Make room in your already busy gaming schedule for the latest installment in the Need For Speed franchise. Wait, you say, didn't EA just publish a Need For Speed game a few short months ago? Yes, in fact they did. It was called Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, it came out in November of last year, and it was 62 kinds of awesome. (The Sports Gamer is still playing it--and loving it.)
So what the heck is Shift 2: Unleashed?
It's the sequel to Need For Speed: Shift, a game that came out in 2009 on the PS3 and 360. The big draw of the original Shift was that the game featured such realistic gameplay physics that driving inside the car from a behind-the-wheel perspective wasn't merely a novelty camera angle, as it is in most driving games. The inside-the-car point of view was the preferred way to play the game.
Same goes for Shift 2. You'll once again get behind the wheel of more than 140 licensed vehicles, and drive them through 40 real-world locations at incredibly high speeds. But what EA is doing with the Shift 2 is that they're officially announcing it as a spin-off of the Need For Speed franchise. Notice how EA has included the words "need for speed" on the game's box cover, but in very tiny print. Clever, EA. Very clever.
Normally the Sports Gamer would balk at this kind of coy marketing, but when the games are this good--and Hot Pursuit and Shift 2 are both very, very good--the Sports Gamer will keep his big mouth shut for now.
Like the original Shift, Shift 2 can be played in so many different, customizable ways, that it doesn't merely walk a fine line between sim experience and arcade racer--it dances along that fine line. The sense of speed in the game is terrific--note the blurring around the edges of the gameplay screen whenever you hit those top speeds--the single-player mode is robust and will keep you busy for 15 to 20 hours, depending on how thorough you are, and up to 12 people can hop online and compete simultaneously.
I'm going to spend another day or two with Shift 2: Unleashed, then weigh in with more details and observations later in the week. Stay tuned, game lovers!