|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Slightly Mad Studios|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: March 29, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
Shift 2 is as good to listen to as it is pretty to look at. The engines bellow and the exhausts belch in a way that somehow balances carefully between fanciful representation and faithful recreation. It's almost symphonic. The music is the kind of emo alternative rock you'd expect, but it's never intrusive. It's often even appropriate so there's basically no complaint here either.
Very rarely was the fourth wall ever broken on my playthrough, but it did happen. There were a few incidents where the physics engine had a hiccup or the graphics engine had to play catch-up, but the game ran smoothly for the most part.
Where customization is concerned, however, there was much to be desired. Players can customize their vehicles with vinyls via an editor much like the one found in Forza, although its implementation ends up being very bare bones and not really all that impressive. This isn't a huge fault by any means, but players won't be creating any Picasso recreations any time soon. The paint editor also left me scratching my head. Instead of using a color palette, there's a hue, saturation, value system in place. It works fine enough but because of the way it's set up, there are some colors that are next to impossible to achieve. Again, it isn't a big issue, just one that left me wondering why there wasn't an additional solution, like a color wheel alongside the HSV setup.
Upgrades are a bit confusing as well, largely due to the way they're handled. For instance, if you want to upgrade the air intake on a particular vehicle, there are three parts that you can purchase: performance filter, high flow cone and intake tube, and a cold air intake system. None of these parts conflict, but they also can't be installed at the same time. What might be going on is that the third option (which lends the highest performance boost) probably has the other two included in some way but you couldn't tell by the way it's displayed. Tuning itself is simple enough and won't require a lot of time to understand. It's all very straightforward and well-presented. Each vehicle is assigned a number that corresponds to its performance potential. The Performance Index is a quick way of telling where you might stack up against you competition. It should also add another layer of competition to the Autolog as well as bragging rights for those who can best their friends with lesser vehicles.
All things considered, Shift 2: Unleashed is a rewarding experience. Sure, it doesn't have 1,000 cars made up of more polygons than the moon or a vinyl editor Michelangelo would have deemed 'adequate,' but it's still a complete package. More than that, it could easily stand its ground against its 800-pound console brethren and, for me, that's what so outstanding. Slightly Mad Studios famously set out to outshine the efforts of Turn 10 and Polyphony Digital with this effort. If nothing else, they might be on the right track.
CCC Freelance Writer