Having moved out of my family residence and into my own place (without cable television), I’ve had several options with how to dispense of my time. I have the option of whiling away the hours conferring with the flowers, studying, drinking beer, reading a book, or playing PS3. For the most part, I’ve been doing everything but the PS3 because I’ve had NHL 09 as my only game. Until yesterday, that is, when I purchased NFS Shift; a purchase meant to tide me over until Gran Turismo 5, if Polyphony ever decides to stop teasing us and release the fucking thing already. So how does NFS Shift stack up against my last simulated automotive time waste investment, Forza Motorsports 2?
Very well. Although the selection of cars thus far, and in the game overall, is relatively limited (to only about 40 cars vs. 400+ in Forza 2), the gameplay is refreshing.
So far I’ve accessed Tier 1 and Tier 2 cars (there are 4 tiers). My first purchase, a Tier 1 car, was a BMW 135i. A car I’m quite fond of in the real world and a car that served me well in my opening races. But before I could start those opening races of my career, I was asked to do a “test” race with a modded E92 M3 and an unfamiliar track. This served to calibrate the difficulty settings in the game. Ingeniously unexpected and probably very effective for most people new to the game, but for people like me who are just rusty after a few years off, I’ve been left with settings that are on the easy side of what I’d prefer. I’m in the 3rd most difficult. Out of only 4. So you know the “test” didn’t go well. I’ve never been great at academics, I guess.
Getting back to the gameplay, NFS Shift has adopted the “R2 for throttle and L2 for braking” method, as did Forza 2. A method I much prefer over the old two-button system because L2 and R2 allow for modulation of the pedals and bring a more realistic element to the game. I quickly found my groove and proceeded to win the next 6 races straight and unlock Tier 2 cars before I knew what had happened. In fact, I didn’t lose a race until I played a Car Battle with an E92 M3 against an RS4. Should’ve taken the RS4… That’s the great thing about the Invitational Events though, you don’t even need to buy the cars! They just provide them for you for that specific event! This is one thing that always irked me about Forza 2, you needed a different car for every event and there simply wasn’t enough money to buy and build competitive cars for every category.
My first Tier 2 car was a Porsche Cayman S and what a tail-happy beast! I thought Porsches were supposed to be neutral, especially the mid-engined ones. It didn’t even sound as good as I was hoping. That’s saying something because the audio really is one of the highlights of NFS Shift. Boy was the Cayman S a handful. Underpowered against the competition, too. Still, I was able to dial in a little more understeer in the tuning menu and win some more races. Neat.
More gameplay. What really enhances the gameplay is the sense of speed. EA Sports has done a remarkable job, especially with quicker cars, of making them feel quicker. In Quick Race, I grabbed an orange Murcielago and held on for dear life. The horizon rushes towards the windscreen and the scenery blurs by, as 640 horsepower are wont to do. Then things really blur when you hit the barrier. It’s like getting a concussion! The screen goes blurry for a few seconds, you can hear your heartbeat, and you’re almost completely disoriented. It’s a neat trick that makes this game unique from, say, Mario Kart. Not that I have anything against Mario Kart. Just saying.
Another fun new aspect to the game is the Profile Points system that breaks down your driving style into its component Aggressive and Precision categories. After every race, you get stars, money, and Profile Points. Stars unlock tiers and races, money buy cars and modifications, and Profile Points earn you badges and move you up in experience levels, which also earn you money and unlock races.
That should be about enough for today, check back here later as I gun for Tier 3, and ultimately Tier 4 cars. I have my heart set on a Zonda R. It will be mine.