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Need for Speed: Shift
PC, Playstation 3, XBox 360

Reviewed on: PC

Slightly Mad Studios
Publisher: EA Games
Rated: "M" for Mature

CHEATfactor Game Review
by Joe Sinicki

Audio/Visual: 6
Gameplay: 5
Lasting Appeal: 5
Overall: 6
CHEATfactor: 6

Racing games are a tricky bunch. Get too arcade-ish and purists start to complain, but get too sim-heavy and you risk alienating a huge group of casual gamers. Need for Speed: Shift attempts to find a happy medium between these two worlds, and while it is a valiant effort – the game never really manages to get either right.  What results is a fun yet unfinished feeling of racing that somehow manages to alienate both groups of racing fans.

The Need for Speed series has been going through a bit of an identity crisis over the last few years – and this time the franchise is trying their luck at the semi-pro, legit racing world – again. Gone are the tales of underground street-racing douche bags with rides that cost more than they should be able to afford. It’s been traded for licensed cars, tracks and events. The new formula seems to stall out before it even gets going though as Shift relies too heavily still on the earlier game’s control schemes. You’ll be rewarded for driving dangerously and drifting around corners but at the same time – you’re supposed to have the mindset that you’re supposed to play smart – braking early around corners and strategizing ala Gran Turismo and Forza. Wait…What?

"...test your handling and mastery of the game’s controls to configure your difficulty and settings."


Nowhere are this system’s flaws more evident than in the very first lap of the game’s career mode. Rightfully named Trial by Fire, the single-lap mission will test your handling and mastery of the game’s controls to configure your difficulty and settings. So, let me get this straight EA, you’re trying develop a new style of gameplay that blends elements of two crazy successful racing sub-genres and if we don’t nail it right the first time – the game treats us like we’re handicapped? Really? Games like Madden have used this system before, but the control schemes they employ feel natural, not so much here.

It’s not all bad though – in fact, Need for Speed: Shift has a lot going for it.  Playing solo nets you the options of playing either quick race or career modes. While this may not seem like a lot, the game’s options provide you with enough variables to make things interesting.  In quick race for instance, you’ll be able to customize exactly what kind of race you want. Straight-forward? Time trial? Drift challenge? You can further customize the game by only allowing certain cars or vehicle types.  Sure, these events are nothing new, but they should be enough to keep racing fans interested.

My favorite part of Shift was the game’s career mode. Too many racing games seem to reward players only for where they finish, but Shift does a great job adding objectives mid-race. You progress through the career mode by earning stars, which you’ll get for everything from driving dangerously to mastering every corner, and even driving safely.  Make no mistake about it, your first objective is to win - - but these secondary objectives add a welcome depth and replayability to the mode, especially when you realize that there’s really only about 150 different events, and most of them are merely repeats of past events.

"...AI controlled cars seemingly pulled off miracle maneuvers..."


At the same time, the secondary objectives can be quite infuriating when you take into account just how cheap the game’s AI is. Take the aforementioned reward for driving safely for an entire race, your rivals don’t care about your objectives, and they’re not shy – they’ll push, swap paint and try to squeeze into the smallest spots. I think you can see the problem here. There were also instances where the AI controlled cars seemingly pulled off miracle maneuvers to get to the front of the pack, thus sending you flying into a wall, and I don’t think I need to tell you just how infuriating starting a ten lap race can be. At the same time though, you can use your rival’s overzealous nature to your advantage. In most races, your opponents will start off strong, competing heavily with each other to get to the front of the pack, but by lap five, they’re going to start slowing down – just bide your time and you’re sure to be a competitive racer before long.

Of course, Need For Speed: Shift looks phenomenal. The game’s cars, tracks and environments all look incredibly realistic and though a bit of slowdown was noticeable when the action got a bit hectic, it wasn’t anything too bad and it didn’t really show up during online sessions. Shift does an amazing job recreating the feeling of speed at an almost scary level. The faster you go, you’ll notice a more intense blur, and when you crash, you’ll be disoriented for a few seconds, adding another level of strategy to most races.

Shift is a no doubt a step in the right direction for the Need for Speed series, even if that step tends to lose its footing quite often. Every time the game starts to build momentum, something happens to make you doubt the experience. That being said, Need for Speed: Shift is a title that feels like the start of something new and proves that change can be a good thing. 



CHEATS USED: Unlock All Cars, Unlock All Upgrades, more

If there was one word to describe the cheats in Cheat Happen’s Need for Speed: Shift trainer, it would undoubtedly be practical.  Each cheat available is incredibly useful and can be used to advance the game, and cancel out a few of the flaws. Take for instance the unlock all cars cheat – which helps you choose the best car to take care of certain objectives, or the unlock all upgrades which let you customize these cars the way YOU want to – not the way the game wants you to.

There’s a place for fun, goofy cheats, but the trainer for Need for Speed: Shift is one of the most useful and practical I’ve used yet.



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