Need for Speed: Shift

October 5, 2009

Ian Bell did a lot of public relations work among the race sim community about the latest Need for Speed game, basically promising the stars from the sky. A lot of people were suspicious. After all, this was a Need for Speed game, not a series generally revered for it’s accurate physics. Now I am a sim junkie. I play GTR Evolution, GT Legends, rFactor… Hardcore sims. I love racing, and I love race sims, so when a promise is made to the community that your latest game will have something to offer hardcore sim racers, you’d best not be blowing smoke to boost sales. So I got the demo of NFS Shift. What did I find?

Graphically it’s amazing. Everything looks fantastic. I cannot fault this game graphically. We’re talking bar raising here.

Of course once we play it all falls down. Demo has Spa and a track around the streets of London. Don’t like using the demo, but I sure as hell am not buying the game given my spider sense is tingling and EA have fleeced me enough over the years.

Went to Spa in a Lotus Elise since I know Spa intimately. Been racing it in sims all the way back to F1GP, and have done 24 hour races there in various sims. It’s my second favourite track in the world after the Nurburgring.

There is something just not right with the car handling. I turned everything but anti-local brakes and traction control off. It’s like there’s a magnet holding the center of the car in place and you can pivot around it. The back of the car tries to drift at EVERY corner it feels. Heading through Blanchimont the car just felt strange, and heading down to the bus stop it was just… Weird. I’ve driven WORSE physics, but to claim these are sim physics is a huge stretch if not an outright lie.

So having discovered the physics model is fairly mediocre I figure let’s test Ian Bell’s claims of “realism”. I take the BMW. I am still annoyed at BMW for pulling out of Formula One so smashing up one of their cars will be enjoyable.  So I start the race and drive full speed into the barriers at the first corner. About 120mph. Massive accident. The visuals during the accident are amazing. Completely disorienting etc… As I said, I cannot fault this game graphically.

Car is still just fine. This is on FULL damage BTW. No problem at all except a crack in the windshield. So I do it again. Fast as I can on the straight then get the line so I go head on into the wall. Again, a massive accident, car is thrown back onto the track and then hits the OTHER barrier on the other side. Again, car is just fine and I drive away. By this point I am utterly disgusted. The gap between what was promised to the sim community and what was delivered is turning into a gaping void. This is a joke.

So, third crash I do it again. This time the windscreen is cracked all over and OH! The full damage has finally kicked in. This BMW, a car that has been head on into the barriers at between 100 and 150 mph on THREE OCCASIONS now is NOW SLIGHTLY PULLING TO THE LEFT! Someone call iRacing and tell them they’ve been bested. PULLING TO THE LEFT PEOPLE! PULLING TO THE LEFT!

I smashed the car up at least 3 more times and nothing. That was all that happened. Accident after accident after accident, and this FULL REALISM mode gave me a car that pulled a bit to the left.

Utterly pathetic. I wouldn’t even play this game if it was given to me for free as it’s too schizophrenic to be enjoyable. It has nothing to offer the hardcore sim racer as the physics are nowhere near realistic enough and the crash damage is pathetic. It also has very little to offer arcade racers as titles like EA’s own Burnout series do arcade racing FAR better.

What I find staggering is the marketing for the game are touting how it’s the closest you can get to the “racing drivers experience” or whatever asinine wording it used. It goes on to list the racing you can do, one of which is “duels”. Yes, because SO MANY professional racing drivers habitually do one on one races around circuits…That’s a critical part of the racers world…

Just a horrible experience. Couple the graphics with a PROPER sim engine underneath and you’d have an amazing game, but this is a mere sheep in wolfs clothing.

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