Shift 2 Unleashed Interview with Drift Champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. and EA’s Jino Talons

The jumpsuit clad man pictured in the driving simulator is Vaughn Gittin Jr. The fact that he’s impressed with the Shift 2 Unleashed is telling, considering his job is to race cars in the real world. Vaughn is the 2010 Formula Drift Champion and he’s also your in-game mentor when you choose Shift 2′s career mode. Vaughn’s always enjoyed racing sims and his eyes lit up as he recounted how he came to be involved in the series. “I’ve been playing sims for a long time, I built my own drift sim in my basement in 2004. When I heard that EA was going from the traditional Need for Speed games to having Shift which was more of a racing experience I was pumped.” The drift champion will be bringing that excitement to you as your constant advisor in career mode. He’ll be, “Giving confidence, poking fun at you and just having fun with it. Just like my engineer would do me.” Vaughn says he spent hundreds of hours working on the first Shift but still had lots of things he wanted to improve in the second installment. He’s a big fan of EA’s work and is quick to praise the developers. “With video games it’s always been a challenge to capture speed and capture impact, and the team has done a really good job with that. It’s not numb like a lot of the other sims out there. It’s very engaging and dynamic.” That’s high praise, coming from a man who has felt impact in actual race cars.

Vaughn’s favorite new feature in Drift 2 is the helmet cam view. While in this view you can see the driver’s hands on the wheel as well as any damage or debris on your windshield. “I really love the helmet cam. In drifting we look out the side window, when we’re sideways, instead of looking out the front window. Now when you’re in helmet cam mode, you kind of glance out the side window.” I’d been having a bit of trouble with the drift tracks in Shift 2. You’re given a score by the computer and I didn’t know what my score was based on, so I decided to ask the pro drifter for some pointers. “So you’re going fast, you’re super sideways, tons of smoke is coming off the tires, getting close to the wall, that all helps your score.” Shift 2 contains cars that Vaughn has driven and worked on himself. So you can actually drive the same vehicles as this drift master. Asked what his favorite car in the game was he responded: “The Pagani Huayra. That thing is insane.” He’s not kidding, The Pagani Huayra is $1.4 million dollar beast that can top 230 mph. And they only make 20 of these bad boys per year, so unless you’re Bill Gates or Donald Trump chances are your only shot at driving one of these is in a racing sim. And what’s the only racing sim that features the Pagani? You guessed it. The Pagani Huayra will be exclusive to Shift 2, which means that GT 5 fans are out of luck.

EA’s senior publicist Jino Talons also touted the Pagani as his favorite car in the game. Jino’s favorite feature in Shift 2 is the night racing feature. “Night racing is new to this game. All you can see is what’s in your headlights and if you turn on damage you can actually break your headlights.” This sounds like a terrifying scenario, especially if you’re in helmet cam mode. You’d be forced to navigate by your opponents rear lights, and you’d be at the mercy of the next hairpin turn. Jino also took a minute to talk about the new autolog feature, which keeps detailed statistics during online multiplayer games. The autolog feature tracks your scores, times, car purchases car upgrades and even keeps stats on what type of driver you are. “What’s cool about multiplayer is if there are drivers that are more aggressive like that and they’re really just trying to create havoc the game will automatically find players that play like that.” There’s a part of me that resents the fact that autolog will warn other drivers that I’m prone to ramming them off the road. But I suppose it’s not a bad trade off considering it gives you the ability to keep tabs on all your friends and what kind of cars their driving.

EA and Vaughn are pumped about the new release and we’ll find out if their excitement is justified on March 29th when the game comes out for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. Want to know more about Shift 2? You can check out my hands-on experience or our online achievements list.

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