|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PC, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Bright Light||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 12, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Andrew Groen
The PSP version of Need for Speed: Shift does not have very much in common with its big brother on the consoles. It's normal for portable versions of multiplatform games to take a different approach from the main version, but Shift's PSP version doesn't even share similar ideals or design. Despite being hugely different, Shift PSP is still absolutely fantastic, and it is one of the very best racers found on any portable system.
While the console version was seen as a "shift" from the earlier mainstays of the series (i.e. fast, arcade racing) and a move towards a more simulation-styled racing experience. Shift PSP retains trace amounts of that focus, but is mostly a very arcade-styled racer. So much so that you even get a nitrous boost! If that isn't the calling card of the arcade racer, I just don't know what is.
Nitrous boosting aside, the game still plays out in an arcade style that will see you drifting around corners at absurd speeds and aggressively smashing into other cars. Everything in this game is expertly executed and perfectly suited to the PSP's needs. Races are short but satisfying, and yet they are long enough for the drama of a race to play out. A crash in the middle of the race won't doom you to hit the reset button, as there's still plenty of time to catch up.
Graphically, Shift features a fantastic visual aesthetic in the menu screens that really serves to liven up the game and give it a more energetic and fun feel. It's obvious that everything - even down to the loading screens - has been carefully crafted to fit the continuity of the visuals. On the track, however, things aren't as great. Some tracks are beautiful representations of cities across the globe, but others are just kind of boring and bland. Cars look good for the most part, but they are pretty average for the PSP.
What makes up for the cars' somewhat uninspired looks is the inclusion of a paint shop. It allows you to modify cars you win to look however you want. It's a nice addition that's easy to use, but it's a little bit limited in its current state, and the most you'll really be able to do is to change a car's colors and add designs and patterns. It's quite a bit for a portable racer, but don't expect the power or versatility of something like Forza 2.
As such, the game is not a graphical powerhouse that will compete with Gran Turismo PSP, but in the audio department it could stand up to any other racer on the PSP. Sound effects are spot on and perfectly implemented, but they're not the real story here. Shift features a fantastic soundtrack with a huge variety of songs that play during menu screens and races. They're really fast-paced beats that pump you up to race at the breakneck speeds that Shift demands. Most portable games with a soundtrack skimp on the song variety and end up blaring the same four songs in your ear for ten hours, but Shift's soundtrack has a big track list, and the songs never seem to get old or stale.
The best reason to fall in love with Shift PSP, though, is the truly incredible variety of races available to you. The number of race types dwarfs most console versions despite the limited capacity of the UMD. These race types aren't necessarily innovative, but they go a long way towards keeping the game fresh and entertaining after dozens of races.