|System: X360, PS3, PC, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Slightly Mad||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 15, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (8 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Another facet of NFS: Shift that was somewhat disappointing was the career mode. Like the overall leveling system, it suffers from being much too short. The career mode is built around a semi-pro street racing world where the end-goal is to compete in an NFS World Championship. Along the way you'll have to go through five different tiers of racing events and earn gold stars for pulling off advanced precision or aggression moves. Once you get a set number of stars, you can advance to the next level, as well as earn sponsorship deals that will bring in extra money and gain you notoriety.
However, getting these stars is fairly easy, and you only need to complete about 1/3 of the events in a given tier in order to gain enough stars to advance to the next tier. If you just run through the career mode, I can't imagine it taking more than four hours to complete. If you go for 100%, you'll probably get closer to the seven or eight hour mark (especially if you factor in elusive stars on advanced courses), but the experience still feels a little too short.
The online component is also competent, but it just doesn't feel very immersive. There are two main ways to race online. The first is the standard versus match, which pits you against up to seven other players in the classic race to the finish. This race can be customized to include unlocked cars and tracks, but it doesn't have many features that we haven't seen before. However, the second online mode is much more interesting: Driver Duel. This mode is a one-on-one mode, and it allows you to compete in several tiered "best of" modes where the goal is to chase your opponent. You take turns being the chaser and the leader, and the specifics of each win are determined by a tiered ladder system. You have to rack up consecutive wins to advance up the ladder, but lose even one duel and you are bunked back down to the bottom. However, if you rack up enough wins in a row you'll be able to compete in a Driver Duel championship.
As far as production values go, Need for Speed: Shift is certainly an improvement over its predecessors. Visuals, including cars and tracks, have plenty of detail, and the framerate issues that plagued past releases have all but disappeared. The game also includes several pre-rendered cutscenes that play during the game's career mode. These cutscenes look great, and they have a high level of environmental detail not seen in prior NFS games. As far as the audio is concerned, NFS features a pretty generic soundtrack, with peppy rock and hip-hop themes playing during races. However, the automotive sounds are great, and I could tell whether there was a Ferrari or a Honda behind me simply by listening to the hum of the different engines.
Need for Speed: Shift is a great reboot for the NFS franchise. The new focus on simulation-style racing combined with the fast-paced arcade elements that we've come to expect from NFS form a perfect marriage that makes this a great title to play. However, my only complaint is that there just isn't enough there. Nevertheless, tearing up the track and leveling up your driver is great fun, and the experience alone makes this title worth checking out. However, I sincerely hope that EA and the folks at Slightly Mad take this winning formula and expand it for the next NFS. If you have written off the NFS series and even missed the last few entries, now is a great time to come back. Shift is certainly a game-changer and is earning itself a place once more among the other heavyweights in the genre.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor