For: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Publisher: EA
When? 01/04/2011

What’s it all about? The latest instalment of racing from the Need For Speed stables, with more focus on the simulation of driving rather than out-and-out arcade racing. Focusing on the ‘emotion’ of driving, the game promises to deliver sweaty hands and gasps of shock, but in a class already dominated by Forza Motorsport, and Gran Turismo, Shift 2 has it’s work cut out trying to get pole position.

Slightly Mad Studios have gone all out to create a driving simulator with heart, with that clenched-teeth, breath-held feeling that real race driving gives you. For example, when in ‘helmet cam’, expect to see the edges of your vision blurred at high speed; akin to the focus you’ll need to have when travelling at 170mph.

You’ll also find your driver looking to the apex of the approaching corner, helping you focus on the one thing that matters – going quickly. This all adds to the depth of feeling that sometimes lacks in the other race games.

Though there will be less cars than the likes of Forza and GT offer, the choice is nonetheless looking very good, with old-school favourites like the BMW E36 M3 and the Ford Escort Cosworth making a strong showing. What is also pleasing is that there don’t appear to be any of the dull family cars that seem to plague Gran Turismo. Combine that with an extensive section of potential upgrades (all the way to works vehicle status) and there should be enough cars and combinations to satisfy most petrolheads.

We had a glimpse of the night-racing in the game by driving at Silverstone and at our favourite track – the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Claims that Shift 2 will deliver the best night-driving experience available are certainly promising, with tracks taking on brand new challenges in the dark.

Progression will be via XP gained through good driving techniques and, of course, winning races, which can also be tracked with ‘Autolog’, a system which tracks achievements and race times posted both by yourself and your friends. Instant notifications of a better time by a friend will put you back in your seat looking for those tenths of a second to get back to the top – a nice feature.

Worth the wait? Shift 2 looks to be a promising experience and once we get the full game we’ll see whether it has the depth and quality-of-finish to match. Whether it can  ultimately beat Forza and GT to finish line remains to be seen, but standby  for a photo finish.