Most helpful positive review
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful on a sufficient system. A racer revalation! Here's why:
on May 28, 2011
MY DECISION TO BUY:
I was on the fence even trying it out based on the reviews, but having tried it I now know SHIFT 2 has gotten a seriously undeserved bum rap. Finding it for $25-$1.5 ebay bucks on ebay shipped was enough for me to give it a go.
It's worth much more than what I paid, though I'm glad I got a good deal; I don't like spending more than $30 for a title. EA, you were due, and you hit it out of the park! Playing it feels amazing. It doesn't take tinkering to get it playing nice, just a few basic considerations. The game play is silky smooth on my current PC...
But there are a few things I'd like to share with all you current disappointed and potential players because SHIFT 2 is getting a bum rap. And I can sort of see why, but I also know why it's not right. If you're on the fence or discounted SHIFT 2 without trying it (properly), please read my whole review and reconsider. I want EA to get proper feedback and come out with great titles like this one and even better racers in the future instead of accommodating crasher kids and going in the wrong direction with their development. (But if SHIFT 2 is where EA peaks, then it's still a win in my book because SHIFT 2 is the best NFS title to date.) SHIFT 2 is not just a fun game, it's more advance than that. It's actually quite revolutionary, and here is my detailed yet not-nearly-exhaustive account.
MY PC HARDWARE
It's important for you to know what hardware I'm running so that you know what my experience is based on.
Previous PC system (built on September of 2006)
AMD Opteron 165 (server-grade CPU) 1.8Ghz dual-core overclocked to 2.4Ghz
Asus A8N-E motherboard
OCZ PC4200 DDR 2GB CL3 2T dual-channel RAM running at 2x266Mhz
Samsung HD103SJ 1TB hard drive (115MB/s average transfer, 177MB/s burst transfer rate)
Nvidia GeForce GTX 470 1280MB DDR5 RAM video card
Xbox 360 wired USB controller for Windows
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Current PC system (built on May of 2011)
Intel i7 2600k 3.4Ghz quad-core, 1.6Ghz-3.8Ghz in EPU and turbo mode
Asus P8Z68-V Pro motherboard
G.Skill PC10666 DDR3 8GB CL7 2T dual-channel RAM running at 1333Mhz
2x Samsung HD103SJ hard drives in Raid0 (215MB/s average transfer, 1473MB/s burst transfer rate!)
Nvidia GeForce GTX 470 1280MB DDR5 RAM video card
Xbox 360 wired USB controller for Windows
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
INITIAL IMPRESSION ON MY PREVIOUS PC
I did not like the game on my previous system. Even with the Nvidia GeForce GTX470 video card, it was just too much for my 5-year-old system to handle smoothly. Turning down the graphics took away from the experience and the steering feedback still wasn't responsive and fast enough to really be playable.
With my current PC system, I love it! I have all the graphics settings turned up all the way and I still never have to wait more than 2-10 seconds for the run to begin. (I can't even read the entire message between transitions because everything loads so fast, which is good, though a pause feature between loading could be nice, but probably asking too much, it really doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the game.) Everything is smooth as glass. I can't stress it enough - I guess I'm not used to playing a NFS title with all the settings all the way up right after its release.
I'm using the Xbox 360 wired controller on Windows. At first it felt twitchy and too sensitive but a few considerations and adjustments (mostly mental but some in-game) were needed for me to get it to work well. 1.) Weight transfer matters (both front-to-back and side-to-side) so moving the joystick left to right fast only works if it's timed right, like in real driving. 2.) Otherwise, smooth, timely yet conservative movements work best. Staying on course and on your line requires small movements (something easier done with a steering wheel), but turning and accelerating after having slowed down enough to accelerate out of a corner requires moving the joystick fast all the way to the side and back, as well, something that's difficult to do and modulate on a steering wheel, so there's a trade-off between using a controller pad and a steering wheel depending on what you're more comfortable with. You get used to it and it feels pretty good 20-35% into the career progress, just in time to enjoy the really fast machines the game gives you as you progress.
My G25 steering wheel is in the my garage (ironically inappropriate), but I don't have a mount to put it on so I haven't played with it yet on SHIFT 2, and indeed not for over 2 years now, sadly. It was great with Live for Speed (PC) and Gran Turismo 4 (PS2). '
ON COMPARISON TO PS3 and XBOX 360
I'm not certain why the 5-year-old PS3 & XBOX 360 can handle SHIFT 2 well (I'm presuming) but my GTX 470-armed 5-year-old dual core overclocked, server-grade processor computer could not. I don't think it's necessarily sloppy code, but it just seems PC games require more processing power. Maybe with purpose-built console systems like the PS3 and XBOX 360 it's easier to write for 1 specific set of hardware criteria so great optimizations can be made, whereas considerations for stability, compatibility, and running from a Windows Operating System (which takes its overhead) across a lot of different hardware configurations has to be made and so maybe PC coding isn't as "efficient" by nature as the consoles. SHIFT 2 on PC appears to still use DirectX 9c, and yet requires more computing resources than most players are used to, so maybe this is where the poor reviews are coming from, especially as that affects the control and driver feedback, spoiling the experience. DirectX 10 & 11 drop frame rates even more (e.g. look up frame rate benchmarks of DIRT 2 in DX 9 vs. DX 11) with little benefit for a racing game, so I could see why EA avoided going with DX 11 on this title.
It also seems the Xbox 360 reviews are better than PS3 and mixed on PC so this could be due to the system hardware having a large effect on the overall experience, which would be consistent with my impression with my old vs. new PC system.
COMPARED TO GRID
... feels different from GRID but equally, if not more enjoyable, in different ways. I like GRID a lot, which ran well on my previous PC. In contrast, SHIFT 2 wasn't good on my previous PC. But on my new PC, SHIFT 2 is smooth, detailed, and quite pretty. You could see the passion that went into this release with all the details, features, and overall finish (see below). I was a fan of NFS since IISE, but skipped the last few releases, including the first SHIFT. It was interesting, especially the best line, but didn't win me over GRID. On SHIFT 2, all the talk about physics and the helmet cam had me interested, as well as the actual details of the Amazon reviews left for the PC game, taken with a grain of salt.
GRAPHICS, FEEL, CONTROL, & PHYSICS
These all go hand in hand. They all have to be in line for an immersive experience. SHIFT 2 delivers nicely like no program before it, but your PC system has to be up to the task of producing sufficient driver feedback. GRID also suffered from poor driver controller feedback on too high settings for the PC to handle, and so does SHIFT 2. You have to have a powerful enough system so that the interface is smooth, your controller input and visual output have to sample enough times so that your body feels it's real, otherwise your car will jerk from side to side as the control inputs you are giving are delayed and executed too late, making for a frustrating and poor experience.
The graphics on my new system are turned up all the way, and actually my system throttles down to 1600Mhz quite often during gameplay, without any hiccoughs. The gameplay is butter smooth. Controls are accurate. Feedback is exceptional. Physics are top notch, especially the weight shift of the car.
Weight transfer has not been executed as comprehensively in previous programs, so it takes getting used to but it's closer to reality than previous titles and a great step forward in driving simulation games. Stabilizing the car by fewer/smoother steering inputs and a gentle acceleration settles and straightens the car out, just like in real life on the track! It's quite good, and I've come to appreciate this accurate portrayal of real life physics. (Again, this goes horribly wrong when the PC system can't keep up fast enough with sampling the input/output correctly.) Taking a jump from going over a hill on one of the tracks too fast, I could "feel" the weight transfer approximating reality better than previous titles and it looked really accurate on the replay, too. Weight transfer is particularly noticeable in drift events, where the physics feel different than racing events (presumably because the car tuning is for drift?), but the same concepts about weight shifting apply. You have to stabilize the car and keep it stable. Correctly timed, smooth steering inputs (even when applying steering quickly side to side ' it's a bit hard to explain) are just as important as knowing when to feather the throttle and when to mash it. Though with more driver assists off, more mashing will probably be counterproductive.
Head to head driving in helmet mode was at first disorienting, as I interpreted head movements for car movements, making me lose control of the car. But soon after, and certainly by only 10-15% career mode progress, it was intuitive, and became a REVELATION! This is the only way to drive in a racer. It feels so natural and I miss it very much in other view modes. In car view is not enough for me anymore, and I don't know how it ever was. Even in GRID, in-car view was difficult to race in, especially in drift mode. SHIFT 2 drift mode in helmet cam mode feels natural, and in-car view never did for me in GRID. And you can even use the XBOX 360 controller (both in drift and racing) to look around your driving environment (right joystick), though it's most natural to let the helmet cam do that job - still, a very nice mostly novelty feature though I've used it to great success when close to other cars and wanting to know if I'm pulling away on a straight of if the car is in my blind spot somewhere on the right or left. Maybe one day this feature can also be used with a head movement detection technology (potentiometer or camera) and tied into a glasses (or contact lens) display as the monitor display may have to move along with the head movements. Future tech speculation tangents aside, helmet cam mode does an AMAZING job, along with the great driver AI of the competition, immersing me in precision driving when passing, in clusters of cars together, without the "crash city" driving in other titles, including GRID which I still like very much, and even the previous SHIFT title, though I don't remember too well. SHIFT 2 feels most real of all the titles I tried, in this respect. To quote Playstation magazine, SHIFT 2 is "visceral."
This said, I still prefer the way GRID looks and feels in behind-car view mode, and during certain replays. Although jumps, car rebound, and the physics are better and more realistic in SHIFT 2 by far, somehow they look floaty and a little disconnected from the road in replays and behind-car views. But I prefer SHIFT 2's helmet mode driving above all - it's that good. But it's new so it take a little getting used to at first, 5-15% of the game progress or so. The Best Line feature is dependable and also indicates if your speed is appropriate in real time. It's a great learning tool, but you have to think hard and not just follow it with your mind on cruise control. The driving in SHIFT 2 is involving and that's how real racing is. You have to adjust your approach to the line with different cars differently because some will stop faster than others so you can brake later. And each car feels SO different. (I wish my favorite budget racer - 2004 SRT-4 Neon - was in the game and done right. Gran Turismo 4 doesn't do it justice. The transmission shift points are all off and the sound is not even close.) The M3 E92 vs. M3 E30 battle is EPIC! So is the STI vs. EVO battle, and the muscle car events are so cool and unique/real feeling. The stingray is sweet to drive. More on that later.
The game does a decent job of testing out your current abilities first and automatically setting up the game controls based on that. The game thought I could go to medium, but I have the easiest setting on with most of the driver assists turned on. It works well for me and I'm not ready to change it just yet. (Unfortunately, I think that means I have to let the car shift by itself, no matter what car I'm using, but I'm focused on the steering, acceleration, and braking modulation, so strangely this is ok for now. In contrast, every other racing title I'm always in manual shifting mode.) Also, the drift event has a tutorial to ease you into drifting, but you'll really just need to go on a track that matches your current skill and preference level and practice a bit. The banked oval and drift tracks are the best for this. Keep in mind that the physics include weight transfer and the strategies to drive well in real life - such as car balance (weight shift, side-to-side and front-to-rear), smooth and efficient driver inputs, and hard focusing - apply here, perhaps more than previous NFS titles and more than many simulator leaning but arcade playing enthusiasts allow themselves to do.
I've gotten used to and embraced the feel of the game around 10-15% into the career, and I'm at 20% now. (update: 35% now)
I haven't liked to earn my game features in the past and was weary of autosave, but autolog in SHIFT 2 is brilliantly executed, and I would not bypass it as I might have done before in other titles.
I started with the BMW 135i and the game progresses quite fast from then on. I won 3 additional cars, installed some nice choice performance parts on the 135, and have more cash than I know what to do with - all after only a couple/few hours of playing. At 35%, I have 2 million dollars, and won a few more cars, the z06 corvette included, which is amazing (transmission and weight shifts well, drifts well, accelerates fast, good in the corners)! So is the Porsche GT2. I'm just letting the game give me goodies as I progress through the events. I'm not anxious "getting through it so I can really enjoy it after I finish," as I would with previous titles, I'm just enjoying it as I go. I just bought a 370Z to modify so that I can try improve my score on a drift event that's a bit more challenging than the others; I'm just shy of 3rd place, but I have many other events already unlocked ahead so this is just me having fun.
The events are very well implemented and so are the tracks. I almost don't miss open world driving (that's what NFS:World is for, right?) and have barely the urge to do a quick race. I'm really looking forward to the events, such as Manufacturer showdowns, Old vs. New (where the old car starts first and the new car is a while back trying to catch up - makes for epic battles), and a host of other GT4-reminiscent events. I just did a muscle car event and each one felt as I imagine they would in real life, the Shelby Cobra 427 was quite a machine. The Z06 Corvette is intense and superbly-capable anywhere, especially on the Dakota Iron 24 track. The one old vs. new matchup I was disappointed in was the new Z vs. an old 240SX, which gave the 240SX a lot of leadway, but I think a 300ZX would have been more appropriate. Maybe an old 240SX vs a newer Silvia, but I'm nit picking. The 90s McLaren vs. a new McLaren was amazing and made for a close battle. Just really great execution.
The tracks look great and when you drive over grass, you create mud tracks like in real life, a nice touch. The tracks feel and look great with the motion blur feature, which keeps the tracks focused while blurring the driver cockpit. There aren't just day, night, and twilight races, the lighting conditions very much between races and night races actually have good visibility even when pushing hard and racing on the edge of control. There STI vs EVO battle has this sunset lighting which looks so incredibly nice. Races where daylight is scarce and headlights are needed are unexpectedly real as the headlights of the car behind you cast a dynamic and realistic shadow depending on where you are in relation to the car behind you, illuminating the street and even your car interior differently - I mean top notch execution of lighting.
Highly detailed, and you get specs of dirt and grass on the body. After a drift event when I was just beginning, and feeling a bit like the protagonist in Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift (at the beginning when he nearly destroyed the car he borrowed), my body panels were all crumpled looking. I have visual damage only on while I learn.
AI is top notch. Battling in a cluster or side-to-side is actually fun, not a nightmare, and doesn't involve smashing the competition to get ahead. You may actually get disqualified for egregious smashing of other cars. And you actually use skill to get in a controlling position as you're inches from other cars, in a cluster at the beginning of a race, for example. It takes skill to advance quickly, but you can bide your time and get ahead on corners and straights with satisfactory progress, as well. You're not overly punished by having AI crash into you, though it does happen from time to time, probably for a real reason, and probably because you cut the other car off and it couldn't reasonably get out of your way. But it feels like the game actually minimizes even that scenario - quite courteous, so return the favor.
Upgrade modifications - really nice, with actual performance improvement stats, not just arbitrary levels of better or worse.
Tuning- haven't delved into this yet, but I'm a bit intimidated as I'll surely need a guide so I know what effects I'm making. Maybe Shift 2 has a tutorial or something, I'm not sure.
Everything is XP as the cut scene says, experience points, and every so many you get bonuses. The better you do on the track, the more XP you get. And scoring is based on good driving, such as Mastering Best Line, Mastering Best Corners. The corners navigated successfully are marked off at the end of each run.
Actual drift scores are used, such as:
No pressure on connecting drifts and getting multipliers, just getting some nice, precision drifts going. Helmet cam is great here. Not easy at first, but as you get more experience it's just great!
Involves placing in the top 3 for each event, perfect! You can do well enough and move on, be a perfectionist or something in between. The achievement levels are reasonable - a bit challenging, but not impossible. Aside from the unique and intuitive drift event scoring described above, race scoring involves getting a clean lap, beating previous score, staying on the line, navigating corners successfully, .. that sort of thing. At the times you overshoot a corner and go off the track you can still advance, but your time will not be updated to autolog - fair enough.
I either use JVC Super Bass HA-X570 headphones ($10+tax at Ross) or a Sony 5.1 STR-DG510 with Sony SSB1000 bookshelf speakers in the corners and a Sony 12" 200-Watt powered subwoofer SAW3000 for bass (total $300+tax on a Best Buy black Friday sale in 2007). The built-in RealTek ALC892 HD audio on my new motherboard reproduces amazing audio and crisp, full audio is sent to the proper channels (center, left, right, rears) in Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit in both my Sony 5.1 and JVC stereo headphone setups (also my Asus built in stereo speakers), though it should be able to handle 7.1, as well. (My older motherboard was having trouble sending the proper signals to the proper channels in Windows 7 in general, I'm not sure about SHIFT 2. Something to keep in mind to get a good experience.)
Music excellent/almost epic (can be turned down for replay... purposes)
Audio commentary is really good, and the cut scene videos are fun and even informative. At 20% career, I was not tired of the audio. At 35%, there's some repetition, but it's appropriate, and still fun, new cut scenes appear to keep things progressing and fresh.
EA brought back not only the replay but also the save run feature! And there's a send a 10-second clip to YouTube feature but it sends as 360p video only. The playback interface is almost as good as that of GRID and has even more features. In theory, I miss the rewind feature from GRID (which should have been unlimited, anyway), but maybe in practice, I don't miss it that much. The racing in SHIFT 2 using the helmet cam (and best line) is just so immersive and precise, that you accept the good with the bad, and don't get punished too badly if you "mess up," it's part of the game. And if you do, you can just go back and try again. Restarting a run is FAST (on my new system) because the menus are very responsive.
There are many other aspects I'm not addressing, but hopefully you all get the idea of what you can expect before buying.
REQUESTS TO EA FOR THE FUTURE
If you can somehow work on your code to run faster on slower systems, I believe your reviews would surely improve manifold. Maybe this can happen anyway as users get faster systems, but I'm afraid the damage done early can harm the franchise. Maybe you can list specific hardware packages (CPU, motherboard, memory, hard drive, GPU) as I did that will work flawlessly on the game with all settings turned up, so that players have a good template to base their system off and have great results.
On a separate note, I hope you don't take away features (such as save run) just to reintroduce them later; I believe that has hurt your core buyers and backfired in the past. But the past is behind us, and please use this momentum (I have hope others will still come around) to build and improve!
I never really cared for police chases, which were somewhat entertaining, but not something I would consider a main feature to pursue. But I love the care-free open world exploration and interaction of Underground 2, and the tuning was nice too, though SHIFT 2 tuning is much better! NFS World is really cool, and I like how the two neighborhoods of previous titles are joined, but I would love to see the Underground 2 world represented which was my favorite, by far. And I would love to see the cities populated by people that look like they have a purpose (not just walking and dodging traffic mindlessly), as well as rendered cars showing up for meets and people coming out of cars to hang out, talk, dance, play games, greet each other with custom handshakes, teasing shoves, however people act... Hitting pedestrians could be a problem and should be discouraged in some clever way. Cops... suspensions... car impounding so user progress is impeded? Not sure. Those wild racers wishing to avoid large simulated crowds could come out at night to race so as not to create a death-race city, though there's always the random person walking home or groups on a night out. You could have racers close streets and block off traffic for races, give it a real genuine feel and enhance the feel of speed and authenticity.
It was looking dicey for a while there, like maybe you lost your way, but I'm glad I didn't count you out for good, EA; I remain open, though I will be looking critically at upcoming titles. I look forward to future releases!
THANK YOU TO EA
SHIFT 2 is truly a fun title and feels like a wonderful fusion of the best of Need for Speed (Porche Unleashed comes to mind, without the light and blinker control) and GranTurismo (4 comes to mind).
EA, thank you for a tremendous value, a leap in driver simulation gaming, and a return to glory, if only in the eyes of a few (for now).