Home Reviews Need For Speed Shift – Reviewed

Need For Speed Shift – Reviewed

5 min read


Need for Speed, like morally questionable women, has seen a fall from grace in the past few years. After the excellent Most Wanted, EA seemed to have lost interest in putting out another game, and we got the uninspired Carbon, the horribly average ProStreet, and the technical mess of Undercover.

It was a sad state of affairs for the series, and EA saw fit to fix the aging series with some radical plastic surgery. Shift features a new developer (Slightly Mad Studios) and a new idea of what a Need for Speed game should be. Read on to find out how it fares.

As always, its really pretty and well presented. Awesome graphical touches like blurring when you go faster, or an almost flash-bang effect when you crash into a wall at a preposterous speed, litter the game. It is beautifully polished and a lot of effort was put into the graphic engine and car models. It’s the only racing game where I saw no reason to leave the default cockpit view, simply because EACH car has its authentic cockpit. When you upgrade the interior, it is properly reflected in the cockpit view. I know it’s a very small and inconsequential part of the game, but it helps with the immersion factor. Which you will need after playing for a while…


Sound wise, all the exhaust notes are excellent, but the menu and loading screen’s music is dreadful. Apparently there are licensed songs in-game, but they are played so infrequently and seemingly at random in the post-race menu that I wonder why Slightly Mad even bothered with them.

Once you start a race, still impressed by the cockpit view, you notice the cars don’t handle as well as they should. If you are GRiD veteran, you will be disappointed. There isn’t much of a difference between all-wheel drive, front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive, which is annoying and inaccurate. Then, to add insult to injury, all the cars seem to slide whenever they damn well please. No matter how powerful or the configuration, they slide around corners like the tyres were covered oil before the race. Although, to its meagre credit, the inaccurate handling is consistent.


The selection of cars and tracks is average at best. The car lot is basically the same as every Need for Speed game from the past 5 years, with their upgraded models. The Lexus LF-A prototype and the Lamborghini Reventon are nice touches, but not enough to excite the enthusiast. You can’t upgrade either of those cars nor any of the tier 4 cars (read: coolest cars in the game), which I find irritating.

Another advance towards a legitimate racer is the inclusion of Works conversions. A Works car is a fully fledged ultra-hot racing version of a standard car. I won’t lie, I feel like the dogs bollocks when I race a Nissan GT-R Works car, and I even ignore the frustrating handling when presented with the sheer visual and audio tour de force of a Works car. But why do only half the cars have Works upgrades? An Aston Martin DB9 has no Works upgrade even though one exists in real racing. Yes it’s a small thing to whine about, but these small things are important to creating a fantastic experience.

Shift throws achievements (called badges) at you like its desperately trying to help your self esteem. I swear the game would reward you with badges simply for installing it if it could. There are about four hundred million badges to collect, so for those OCD-types, this game will keep you busy.

Now, this is where Shift’s wheels come off- It has no idea what it wants to be. Shift rewards players with points for either very precise driving or very aggressive driving, which is used to upgrade your driver level which leads to unlocking things like vinyls, extra garage slots, etc. Fine, sounds good right? Here’s the inconsistency: Why am I rewarded for literally crashing into other cars if I get penalised for cutting a corner? And the definition of cutting a corner is very, very loose in the Shift world. Then there is the issue of ‘mastering corners’. You receive points for perfecting a corner, by driving at the right speed and at the right angle, etc. This is an excellent idea to promote better driving on the behalf of the player, but the damn handling model and inconsistent definition of perfect cornering ruin it.Shift3

So many good ideas are wasted by Shift’s desire to appeal to everyone, and in doing so it loses all of its cohesion. I am by no means a hardcore driving fan, and I have always loved a good Need for Speed game, but Shift flounders where it shouldn’t. Even the progression of races is flawed. There are five tiers, the last of which being the ‘World Tour’, which is supposedly for the best of the best. Yet I unlocked it without even starting the Tier 4 races. There is no impetus for you to complete all the races, other than buying a bigger and better car – which you can’t upgrade or improve unlike ALL the other Need for Speed games.

Ultimately, Shift provides us with an excellent glimpse of where the series is headed, and if the inevitable sequel sorts out the handling and other inconsistencies, it will be an awesome addition to the racing game fans’ collection. Until then, buy a second hand copy of GRiD and enjoy a really well made racing game.

Gameplay – 7.5

Everything works so well, until you take a corner.

Presentation – 8.5

Excellent all round and quite impressive. The fact that there is no mouse support in version 1 of the game is a massive pain though.

Sound – 6

Its so meh that it hurts.

Value – 7

A long single player is nice, but with no reason to finish it other than seeing the end credits detracts. I haven’t tried multiplayer, so I’m giving that the benefit of the doubt.

Overall – 7

No, it isn’t an average of the above scores, but a true reflection of Shift. While it isn’t as good as it should be, it is still a reasonably fun casual driving sim

Last Updated: October 22, 2009


  1. koldFU5iON

    October 22, 2009 at 17:50

    Karl my friend you sound like you’re a bit anti NFS and haven’t quite cleared your ‘impartial’ thought pattern to what Shift has become. and you’ve blabbered on for a page without giving much thought to the game.

    Firstly a little bit about the team, they developed a game called GTR which has won multiple Best “Racing Sim Game”. So the experience of accelerating at high speed with out controlling your acceleration is going to put you into a wall cause that’s what happens.

    Trust me when I say these guys have done more research than what you’ve clearly done in this review. Most of the team themselves are part of various driving clubs.

    “almost flash-bang effect when you crash into a wall at a preposterous speed, litter the game.” – ok I’m going to stop you there, can you tell me as a viewer what the flash-bang effect means? like oh I don’t know “Crashing into walls no longer is a means to get around corners, when you hit the barrier you will ‘experience’ being slightly concust and dizzy as you loose focus and won’t be able to see clearly for a couple of seconds due to your head slamming into the side of your car”, this game is being touted as the drivers experience yet you fail to mention key aspects of what this game is trying to provide.

    Sound: well the sound in the game is excellent, moving from outside, inside and rotating around the car especially with a surround sound system the really reflects the angle and direction of the car. Gear changes are prominent and change when updgrades come in you can hear dump valves, wind, and hear the curb as you drive over it. I will agree the music took a turn for the worse.

    “There isn’t much of a difference between all-wheel drive, front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive, which is annoying and inaccurate” Did you race the same game, cause I’ve raced with most of the cars, and there are destinct difference between rear wheel and front wheel drive cars. as with front wheel drives you have much better control around corners but less acceleration, while with the rear wheel drivers you have much more power and torque to get off the line however slowing down through tight turns is essential to keep control. NFS also tests your driving skill before you even hit the career mode to evaluate your skill as a driver to give you a custom experience this is of course changeable (which is what I’m assuming you did?)

    The Car selection is not massive but it will satisify a lot of car enthusiasts as for upgrading your car you can do all of the essential upgrades without really knowing anything about cars. there’s also a tuning segmant where you can choose between simple and advanced tuning, so that people who know nothing about cars can quickly tune their cars to their fit, and more advanced drivers can really get down to the nitty gritty and fine tune every rotating part on the car.

    Achievements are causing problems in games where developers are throwing achievements in there just to get people to buy, I think the achievement list is rather bland and it looks like NFS rather focused on giving drivers a profile they can compare with their buddies and see what sort of driver they are as well as their style, there’s also an online leaderboard where you can compare race times and badges.

    I don’t think I can continue much more, but you seriously need to re-consider all facets of a game and your ‘facts’ need some polish. This is ultimately a review and all you’ve given me is an opinion and not a why it’s like that, there’s no talk on the racing modes or even the drifting(which is damn hard but there’s a learning curve). I’m not even saying this game is perfect I have played this game online and it is flawed like you can’t believe but I won’t get into that.


    • Karl

      October 23, 2009 at 08:34

      Some properly thought out comments here.

      If anything, I am an NFS fanboy. I finished ProStreet twice (despite it being pretty rubbish), and I actively skipped varsity to play Carbon. That isn’t anti-nfs.

      Slightly Mad Studios has employees from Blimey! games, who worked in collaboration with Simbin to create the GTR games. Research? Have you heard of an Aston Martin DB9? It has a racing version called the DBR9, which races at Le Mans, made completely from carbon fibre. Is it in Shift? No. That alone casts doubt about how amazing awesome the research was that went into Shift. Why can’t I drift with a Lotus? Being part of a driving club doesnt make you an expert on cars by default.

      I assume every gamer knows what a flashbang effect is. Screen goes white, fuzzy, and you hear very little. Thats what happens in Shift and it was easier and quicker to explain it like that. I thought it was a really neat effect, as well as driver focus.

      Its hard to ‘mention key aspects of what this game is trying to provide’ when the handling physics are broken. I thought it could be the keyboard so I asked a friend who has the PS3 version and he has the same issues as me. Shift has the nice bells and whistles but the meat of the game, the handling, is shite.

      The only difference between the 3 different car types is FWD slides a litte, AWD slides a fair bit, and RWD slides alot. I had traction control on full, and I still slide around like I was on ice.

      Did you play Carbon? The best thing about Carbon was taking hypercars and making them faster. Upgrading the Carrera GT was SO satisfying and I feel upgrading is one of the key elements of NFS games. The fact that I can’t upgrade Tier 4 cars just irritates me. And don’t fool yourself, the tuning is very meh. ProStreet had better tuning options, ALOT better tuning options. My pet peeve was you have to _buy_ increased boost in for your turbo/supercharger. Thats a pile of crap, its an adjustment in tuning not something you tack on.

      The less I say about drifting, the better. Its awful. Regarding the racing modes, they are virtually the same as all other racing games with the exception of duels, which I found a bit silly. It was like open season to bash to the other car off the track so you can get the 5 sec lead to win.

      So perhaps YOUR facts need some checking. Take that.

      Lastly, people forget there is a finite number of words that I can use to write a review. I exceeded the initial 500 asked by Lazy by double, so I did leave some of the more unimportant things out. I suppose the bottom line is if you enjoy it, then by all means have fun with it. I didn’t enjoy as much as I should have.


    • Karl

      October 23, 2009 at 08:40

      Oh, and the engine sounds are quite excellent.


  2. evilredzombie

    October 22, 2009 at 19:12

    How can u complain so much and yet give it a 7? I haven’t played shift but if I saw so many problems in a game it would get a 5 lazygamer reviews are not cool games are rated way too high 8.5 so often


  3. Felicity

    October 22, 2009 at 19:42

    Without trying the multiplayer you have really not tasted the pie. This is the first game I have really played multi in, (last one was Myth the fallen lords 1997). It is amazing stealing poll from a human and not an AI. Not an NFS fanperson but have to give them an 7.9 for a vaguely dodgy package that delivers on several fronts. :kissing:


  4. ShoCKeR ZA

    October 22, 2009 at 22:49

    FAIL!!!!! Shift owns.I say it should get at least 8.5 :angry:


  5. easy

    October 23, 2009 at 08:51

    i thought it was a pretty good review.
    it came across as honest, praised the game where it shines and hilighted its faults… i thought that what reviews were supposed to do?

    at any rate, it didn’t put me off being interested in the game.

    job done


  6. Dark

    October 23, 2009 at 09:10

    Well let me suggest something 🙂 Why doesnt Karl call up Stephen Viljoen. He is the COO or something like that of Slightly Mad studios who worked extensively on Shift and was also the lead producer on the GTR series. He lives in Hermanus and is South African. Let me tell you he is a serious racing fundy and I am sure he would oblige having an interview 🙂 Hes a very cool guy and knows his stuff.


  7. Phil

    October 23, 2009 at 10:07

    Hey, I don’t comment that often anymore, but felt I needed to here. I understand that some games just don’t hit the right chord with certain people, but this game deserves more than a 7. I had an absolute blast playing this game, and it was a massive surprise package for the year. I believe it appeals to all racing fans, and it was a damn site better than the last 2 outings by EA. Still think you guys are doing a great job, but I have a suggestion. Nick, you used to be sponsored by NFS, why don’t you give it a go, would be interested to see if you agree on this review. Once again just an opinion!!

    Nice comment koldFU5iON


    • Karl

      October 23, 2009 at 10:14

      To be honest, I battled with giving it a final score. It didn’t deserve an 8, so I looked at a 7.5. I had that in the final draft, but changed it to a 7 after the handling niggles made me so angry I stopped playing it. That was moments after I found out I couldn’t upgrade Tier 4 cars.

      I am keen for Nicks comments too actually, since he is the local racing game fundy.


  8. Karl

    October 23, 2009 at 10:10

    Dark, that is a serious gauntlet that you have just laid.

    We will see what we can do. I happen to live very close to Hermanus.


  9. Dark

    October 23, 2009 at 10:12

    Karl give me a call Ill see if I can set it up for you 🙂


  10. janrik

    October 23, 2009 at 10:18

    Nice review dude.


  11. Nick de Bruyne

    October 23, 2009 at 19:00

    I would love to give my impressions of the game, but the only copy I have with me is going to our lagz-spotter from this week :cwy:

    Ill see if I can get my hands on one soon


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