Shift 2 Unleashed Review
Realism has always been the “Holy Grail” of the racing simulator genre. The formula has always been to improve as many of the three factors present in any racing game: environmental realism, physics realism, and car details. Whether you’re a Gran Turismo fan or a Forza series fan, you’d know that the “formula” for this genre is very simple, very transparent, yet so hard to perfect. Just like good old American blues music – it only uses a bare minimum of chords but takes a lifetime just to get right. Shift 2: Unleashed is a decent attempt at the Holy Grail but, as predicted, falls shorts on some key points.
The Good News about Shift 2: Unleashed:
Shift 2: Unleashed boasts of an innovation that is missing from all other racing sim titles – a driver helmet mounted camera view. This is what puts Shift 2: Unleashed ahead of the pack. It adds a grittier level of realism that addresses 2 of the 3 components that racing game systems seek to satisfy.
It gives players a “personal” view of the trace track as seen by the driver and the bobbing and weaving motions of the camera convey the physical reality of the high speeds involved. You have to play this game if for no other reason just to see how it handles cornering. Stupendous. Not only do you get a sense of the speed by the movement of the camera, you actually step inside the mind of the driver because of graphical cues that convey how he/she is feeling during the race. If you collide with a barrier, the screen color changes. Completely interactive, Shift 2: Unleashed goes a long way in truly putting players “in the driver seat.”
It also gives you choice: you can go with the driver helmet-mounted cam POV or the standard “arcade view”. Physical reality is packed into this title – if you approach a corner incorrectly, you careen out of control. Tires get blown out. Lights can fail. All contingencies are programmed in so as to mimic actual race car driving conditions. Online play is decent. Nothing revolutionary there but Shift 2: Unleashed’s online play covers the basic – Driver Duel, Time Attack, and Race modes give you enough online challenges to keep you entertained for a long time.
The Not So Good News:
Alas, the Holy Grail of car racing sims holds forth its scales for Shift 2: Unleashed and its found wanting in one crucial element -graphic realism. The exterior views of the cars aren’t as exquisite or as realistically rendered as Forza or Gran Turismo. While the interior shots are great, they still don’t convey the high level of realism that other titles have. Some titles have the interior realism factor locked down so hard that you can swear you can get a whiff of that “new car smell.”
While Shift 2: Unleashed does stumble on one key component of the “realism trifecta” of terrain/environmental realism, graphic/car detail realism, and physics realism, its mind blowing driver helmet mounted POV and other elements more than make up for this shortcoming. This title definitely pushes the racing car sim genre forward.