC was used for demonstration and it was doing its job pretty well: no lags or graphic errors despite running at full HD resolution. The performance of the build shown was really impressive, especially given the fact that the developers still have a lot of time remaining for optimization until release in fall. The graphics engine itself seems to be programmed really efficiently in terms of resource use. However, I couldn't find out about the hardware used in the connected PC.
But what was actually presented on screen? Probably the most convincing graphical presentation of a NFS title for a long time. Talking of beautifully shaped cars, authentically modeled race tracks, great lighting effects, and even little details like 3D animated, flag-waving spectators standing close to the track, or car bodies showing the exact reflections of near video screens – Shift is graphically not only outstanding within the Need for Speed series, but can also keep up with the whole racing game genre.
Especially the cockpit view is one of a kind. Comparing the interior of the Shift cars to those from Test Drive Unlimited (which were quite nice at that time) you get some kind of “Next Gen” feeling: You are free to have a look-around (that might be even necessary if you want to take a look in the side mirrors) spotting the driver working with the steering wheel and pedals, or enjoying the incidence of light shining on your Zonda's handmade leather seats. Needless to say that all of the gauges in the cockpit are fully working. This detail-mindedness (you can actually see the HUD projection on the windshield of the Corvette) is certainly one of the highlights of the game.
Another nice thing is the built-in tunnel vision which handicaps your cognition at high speed. Using Motion Blur, the vision becomes relatively to your pace more and more blurred, only the center of the screen remains reasonably sharp. As a result, recognizing the speedometer or even rivals in the mirrors doesn't get easier as well.
These effects are also to bear in case of accidents: Getting in touch with the guard rail causes the cockpit camera to shake, the vision becomes blurred, and thereby, you go practically blind for a moment. On a city course, you might have some trouble getting the next corner in this condition.
Unfortunately, we couldn't experience such situations in 3rd person view (yet), but this camera makes it easier to recognize dents and dints on your car and details like heating and cooling brake discs respectively. Backing the feeling of being in the thick of the race caused by good camera work, all information given on the HUD like lap time, position etc. is not static but moving according to the G-forces affecting the car.
"Ryan Cooper is dead" was the reply to a question about a possible story – you don't have to bear a long storyline covering the race events, but you can rather fully focus on your racing career. How the latter will look like, is still, however, unanswered. The only that is certain yet is that you will begin your career with a little cute production vehicle making your way through several racing classes based on race tracks like Brands Hatch or even fictional city courses like London to the top of the ladder. Meanwhile, you can improve your car through career creating serious wheels out of it. As usual, you are allowed to choose from a great range of vehicles (in the preview version, we could recognize an Audi A4, Shelby Terlingua Mustang, Lotus Elise 111R, Chevrolet Corvette, Pagani Zonda and Porsche 997 GT2 belonging to two different racing classes), which are free to tune and customize according to your preferences. In this context I have to mention that exterior customization doesn't influence car performance, but rather damage due to accidents does.
Compared to prior NFS titles, the driving itself feels fairly simulation-afflicted, but that is no surprise keeping the past of Slightly Mad Studios in mind. Anyway, no need to expect a hardcore racing sim like Live for Speed: Using a game pad, Shift is really fun to play, there is always enough feedback coming from screen and Force Feedback effects creating a good feel for what the car is doing. Even situations such as over-or under-steering are an early guess this way. If you ever leave the track caused by a driving mistake, you will certainly know what you really did wrong. Overall, the game play is never unfair, but remains pleasantly challenging.
The fifteen competitors sharing the race track with you do not stubbornly follow the perfect racing line, but also involve each other into skirmish, try pushing rivals from the track or produce driving mistakes. There is not only one AI used for all CPU drivers, instead you will find various types of drivers on the road that might be also quite unforgiving: If you keep jostling other rivals, they will gladly do the same to you and will even remember such situations for several races.
So what is the "Need for Speed" in Shift? Just a little part if you compare it to certain NFS titles. Anyway, Shift looks set to become a proper racing game, because from a technical point of view, it seemed to be already finished. Flawless graphics, no performance problems - I think the game is only missing some content like career, cars and tracks. If in addition features like replay and LAN mode will be integrated (we had good discussion about that), you can except a hopefully in every aspect convincing racing game re-interpreting the "Need for Speed".
You can discuss about NFS Shift in our boards:
- Discussion Board
Apart from out Hands-On article there are also previews of NFS Undercover from other fansites, who attended the community event at EA Black Box as well. To get more opinions about the game, we'd suggest to take a look at these articles:
- NFS Shift Preview @ NFSUnlimited (EN)
- NFS Shift Preview @ NFS Freaks (NL)
- NFS Shift Preview @ EA Forums (EN)
- NFS Shift Preview @ TCM (HR)
- NFS Shift Preview @ NFS Cars (EN)