#946 Need For Speed: Shift

Posted: 11th October 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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1007th played so far

Genre: Racing
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts

The Need for Speed series is one that has been around for a long time now, with (from memory) its 1994 release with its 3D cards impressing us back in the day. It’s been a mainstay in the genre since then, with its street racing and police pursuits adding a lot of excitement compared to just going around a track.

For the list, I’ve only covered Need for Speed: Most Wanted so far, but a set of two games does feel like it’s suitable for a series of this size.


Together with platformers, it feels like racing games are a genre that has been around me forever. Our early PC games had a couple of them, I’ve got a family interest in the genre and it feels like something that developers could do well enough from quite early on. At the same time it’s a genre where the new improvements come easy – graphics upgrades, new cars, improving the controls as you go along, stuff like that. The controls, in particular, made a big difference for me, as the analog joystick inputs allow for more subtle steering as you play compared to the on or off keyboard input I’m used to.

Yet I think the only racing games I’ve sought out are the Mario Kart games. Learning a racing game’s intricacies always feels awkward, slightly unintuitive a lot of the time, and the repetition you need to get into to get through a lot of them never really feels like fun to me. And that’s as someone who doesn’t mind some grinding in RPGs. I appreciated that relatively recently, racing games have started to introduce progression where you don’t have to win, and I enjoyed a game like Dirt 2 a lot more because of it, but overall it feels like it’s a genre that’s still moving towards a place where I’ll enjoy getting into it (again).

Our Thoughts

It’s weird – while I associate this series with its police chases, emphasizing the illegality of the street races you were taking part in from the start, Need for Speed: Shift has you take part in legal street races, where the focus is on pure racing capability rather than pursuits and such. While it makes for a more straight forward race experience, it also removes what sets the series apart from other series.

It’s an odd choice, and considering that I started with a London race, it compared unfavourably to Project Gotham Racing 3. That game had a track set up that partially overlapped with the one in Need for Speed: Shift (after all, you have to drive past the Houses of Parliament if you’re racing through London), but it took me half a lap before I realized where I was in London and that it was Waterloo Bridge that I was driving past. It not only covers the few landmarks you go past with advertising billboards, it also avoids others (really, no trip to Trafalgar Square? I thought that was obvious) and invents a road down from Waterloo Bridge to the north bank that simply doesn’t exist. That felt even more egregious as I worked right there, walked past there every day, and know it doesn’t look like. Aside from that, the streets and bridges are wider than they are in real life, and it all felt like a bit of set dressing to make a track rather than using the constraints of the city to create a good track. I know that may not matter to anyone else, but after my experience withย Project Gotham Racing, this tactic felt incredibly disappointing.

Beyond that, though, the game was pretty fun. It made a lot of sense to use the trial lap to set the difficulty, even as I needed to learn the control, and having to go through your first race to get money to buy your first car is just as nice – giving you a bonus on how well you do, giving you an advantage in what to buy, but you earn it regardless.

Final Thoughts

While I’m sure there are a lot of people who are happy to see a more accurate racing game, there are several others that have done the same. The things that make the series interesting – street racing rather than doing controlled laps, while avoiding the police and dealing with those obstacles – have been washed away here in favour of sanitized tracks and it’s hard not to see that as a step backwards. As thing stand at this point, this is a halfway house between different styles, and to get the real Need for Speed experience, you’re probably better off going for Most Wanted.