Shift 2: Unleashed

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Shift 2: Unleashed review
Jeff Gates


Like a refreshing drink of adrenaline


This brings me to the flaws of Shift 2, a category where the car list is probably paramount. With just 145 vehicles it falls incredibly short of its major competition. Executive producer Marcus Nilsson said in an interview that the studio wanted to concentrate on having only the must-have speedsters, which I can agree with for the most part. However, there isn’t a single mid-performance Mustang on the list. In fact, the only Mustang in the game other than the GT500 is a modern drift version of the 1969. Even if it is awesome it still doesn’t account for the lack of any 90’s or 60’s production models of the most popular American muscle car of all time. Somehow there is only one Renault, no sign of a 90’s model Civic (infamous tuner cars) and yet the Scion tC makes an appearance. Many of the driving simulation fans out there will be disappointed by the moderately low number of cars, but those that are more concerned with the nerve-racking racing of the genre will hardly notice this shortcoming.

A further disappointment is the lack of split-screen. Lead designer Andy Tutor has stated that this is the fault of too many things going on to render it all twice. “There’s so much going on in the game, for example we’ve added if you’re drafting a guy now you’ll get all the little bits of crap from his car, all the gravel and rubber hit the car and they can hit your windscreen and things like that. It takes a lot of development time but it’s very authentic and that’s the experience we want. Unfortunately that means things like split screen aren’t possible.” This is a forgivable exclusion but a setback none the less.

I am sorry to say there is nowhere to freely drive any car in the game. Even the quick mode limits you to a game type and the cars you own. In contrast, Forza allows you to enter Free Play where you can test drive any car you want for as long as you want. I guess that is one of the benefits of being a driving sim as opposed to a racing sim. There are some minor occasional graphical bugs such as the rear view mirror going blank and the draw distance being a little quirky. I feel like I only saw them because I was looking for problems, but they are certainly there. Also the sounds of the cars are too general. Thankfully a muscle car doesn’t sound like a tuner, but the tuners don’t have much of a distinction between each other in my opinion, especially as you upgrade.

Adrenaline Rush

The barely discernible downsides in Shift 2 are greatly outweighed by the unobtrusive positive things. Small things like a smarter and more aggressive A.I., an improved Autolog system that tracks you and your friend’s stats and enhanced drift mechanics all make the game more enjoyable. Then there are the great things like the amount of detail that went into track effects. In addition to the dirt and debris on the road every vehicle’s tires leave their mark on the pavement and grass alike. If you cut a corner to gain ground you are going to see the tracks in the dirt each instance you revisit that turn. This seemingly insignificant feature is quite valuable as you grasp the realism it adds. How the Need for Speed team handled night racing is also a small thing that gives the game depth. Headlights are the only thing between you and a pitch black track. Bust a light and you will be white knuckling through turns with faint illumination in what is already extremely low visibility. I was timid to fully accelerate, as the dark really eliminates a lot of your command and sanity when flying down the track at high speeds.

I love what racing represents. It is a primeval urge to go fast as possible and dive into corner after corner at breakneck speeds. That being said, many of us just don’t have the nerve to do it, plus spending tens of thousands of dollars on building the ultimate tuner is not something everyone can afford to do. Therefore we turn to video games to quench that thirst and Shift 2 is just about the most refreshing drink of adrenaline you can find.

Racing not Driving

This game is what racing fans have always wanted out of Forza and Gran Turismo. As great as both titles are, they are – for the most part – driving simulators. Shift 2 on the other hand is, without a doubt, a racing simulator, delivering the thrill and excitement of going 120 miles an hour at Nurburgring to the average Joe. From this point forward I will find it impossible to critique a racing game without comparing it to Shift 2 in some way.


fun score


Incredible track effects and damage model, tight mechanics, the Helmet Cam should be the new standard.


Only 145 cars, no split-screen, no free play, minor graphics issues.