Shift 2: Unleashed

BANG! What the Fuuurrg!!

That was the end of my first effort around the tracks of SHIFT 2 Unleashed. But here’s the thing – the game finds out how good you are and then sets itself up to give you the best experience it can. The first session gives you a difficulty level, the second assesses your opponent levels – how good the AI is. So a little initial frustration is the trade-off for longer-term enjoyment. I decided I could live with that. At least I thought I had.

The game first. Unleashed has taken the tracks, cars and structure of SHIFT and given them, well, a bit of a kicking! But this is a good thing, one of the problems I have with a lot of driving / racing games is that they seem a little bit clean and shiny. Unleashed now has ‘added dirt and grit’ and I do like the result. Bits of stuff fly up from the cars in front of you and hit the windscreen, and bugs go splat. It’s all very good!

The game has you starting at level one with a limited starting budget to buy your first Class C car and your goal is, of course, to progress through the levels and classes until you get to GT. Along the way you are coached by Vaughn Gittin Jr. who is, as I’m sure I don’t need to point out but will anyway,ย  a racer in the Formula D drift series. Gittin had some reasonable input into the drift section of Unleashed and you get the chance to win his car in the game too. As you play through the game you win money, upgrade kits, paint styles, graphics kits and cars as you level up, which itself is achieved by doing well in the events and achieving certain goals – beating a lap time, holding a drift for a number of seconds, that kind of thing – which result in XP being awarded.

Of course driving is one thing, making the cars perform is another and there’s a whole dark art to tweaking the setup and applying the upgrades to get the best out of the cars. Simply buying everything you can and maxing out your ride within the class limits is no guarantee of success, in fact it’s perfectly possible to over-do things and make the car almost undriveable – I know because I did this to a 370Z and ruined a perfectly nice setup.

If you’re graphically oriented then the look of your cars may be the thing you want to spend time on. You can choose colours, paint styles and vinyl graphics and build them up to create a unique and stunning look for your fleet. For me I picked a nice colour and left it at that.

Playing the game ‘for real’ gave me issues though. I’m on the PS3 version and I think it’s pretty widely acknowledged that the Dual-Shock is not the best for driving games as the triggers are the wrong shape, but beyond that I found the control twitchy. Steering had a decidedly on-off feeling to it and small alterations had large results. I was disappointed. In fact I was so disappointed that I bought a Logitech GT Driving Force wheel to see if it really was a controller issue, a game issue or a me issue.

Much better. Much, much better. The control was more precise and the experience much more immersive, at least it was until I hit the first drift events. Then things all changed. The throw on the analogue controls, both wheel and pedals, was simply too large to allow for the response needed to me to make the drift work. I’m not saying that this is a game thing, it may well be a me thing, but when I dropped back on to the Dual-Shock everything came back together. This, for me, is an issue.

Another issue is the races themselves. The duration of the early races I found too short, they left no latitude for recovery if you made a mistake and, in the early stages of your career, this is important. Oh sure, it’s possible to go back and re-race any event, but it’s also really easy to hit [Start] and restart the event. If the race was ten laps instead of two I think I’d have been more inclined to pursue recovery rather than giving up and starting again.

Finally on my list of complaints, and this is actually the most annoying for me, is the user interface. There are a couple of things in the way that the UI works which means that, well it doesn’t work! Firstly, the “Saving data” indicator appears in the top right of the screen. This would be fine, but it’s the only indicator that does. The “Loading” indicator is the bottom right as are the button options and this means that over and over and over again I was looking at the screen not knowing what was going on because the notice that it was saving my game simply wasn’t in my eye-line, this is compounded by my second gripe, the button actions.

When I press a button I expect something immediate to happen showing me that I’ve pressed it, at the very least the buttons should go away but they don’t and this leaves me in the situation where I press X to move on and it seems like nothing happens so I press X again… and again. Whether this is a PS3 specific thing or not, I’m not sure but it gets more and more irritating as time goes on. You might think that this is just a little bit picky but UX (User eXperience) is more and more important in software and systems design and Unleashed has dropped the ball on this occasion.

Aside from these things though, aside from the controller swapping I’ll be doing and the UI niggles which I’ll just have to tolerate, the game itself is a good’un. A bit more gritty, a bit more ‘real’. I like the dizzyness which is invoked when you slam into a barrier, I like the significant damage you can do to a car if you really get things wrong, I like the choice of cars available (there are a significant number of licenses in here!) and I like the greater sense of depth I’m getting from the game.







2 responses to “Shift 2: Unleashed”

  1. Paul avatar

    I’ve been playing NFS Shift 2 on the Xbox and haven’t experienced the issues described with the controller. I did find the issue with the “triggers” on GT5 quite annoying so I changed to the right stick and then all was ok ๐Ÿ™‚

    The game itself is good, some of the drift events are really tricky and require lots of “just one more go I’m sure I can get this…”. 5 attempts later and you’ll crack it.

    Taking drift out of the equation the game is “the next step” from Shift (which I loved). It makes racing more “real”, if you go into a corner too fast, you’ll crash, go in too slow and you’ll be overtaken. It’s a fine balance and really pushes you to compete harder…

    The crashes are good (except the screen going grey! ๐Ÿ™‚ ) and the modifying of the cars is good as well.

    All in all I would give this game a 4.5 – 4.7 out of 5. It’s almost perfect, but the load / save times are annoying.

    P.S. Also for me I prefer having more single player achievements than online. When you try and play any game online a week after release day, you simply won’t win ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Matt avatar

    Shift 2 for me has been a game of split personalities. On the positive, the immersion levels (one of the game’s best aspects) have been upped. The inclusion of GT3 and GT1 is a big seller for me and the sound is better than virtually all the other current racing games out there at the moment, apart from maybe DiRT3. The range of circuits is very good, though the GT1 licence clearly hasn’t been fully exploited with a full roster of GT1 rounds missing and some of the best circuits on that calendar absent. San Luis anyone?
    The DLC so far has been astounding, the Legends pack was fantastic and VERY generous for the cost.
    On the downside, the game’s online aspects need work. Our GT1 series has struggled badly to get a full 12 player lobby to work. When in an online race the collision detection is dodgy at best and occasionally downright dangerous. The greying out when you have a crash is great….but try to take a photo of your massive off and you get the same effect in photomode which is awful. The steering is still a little twitchy but when you get used to it it really is fine. Despite alot of people moaning.
    On the whole it really is a very good game and worth giving a go, just take it as it is and don’t go comparing it to GT5 or Forza. It’s a different and much more vicious animal.

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