NFS Shift

Need for Speed Shift Hands-On @ gamescom 09

NFS-Planet was at the gamescom 09 in Cologne, Germany. Our teammmeber Junkie met the producers of the upcoming Need for Speed Shift and could get an impression of the current build of the game. You can read his experiences here:

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After a long-lasting residence in Leipzig, the Games Convention, now renamed as gamescom, took place in Cologne, Germany for the first time. Therefore, Electronic Arts with its German headquarters right in Cologne provided an extensive program for all visitors. All Need for Speed fans had the opportunity to relax at a sitting area with Need for Speed Nitro or to sit down in some bucket seats to check out Need for Speed Shift. For webmasters, pro gamers and other VIPs from the NFS community a kart race and a barbecue was held – even some developers participated there and had a lot of fun. You can find some pictures from this event in our » picture gallery.

In spite of the community event we managed to get enough time to play the soon to be released Need for Speed Shift intensely and even to check out its competitors Forza Motorsport 3 and Gran Turismo 5.

One of the highlights at the EA booth was certainly the NFS Shift area, where a little LAN party was arranged for all of the race game fans. Each of the eight PCs built up there got hooked up with three monitors, d-box racing seats, G25 steering wheels and a surround sound system – with this setup, everyone had the chance to tame a Maserati MC12 GT1 and to show off his racing skills to the other drivers. Thanks to the sound of a screaming V12 engine right behind your back, force feedback effects coming from the seat and steering wheel and last but not least the game itself with its outstanding sensation for speed, the driving experience was obviously quite impressive. In spite of offering similar equipment at their booths, the competitors can't keep up here: They might have a little advantage regarding the degree of detail of their cars and landscape, but Forza and Gran Turismo are presenting themselves very demurely and sterilely compared to Shift with its much more intense “right in the middle”-sensation. The experience of piloting an over 600 bhp Maserati at speeds up to 180 mph over the tiny roads of the Nordschleife is simply breathtaking.

Major handling differences were apparent, too. Even with turned off driver assists, Forza's and Gran Turismo's cars keep reacting sluggishly and are still comparatively easy to control. In contrast, Shift is really a challenge to keep his car even on the street without ABS brake and similar electronic helpers – the driving physics are very responsive and so you will need a lot of susceptibility to gas, brake and all the controls of the car tuning section. But if the game asks too much of you, it is just some mouse clicks to turn on even options like steering or braking assists and to make it more suitable for beginners this way.

Actually, you will experience the same problems in drift mode, too. Simple turning in and flooring the pedal as you might have done it in Need for Speed Carbon merely results in some neat donuts. Since driver assists like traction control seem rather useless here, you will need to get the feeling in car tuning and the throttle button once again. In the beginning, a clean run is no matter of course, so you should definitely calculate some time to get to know the new driving physics. And maybe for the first time in the recent history of the game the brake pedal isn't just an ornament!

Bad news for all customizing fans. The selection of optical attachment parts is narrowed down to three body kits per car – the rear wing is also included here, so you can't modify or add it afterwards. Autosculpting is also gone. Furthermore, the body kits vary in their aerodynamic attributes, so the bottom line is that the last and most expensive one is also the most useful one. Likewise, interior tuning is just three-stage and for this reason there is no real “customizing” here. However I have to admit that nearly all of the body kits are looking very good and are consistent with those of real race cars of the ALMS or Super GT series, for instance – so there's no resemblance anymore to some of the body kits of Shift's predecessors you pretty much had to get used to. As always, the selection of rims and vinyls is extensively large, and thanks to some pre-designed liveries even beginners will have the opportunity to create some neat looking race cars.

Apart from that, looking for weaknesses in Shift is very hard if one can get used to the new game concept. AI Balancing is still something to improve since some races were way too easy to win, whereas others were ultra hard (although you don't have to win every race to proceed in the career mode), but I guess there will be some adjustments made until release. Moreover, weather effects are also missing – you just can set the time of day a race should start (no night-time racing anyhow). A licensed soundtrack is also nearly non-existent since there is no music during the race (which actually fits pretty well in this scenario) but only during the replays.

“Action racing” was one of the key words for NFS Undercover, but it actually works quite well for Need for Speed Shift since it is offering an amazingly intense, enthralling driving experience. In addition, it is able to keep up with serious simulation games like Forza Motorsport 3 and Gran Turismo thanks to its truly demanding physics. I insistently recommend you to check out the demo (unfortunately we still don't have any release date yet) – many hours of playing already convinced me personally like just a few Need for Speed games could before – September 17th is definitely a red-letter day for me!

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- Junkie

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