A racing sim on the surface, an arcade racer at heart. 4 out of 5Shift 2 Unleashed is trying to break the mold of racing games by focusing on the battle of the driver. I feel compelled to continue playing in driver’s view because it’s so well done; better, in fact, than any Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport, or Project Gotham Racing game to date. This game takes it one step further than most. The view jerks violently and blurs upon collision, you look to the left or right when approaching a turn, and there is an unparalleled sense of speed, even in the earlier stages.
The aforementioned earlier stages aren’t boring like in most other games. In the Underground series, the first few cars felt to be crawling along, even if the speedometer read over 100 mph. Inversely, every car in this game feels fast. Instead of being excited to unlock the higher class races, I was intimidated. When I decided to test my Lamborghini reward car, I was startled when it leapt off the line, and I remained tense throughout the entire race.
Most racing games can be mastered by simply learning when to hammer down on the brake or accelerator; I approached Shift 2 with this strategy, and it wasn’t until my seventh or eighth sixth-place finish on the first event that I realized this game actually requires finesse. It would probably be best played with a racing wheel peripheral, but if you don’t want to drop the money, you’ll just have to adjust like I did.
Shift 2 borrows the suggested line mechanic from the Forza series, which was a great idea due to the fairly long learning curve for this game. The one thing I noticed is that Shift 2 takes it more seriously. In Forza I could cheat the line a little; in Shift 2, however, if the line is yellow you will go off the track unless you slow down, particularly in the later stages.
I also have to say I love the music selection in this game. It’s all very masterfully mixed. It usually only plays in the menus and it has really great effects on it. The songs appear in the menus in a completely different form from their studio version, and the creatively-enhanced songs really add to the intense ambience of the game.
What this game does, it does excellently. What it claims to be, which is the best racing simulation out there, it is not. Shift 2 Unleashed has made the statement that the Need for Speed team can at least be a solid contender in the battle against Forza and GT, and you shouldn’t be surprised to see a Shift 3 in the future.