Shift 2 Unleashed Review

Normally I don’t get excited about racing sims. I feel too many of these games decide to sacrifice fun for the sake of “realism.” That being said, I feel that Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed has safely sidestepped that pitfall to create a thrilling, realistic and even fun racing sim.

Attention to detail is the key to success for Shift 2. The reflection of buildings shimmer in a Porshe’s silver paint, flash bulbs go off in the darkened stands of a raceway at midnight, and you can hear debris from the track being kicked up around every skidded turn. Shift 2 is a game utterly committed to making the driving experience as true to life as possible. During dusk races, the sun becomes a danger as light pours through your windshield and threatens to blind you just before a hairpin curve. And heaven help you if you damage your headlights during a night race.

Shift 2 Unleashed (PS3 [Reviewed], Iphone)
Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: March 31, 2011
MSRP: $2.99

Perhaps Shift 2′s greatest achievement in realism is the helmet cam. No game has captured a driver’s perspective quite as provocatively as this new camera view. The driver’s head turns to look out the side window during the apex of turns. Your vision shakes and blurs with each nudge from an opponent or brush with a wall. At high speeds your rear view mirror becomes blurry. When you hear your crew chief tell you to be careful around the next turn you might just forget that you’re wearing headphones and not a helmet.

Sadly, while the helmet cam provides an exceptional feeling of immersion, it’s not exactly conducive to winning races. The game starts you off in this view, but unless you’re a seasoned sim racer, you’re probably going to need to switch to a more standard view after a few races. This is due in part to the incredibly smart and aggressive AI. If you’re in their way coming around a bend, they’ll slam you into a wall as fast as those junior high bullies used to slam you into your locker.

If you’re looking to get the most out of the helmet cam, your best bet is to go online and play against real people. You can set up or join a game that only allows the helmet cam view. It’s a great innovation that will allow players to use this new feature without fear that their opponents are only winning because they’re using a more effective camera angle. Another great multiplayer feature is the new Autolog. This feature keeps tabs on your high scores, car upgrades and achievements. It also keeps track of all your friend’s stats as well. So if you’ve got a friend that’s consistently beating you on a certain track, you can peek at what kind of parts they’re rocking.

There’s no shortage of customization in Shift 2. You can swap out the engine, put in nitrous, upgrade your drive train, and tweak pretty much anything else you can think of. However, when you get down to actual number of cars, Shift 2 sports a modest 130. In comparison, Gran Turismo 5 boasts over 1000 cars in it’s digital garage. It seems like a big gap but quantity doesn’t always equal quality and the 130 cars in Shift 2 should be more than enough to keep your interest, especially since you have to earn each one.

You’ll get paid for every race you complete and you’ll also receive experience points for both career mode and multiplayer races. Earning more experience points will give you access to more cars, more upgrades and more tracks. Some of the tracks are truly insane. The raceways in Japan appear to be designed by suicidal samurai with a penchant for hairpin turns. And if you’re racing in Shanghai you’re more than likely going to get some air off an unexpected bump in the course. It’s strange, you don’t get much height, but going airborne in this racing sim is so unexpected that it winds up being a bigger thrill than some of the biggest ramps in Burnout Paradise.

You’ve also got some really interesting game types in Shift 2. The lap eliminator mode is especially entertaining as the last player to cross the finish line each lap is removed and the surviving cars struggle not to fall to the back of the pack. However, there are some glaring failures as well. The drift tracks are incredibly annoying. This is probably because the game does very little in the way of teaching you to drift. Your crew chief simply tells you to “find a balance between throttle and countersteering” or some such nonsense. What the hell does that mean?

A few minor annoyances aside, this game is a rock solid entry into the racing sim genre. This is a beautifully detailed thrill ride that takes pride in making you feel every bone rattling sensation that a real race car driver would feel. Even if you’re not big on racing sims, you owe it to yourself to take Shift 2 for a test drive. It might just make you a believer.

*Helmet Cam Provides Incredible Realism
*Innovative Multiplayer
*Beautiful Graphics/Attention to Detail
*Hair-Raising Tracks

*Weak Tutorials
*Smaller Car Selection

Final score: 87/100

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6 Comments on Shift 2 Unleashed Review


On April 11, 2011 at 5:53 am

Completely agree with your review – Drift mode was one of the only disappointments for me!


On April 11, 2011 at 9:17 am

i would have to disagree with your point that “Smaller Car Selection” is a Con. i find that the smaller amount of cars on offer means that a great deal more detail can be packed into each car.

but i concur that drifting is, excuse my french, utter .


On April 11, 2011 at 9:59 am

It’s a shame about the drift mode. It had the potential to be really great.


On April 11, 2011 at 11:54 am

Hi I have been playing around with this game for a few days, with the Drift mode in particular. I have noticed it takes ALOT of practice to get the right feel for the car you are driving, the track you are on, and also the corner your going into. Tuning your car also makes a gigantic difference, as well as tuning for specific tracks. It also takes a very good controller, or steering wheel. The cars are very throttle sensitive, especially when you upgrade them. In real life, drifting around the corner takes finesse with the peddle, and alot of experience. So I dont expect drifting to be easy in a racing simulator.

Overall, if your looking for a really good racing game, Shift 2 doesn’t disappoint.


On April 14, 2011 at 1:19 pm

drifting is a bastard form of racing anyhow.

Uhh.. idiot

On April 15, 2011 at 4:45 am

Sorry to Say But Need for speed shift 2 Is not a Racing Sim. It is simply An arcade Racing game. To Say, Live for speed (lfs), Or R-factor Are true Racing Sims..