Hands-on: Shift 2: Unleashed

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Last time we checked out Shift 2: Unleashed, we found out about the new helmet cam perspective that mimics the feel of a real-life racing experience. We also got some details on Autolog, a feature that is now a staple of the Need for Speed franchise (it first appeared in last fall’s Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit).

Our latest look at Shift 2 presented us with an opportunity to see the advanced customization and tuning features, the realistic damage modeling and some of the new modes.

Shift 2: Unleashed (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [Previewed])
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Publisher: EA
To be released: March 24, 2011 (EU) / March 25, 2011 (UK) / March 29, 2011 (US)

New to Shift 2 is the ability to see a live graphical display of all the important things going on in your car in real time. You’re able to see how your car is handling the pressures you’re putting it through, and based on those real-time stats, you can fine-tune your car to whatever best suits you or what works best on the particular track you’re testing.

Slightly Mad Studios wants Shift 2 to be a deep simulation experience that should please any sim racers out there, more so than the first Shift. At the same time, the developers still want this to be accessible game for any type of racing fan out there, so casual racers need not worry.

Career mode is split up into a series of different sections, ranging from Modern D class — which makes use of tier-four cars — up to Modern A class, where some of the fastest cars in the game can be driven. Each mode also has different events such as Endurance, Head-to-Head, retro races, Time Attack and Drifting. Like the customization feature mentioned before, you don’t have to do everything and excel at it all in order to progress. Simply finishing a race in any position will get you the experience points needed to progress in your career. Slightly Mad wants you to play the game however you want.

Cars have a better damage modeling system this time around, to the point that you won’t be able to finish a race if your car gets too beat up. You can even lose your headlights, which makes driving at night a whole hell of a lot harder. You will be able to change the setting so that car damage can just be a visual effect, if you’re not into the whole realistic approach of the feature.

I tend to stay away from the simulation racers and prefer the Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit style of racing. The one thing that I enjoyed about the original Shift, though, was how the game aided newbies with the green, yellow and red colored racing line the race track. Shift aided players by indicating where they should floor it (green), slow down (yellow) and hit the brakes (red). Shift 2 continues that player assist and it’s just as useful as ever. I gave the drifting aspect of the game a whirl and I was doing miserably. It didn’t take long for me to get the concept of drifting down thanks to that multi-colored feedback.

One feature that I think racing fans will really dig is the “Old vs New” mode, where you can pit the cars of yesteryear against modern-day vehicles. Have you ever wondered how a ’67 Camaro would do against a 2010 Camaro? Now you can find out for yourself.

Over 121 cars, 50 locations, 100 real and fictional tracks, the ability to adjust your car however you want, multiple modes, post-launch DLC expansions and more await fans of the NFS franchise come March.

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