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Oct 14, 2019, 4:17 AM

Hands-on preview of Shift2 Unleashed on EA's Community Day

This is a discussion for the topic Hands-on preview of Shift2 Unleashed on EA's Community Day on the board General NFS.

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4 Replies on Hands-on preview of Shift2 Unleashed on EA's Community Day
on: Mar 28, 2011, 2:37 PM
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Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to get invited to EA's Community Day in Guildford, England, together with representatives from other NFS websites (and a few non-NFS communities as well) to learn all about the upcoming Shift 2: Unleashed. We were given lots of time to play the game as much as we wanted - nearly two days. All three platforms were available: X360, PS3 and PC, the latter had two machines setup with a steering wheel, all the others were played with the regular game pads.
Shift2’s lead designer Andy Tudor was present there too, to answer questions, and to explain the most important changes from Shift 1, such as the Helmet Cam view, the night racing, the improved racing physics, and the involvement of the professional real-life racers from Team Need For Speed.
In the following article I’ll try to describe my experience with the game, and to give you an idea of what it has to offer over the part One. Pardon the quality of the pictures, some of these were taken ‘over-the-shoulder’ of other players without trying to disturb them.  ;)


Slightly Mad Studios' Andy Tudor was there to answer questions, describe the new features, and explain some of the decisions made during production.  


Colleagues from RSC and GT Planet trying out Shift2 with steering wheels. The car they're both driving is the Caterham Superlight R500, one of the few really new cars in the game; notice how similar the hood (left) and dash (right) view are. It's not exactly robust, so it'll only take a few shunts before you'll be greeted with the detailed sight of the Ford Cosworth engine, making you feel as if you were driving a hot-rod.

Physics
Now, I'm not a hard-core simulation fan, and that's why I initially had my doubts if I'd be the right person to judge this game. I enjoyed the first Shift, but to be very honest I mostly played with most driving aids on (I turned everything off recently, and was surprised at the difference it made). Even if Shift was generally well-received, after its release in 2009, there was some criticism about its driving physics. More than one Shift dev has admitted that the physics in Shift1 were a somewhat unhappy compromise between sim and arcade. Not so in part two, we were promised: this time, the game would be more focused on simulation, while at the same time staying accessible to beginners. The game seems targeted at the same audience as Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport, and it's no coincidence that EA invited community members of both Forzacentral and GTPlanet to give the game a try too.
As I tried the medium settings at first, I soon found myself repeatedly eating grass or gravel, even when using a wheel. Trying Elite mode, the game was even more unforgiving (but then, that was the intention) so I decided to stop being overconfident and set the difficulty level to ‘easy’ (ahem). But I did turn off the ‘brake assist’ right away, as I found that way too intrusive. Like I said, I’m not a good judge on sim physics, so if you want a more detailed opinion, I’d better refer you to the reviews written by ForzaCentral or RSC, as these guys are probably better qualified for this. Difficulty settings mean that you still can play this if you’re a beginner, but – except for the overzealous brake assistant maybe – the game doesn’t take you by the hand as much as part one did.


Night races are a lot more intense thanks to the great lighting effects. The interior here is so bright because it is actually lit by the beams of the cars behind him. And look: Proper rear-view mirrors!
Tracks based in cities aren’t too dark thanks to all the ambient light, but on real race tracks that take place in unpopulated areas, it's just your high beams that tell you where the road goes. Good luck lapping the 'Ring with your lights busted.



This telemetry screen can be brought up at any time during a race (it's one of the HUD options), for when you want to monitor precisely if your hand-tuned car behaves like it should. Or if you just want to look clever.

The move towards realism doesn’t means that Shift2 has introduced pit stops, qualifying laps, fuel management and other elements that you'd expect in more 'serious' race simulations. In that sense, it remains a driving simulator rather than a race sim. Tire wear is present, but because you can't change your tires halfway, the degradation is spread out along the length of the event: the longer the race, the slower your tires will wear. In Drift mode, this process is considerably faster.
On the topic of drifting: new for this edition is the practice stage you'll be going through before you'll enter one of the 'real' drift races. Taking place near some empty warehouses, on an improvised track marked off with traffic cones, Vaughn Gittin jr. himself will teach you how to do circles first, then figure 8s, then a small test circuit. I still found the drifting quite difficult, especially with a game pad as the input has to be really subtle (it's said to help if you use manual gearing), but it was nice to be able to practice it, rather than having to figure it out on your own during an actual race.  Unlike in part 1, drifting now uses the same physics model as the race modes do, meaning that you really have to tune your car to make it a competent drifter.


Tuning menu doesn't look all that impressive at first. Until you see the button at the bottom of the page that says: Go to advanced... (Picture below) A cool feature is that you can do a test run with your newly-tuned car, pause the race, tweak some more, and then continue right away with having to re-start, re-load, etc. so that you immediately experience what difference it makes.


...and that's the Advanced Tuning options for you. Using the L2 and R2 buttons you can cycle trough nine pages of similar detailed tweaks. Thankfully there are explanations for everything for the non-gearheads (like myself). Tuning is only possible after you've upgraded your vehicle. On a completely stock car, you'll only be able to adjust a few things such as tire pressure.

Career
The overall look and menu design may have been restyled, but the game will soon feel very familiar if you've played Shift 1 before. Just like in Shift 1, you'll start with a test race, after which the game will recommend you a difficulty level and settings. After that, your career starts, and as usual, you're given a choice from slower entry-level cars. A welcome change from S1 is, that car slots are no longer limited: you can have as many cars in your garage as you want. What's more: not only can you save multiple tuning setups for one car, but you can even have more than one copy of the same car from now on. Nice to see that these limits have been lifted.


This is the game's main menu screen, the only "fancy" looking part; the rest of Shift2’s interface is thankfully straightforward and oversee able. Both the PC and console versions booted up pretty quickly, with few ‘click enter to continue’ moments. Hopefully this will stay the same in the retail version.


Lots of familiar faces in the car menu, almost all cars (dlc included) from part 1 return, with only a handful truly new ones. The Team Need For Speed cars and other pre-tuned race cars add some welcome variation. Browsing them is a lot faster, thankfully. You can even filter by genre, or sort the cars differently, depending on what you're looking for.

Career mode takes you through various disciplines that are again, familiar from S1, such as Race, Time attack, Endurance, and Drift. However, you're not required to take part in everything to complete your career, so you can for example, skip Drifting if it’s not your cup of tea.

In S1, it was sometimes difficult to see how far you were with your career progress, and this too has been addressed in part two: from the beginning its clear to see how many disciplines there are, and how many races they consist of, what the conditions are, etc. Each event has its own 'poster' now, a little like it's in Forza Motorsport, which I personally thought looked very cool. Overall, the menus and interface have been streamlined: in S1, the design would occasionally get in the way of the info and navigation, but in S2 it's all very clear and to the point. The use of tabs helps to display a lot of information without having to go back and forth between menu pages.


Each event is marked by one of these poster-like logos, many of them almost 'retro' in style. A nice touch in my opinion - inspired by Forza, perhaps?


Shift2's menu design is clear and informative thanks to the use of tabs. Autolog will not only show you your place in relation to your friends like it did in Hot Pursuit, but it will also display he best lap times worldwide and in your region. You still get 'XP' for your results to Level Up (next to money), but you're no longer showered with countless 'achievement' medals and badges like you were in Shift 1. You're also no longer awarded for driving aggressively.

Visuals
The already good-looking graphics from Shift1 have been improved, this is most visible on a fast PC that can run the game in high resolutions. The visuals are probably one of the game's strongest points. Textures on the cars themselves are a lot sharper in quality than 2 years ago, and while racing, you'll notice all kinds of neat details such as the windscreen wipers or wing mirrors vibrating as your car builds up speed; the subtle reflections of the hood in the glass of your windscreen; on race cars with lightweight bodies you can see the hood shake when you're idling at the, and occasionally, mud, gravel end even bugs will splatter your windscreen. Damage is more detailed too, with more realistically crumpling metal, hoods, bumpers, and even wheels flying off, and the risk of totalling your car if you abuse it too much. Even the engine department is so detailed that I was tempted to bust the hood off on purpose, just to see how accurate the engine looks.


Tracks look better than before too, especially on a hi-res PC screen. Places like Spa Francorchamps have dropped much of the fairgrounds, balloons, ferris wheels and other distracting stuff in the backgrounds, which was one of the complaints about Shift 1. It looks more like a place of work now - some other tracks still have quite a lot of advertising going on, though.

Customization hasn’t changed that much from the previous game, aside from a new interface for the paint colours, it’s all familiar territory. On the consoles, many of the customization and tuning menus suffered from saving and loading pauses. On the PC, not so much, but then it was running on a pretty quick machine. A small, but welcome addition is the ‘peek’ button when you’re browsing through the body upgrades

The much-published helmet cam is a nice addition; to avoid any confusion: it’s an extra view option, it doesn’t replace the standard dash view. Initially I worried if it might be too intrusive, but I found the effect subtle and natural. In particular drift races seem to benefit, IMO it makes a lot of sense for the driver’s view to be pointed at an angle when going sideways, so I personally preferred this view over chase view here. In the end, I didn’t feel it added THAT much to the gameplay, but it didn’t get in the way either.


The cinematic replays stayed (hooray!), and this time, you can actually save the replay, and even upload it directly to Youtube. Photo mode has more freedom for composing your beauty shot with zooming, tilting and panning options, but it doesn't have the special effects that Hot Pursuit offered.


Another new feature is that you can now at any time pause your race and rewatch the past 30 seconds, then go into photo mode to record it. Wind/re-wind controls help you to freeze the action at the exact right moment. (PS3 screen)

So, do I think the game is good? I’d say definitely, I liked the first Shift, and I feel this game is an improvement in every area, while at the same time addressing a few shortcomings from the first game. As so often with “part 2”s of game titles, I got the idea that this was the game that the creators wanted the first game to be. Maybe on the surface it looks like not much was changed from the previous game (only a few more cars compared to part 1), but I feel the gameplay itself has been enhanced enough to recommend this game, even if you’ve already played Shift 1 extensively.
It’s a pity that there’s no pre-launch demo this year (no news if there’ll be one after release); an odd decision, because this game is really about the immersion, and what better way to sell this, than to let people experience it for themselves.


So, if anyone has any more questions, I'll do my best to answer them.  :)
« Last Edit: Mar 28, 2011, 3:16 PM by Remko »

Reply #1
on: Mar 28, 2011, 9:54 PM
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I like the reply saving feature and the tune-for-drift feature.I see the Terlingua's shelby logo has been replaced??? Am I blind or what?


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Reply #2
on: Mar 29, 2011, 12:14 PM
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Excellent preview, Remko!! Glad you got to go, and thanks for writing this up :)



Reply #3
on: Mar 29, 2011, 11:23 PM
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Saving replays is really important. Is there a ghost mode, too ? It helped me a lot to improve my HS times. ;)

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Reply #4
on: Mar 30, 2011, 3:37 PM
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Thanks Mike, I'm glad you appreciate it. :)
First time I tried writing a (p)review of some sort... I found it difficult to judge the quality of the physics and control 'feel' of the game, because I'm not used to PS3/X360 controllers for racing games: I just don't like to use the analog stick to steer (Drew brought in two PC wheels, but I made room for the 'sim' guys after a while).
Don't know if I should recommend it to simulation fans, because they usually have very high standards, so I referred to the other reviews to get a more detailed opinion.

Essentially, the game stays very close to the original, but expanded and improved (in my opinion) in every way. Kind of like High Stakes was to NFS3: Hot Pursuit.

Max_Cruise: Yep, that's what the real car looks like:
http://www.hotrod.com/featuredvehicles/hrdp_0806_2008_shelby_terlingua/photo_12.html
It's one of the pre-tuned 'specials' in the game.

JimDiabolo: I've seen nothing about a ghost mode, I'm afraid. Seems HS was the last game to feature this. :(

 


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