The lack of “Need for Speed” in the name of this game shows how far this it deviates from the original series. Starting off as a street racer with and arcade feel, now the game tries to make a name as a racing sim; facing stiff competition from heavyweights like Gran Turismo and Forza. While it’s predecessor was well received, Shift 2 still had a lot of ground to cover to match the level achieved by the others.
Since I’m already discussing the competition between Shift 2, GT and Forza; I’ll get straight to it, and talk about the most important aspect, the driving physics and gameplay. Some of you will breathe a sigh of relief, while some of you won’t be so happy when you read this; but the physics, even with the Elite mode, are not as precise or realistic as GT or Forza. There is still very much an arcadey feel to the game. Sometimes it is a bit too unrealistic for a game wanting to be acknowledged as a racing sim.
The cars feel a bit too light in many cases, and it feels like pushing a shopping trolley at times. Crashes have minimal affect on your car, and in some ways knocking cars off the track is encouraged. This has probably been done to appeal to a wider audience; and it achieves that, not being unrealistic enough to be called an arcade game while not doing enough to be called a racing sim either.
In terms of realism, something that Shift 2 does do well is the implementation of the in-helmet camera. The name is pretty much self-explanatory, and it behaves just like a driver would; rotating to view upcoming turns, getting jostled during crashes etc. Even though I’m someone who prefers to stay away from in-car views, I loved it and think that the others should take a leaf out of Shift 2′s book.
The career mode is nothing revolutionary; it’s the usual win races and unlock stuff though it does allow a degree of flexibility by letting you focus on your strengths if you’re finding a discipline difficult. It incorporates some RPG elements too; you gain points for not only winning races but for maintaining good lines, high speeds, drafting etc. Levelling up unlocks more stuff. Some might bemoan this as making the game even more arcadey but it rewards good driving, so it’s not as bad as it may sound.