Shift 2: Unleashed
For: PlayStation 3
Genre: Driving, Racing
ESRB Rating: N/A
Shift 2: Unleashed
Off the starting line, EA's new Shift 2: Unleashed stands out as a beautiful looking game. The cars, gorgeous of course, and the scenery, exquisite. You'd expect no less in this umpteenth iteration of the Need for Speed franchise on the gloriously high def, embarrassingly offline PlayStation3. But put those cars in motion through that bedazzling scenery and you're talking exponentially drop dead sexy speed sensations of "the need" variety.
For those who prefer the in-car helmet view of the action - as opposed to that follow-cam thing where you watch yourself drive like a kid with a toy car - there be some big updates to the perspective. The helmet cam bobs and moves in sync and contrast to centrifugal forces and angular momentum at play when taking those tight corners, accelerating, decelerating and bumping and rubbing other drivers. Thus, on top of that aforementioned speed sensation, this gives an intimate sense of kinetic angst as several laws of physics (and quite a bit of erratic AI) conspire to take you out - or spin you out, at least.
And while it's surprising how quickly you're desensitised to this bob-n-wobble, shudder-n-jolt impression, chucking in some other racing game for contrast quickly illustrates how effective the effect really is; everything else seem inauthentic.
Your classic driving game at heart, Shift 2: Unleashed also has the decency to dole out some modest gameplay innovations (innovative to this series, at least), including an XP levelling system that rewards you with cash, vinyls, cars, rims and paint.
If that sounds like too much work, dread not for there's a new "loaner car" program for certain races that lets you hop into one exotic or t'other without putting up all your hard-earned cash first.
Still, unless you have an abnormal affinity for driving games, it's still just a racer in the end. Slick and stupefying, sure, but even with variations including Duel, Time Attack and Elimination, you'll get maybe 15 races in before you start thinking about all the better things you could be doing with your time, such as watching infomercials on TV.
Of course, you could have a whole new, fresh and fiercely competitive 12-player game of it online, which is where most racing games go to wax long-lived these days. But oops, ha ha, no online network at the moment nor anywhere in sight.
So for now, definitely rent Shift 2: Unleashed on PlayStation3 for a weekend, or buy used it if some other sot has traded it in for the Xbox 360 version.