Platforms: Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Lets get this out of the way right from the start, Shift 2 Unleashed is a highly tuned, racing focused machine, so if you're expecting to cruise around an open environment for a bit of a laugh, you're better off jumping into Test Drive Unlimited 2. Now, the real car enthusiasts amongst you will love the experience on offer in Shift 2 Unleashed because it's one of the best out there, which has a lot to do with a fantastic combination of tense, high speed, adrenaline fuelled racing, and the chance to really get inside the vehicles that are on offer to you and make little tweaks here and there to alter their performance.
Initially a large proportion of the game's locked off to you, in fact from what I can remember the only things I could select from the menu were the career mode and options, which immediately made me think that things weren't going to be quite as fun as I'd thought. However, this is just to guide you into the initial tutorials that test your abilities and assign your driving controls accordingly, and i have to say the assigned control system is probably the best out of any racing game I've ever played before. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the tutorial videos, they're probably the most irritating thing in the game and you WILL find yourself hammering every button on your controller to make them go away! Luckily, once they're gone the game becomes an open book and you can have a proper look around.
Unsurprisingly, my first point of call was a race. Once the green light flashes across the screen, tyres screech, a bit of smoke rises, and you're off. Observing the car from a third person view is a perfectly acceptable way of playing things, but switch to the driver's seat view and you'll have an absolute blast. Apparently the developers main aim was to scare the crap out of you at every opportunity when you're viewing the proceedings through the helmet cam, first you'll hear the car's behind you making their approach , then a quick flash of something moving at high speed'll appear in your rear view mirror, and finally, if your opponents get close enough to you, the camera'll switch to black and white as your head bobs around after a neck breaking collision.
The terror increases if you're racing at night, try to imagine pure black in your mirrors and hearing a roaring engine approaching from afar, followed by a set of headlights moving towards you at warp speed, or an RTA if your opponents headlights have been damaged in a previous impact! I think it's important to note that I usually can't stand switching to a first person perspective for driving games, but I'm more than happy to make an exception for Shift 2 Unleashed because the level of detail inside the car is pretty amazing and it's the best virtual simulation of being behind the wheel that I've played so far.
Races can be accessed through career, or the quick race mode, depending on how confident you're feeling, and your performance'll determine how much XP and money you earn, both of which are important when it comes to unlocking cars, upgrades, and generally progressing through the game.
The number of car makes and models is pretty staggering, just when you think there can't possibly be anymore you find the list keeps on going, which was something that happened to me twice whilst scrolling through them all. This is just the beginning though, once you've decided which car you're going to be using, your aim's to turn it from a standard factory model into a snarling beast of a racing automobile. With some racing games this'd be a walk in the park, after purchasing a couple of upgrades you're done. This isn't the case with Shift 2 Unleashed, you can twist and tweak everything you can think of, from different components of the engine to streamlining the body kit. Then you move into the tuning section of the game where you can adjust things like the air pressure of the tyres and the steering control, before finally moving onto customising your car's paintwork and rims.
Online play is really, really, entertaining, and you'll have to slightly adjust your tactics to ensure your victory. You might get nervous when you're sitting about waiting for enough players to join you, because it's never good to see you're up against Lamborghini Murciélagos and Bugatti Veyrons, when you're sat in an offensively orange Ford Focus ST. However, whilst you might initially think you're hopelessly outmatched, a lot of players misjudge the speed and breaking of the top level cars, so you may well see three or four vehicles speed past you once things get going, only for two or three of those cars to jump into the air after horrendous crashes, or you'll easily drift past an opponent who's collided with a tyre barrier having taken a corner too fast.
It really is hard to find anything negative to say about this game, and the only thing that I can think of is that there isn't a free roaming section that you can swerve and slide around when you want a bit of an escape from all the high octane racing, although to be honest why would you want a break when it looks and handles so beautifully!
- Superb racing
- An unbelievable level of customisation
- Brilliant first person perspective thanks to the helmet cam
- Annoying tutorial videos
- No free roaming
- You need to be intimately familiar with car mechanics to tune your vehicles properly
The Short Version: Shift 2 Unleashed offers a rip roaring racing experience coupled with a wonderful range of cars and a staggering amount of customisation.