Looking Less Shifty: Need For Speed

By Alec Meer on August 18th, 2009 at 10:13 pm.

Walker lamented a couple of weeks ago that EA were mysteriously promoting Shift, their oh-so-knowingly-named reboot of the horribly tarnished Need For Speed series, by showing almost nothing of the game. In the wake of EA’s press conference at this year’s GamesCom, that’s changed. Now we get to see lots of pretend cars.



Pretty and fast and crunchy and all that, but… the knee-jerk thought is that this is EA having a crack at being more like Codemaster’s GRID and/or the Xbox’s Project Gotham series. Which is fine, as people actually respect those. Does, though, seem a bit of a shame that it’s elected to be rather homogenous (based on this footage at least) – the last four years’ or so of NFSs may have been pretty wretched, but at least they were trying to have an identity of their own. Silly cutscenes aren’t so bad when they know they’re silly – trouble is the NFS ones expected us to take ‘em seriously. Nuh-uh. Still, hopefully Shift isn’t entirely lost to GRID-emulation.

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35 Comments »

  1. Hi!! says:

    Knowing the developers, I’m pretty confident this will be about a million times better than GRID.

  2. Howard says:

    Shift is looking to be at least a little bit “sim-like” which is the absolute opposite of Grid so I don’t see it as competing with it. As to PGR: isn’t this the game that the PGR devs are working on or am I totally making that up?

  3. Vinraith says:

    I really wish they’d move back to arcadey, shortcut heavy exotic car racing (preferrably with police pursuits ala the Hot Pursuit games). My quasi-sim racing needs are being met amply by Codemasters at the moment, Need for Speed should be about… well, speed.

  4. MrBejeebus says:

    PGR dev’s are working on a race-battle game by the name of blur

    looks ok, grid was too simple and barebones for my liking

    ONLY 58 CARS DAMNIT

  5. Zaphid says:

    Looking Less Shitty: Need For Speed

    I just had to do it, sorry

  6. Hi!! says:

    Howard: The guys behind this game made GT Legends. Which is completely awesome.

  7. Paul says:

    Loved GRID, I am sure I will love this, but yeah, I can not wait for Criterion’s take on NFS 1 reinvention.

  8. Howard says:

    @MrBeeJebus & iI!!
    Of course! Thank you. Getting addled and confused in my old age…

  9. Po0py says:

    Grid is fine. It’s a good game. Don’t be hating Grid.

  10. Optimaximal says:

    GRID was good until you realise Codemasters dropped the ball on it…

    The vaunted campaign was lame and predictable, the AI Ravenwest drivers were invincible and cheated, there was no decent online component due to issues with cheaters and network connectivity, they never added the sorely missing replay mode (people never believed me when I told them I barrel rolled a Murciélago) and the DLC took ages too arrive and was as well received as tepid water.

  11. Blather Blob says:

    @Po0py: Yeah, except Codemasters went and promoted it as an attempt at a realistic racing game, which was bound to leave a sour taste in a few people’s mouths when they saw what it actually was.

    This time there’s a well-respected development team behind the game to back up the same claims on this game, so some are hoping that it will be different and resent comparisons to GRID.

  12. RGS says:

    Hoping it will be realistic.

    NFS Franchise + EA = Unlikely.

    Devs track record = Hopeful.

  13. Blather Blob says:

    This is very much EA trying to have a crack at GRID/PGR/Forza3/GT5. It’s being developed by former sim-racing developers and is aimed at being the more serious, “european-oriented” NFS offering. There are 3 different NFS games all coming out at about the same time. It’s not so much a reboot of the franchise, as an attempt to bootstrap a competitor to the arcade-sim games using the NFS name. There’s a “proper” main-line NFS under development too, for release in a year or two, which is by the Burnout developers, so that’s likely to bring the series back to what you’re hoping for.

    @Po0py: Yeah, except Codemasters went and promoted it as an attempt at a realistic racing game, which was bound to leave a sour taste in a few people’s mouths when they actually played it.

    This time there’s a well-respected development team behind the game to back up the same claims on this game, so some are hoping that it will be different and that’s probably why they’re overly defensive about comparisons to GRID.

  14. LewieP says:

    I don’t like racing sims, but the footage of this game is very very pretty.

    The general visual look is what I would have wanted from a driving section in Mirror’s Edge.

  15. Mo says:

    It’s weird … I’m really lame at most racing games, and don’t particularly enjoy them, but I absolutely adored Geoff Crammonds GP3 “back in the day”. Shift totally reminds me of playing GP3. Therefore, I’m rather excited. :)

  16. DerangedStoat says:

    Despite the reputation of the developers behind Shift, it’s not being developed as a simulation. And I’m happy that they’ve actually come out and said it, since nothing brings out my angry internet mans like a game claiming to be a sim when it is far from it (ie GRiD).

    To steal the quotes from a Kotaku AU article:
    http://www.kotaku.com.au/2009/08/need-for-speed-shift-is-authentic-not-a-simulation/

    “We dub it an ‘authentic’ racing game because it’s rooted in professional motorsport,” he says. “It’s track-based, it’s got a collection of cars that not only includes the stock versions but also the Le Mans style, the WTCC style cars you see in those racing circuits.”

    “When you go full simulation, it really requires something le ss mundane than this kind of device,” he says, holding a PS3 Dual Shock controller. “You have to expect the player has a wheel, a clutch, an e-brake… in order to be able to model what it takes to operate at that level of fidelity. I think you’re cheating the fan when you have a sterile, grind-based simulator that takes dozens and dozens of hours of practice to get even slightly proficient with a gamepad.

    “I may be overselling that point, but to me that’s my experience with those games. When I pick up the first device that I have available to me, which is a gamepad 99 times out of 100, my ability to control and have any type of fun with those games is remote. Need For Speed has never been after that segment. We don’t craft experiences like that because we don’t find them to be fun ourselves.”

    It sounds to me like they are going straight after GRiD, with an ‘Authentic’ (damn marketing!) game being one that have visually accurate models of vehicles/circuits/visuals, and gameplay midway between a sim and an arcade racer.

  17. The Colonel says:

    Bring back Hot Pursuit. I worry what effect the more recent NFS games have had on English kids.

  18. Blather Blob says:

    @DerangedStoat: That’s the EA producer. He’s also said that he considers “simulation” a bad word. But when Ian Bell, the guy in charge of Slightly Mad Studios, and apparently not that Ian Bell, talks about it he says things like:
    “We have a full realism hardcore mode called Pro that you can choose to race in from the start that will feel natural and comfortable as well as raising the bar for handling compared to anything out there (or due out soon) for all of our hardcore race sim fans.”

    but he leaves some wiggle room in that interview about just how realistic it is, just as the producer leaves some vagueness about just how sim-like it can be made.

    So the question is who is spinning more? The EA reps trying to convince the mainstream that this isn’t a scary sim, or the sim-developers trying to convince their base that this is really a sim in disguise? It’s a lot like a us presidential election.

  19. DerangedStoat says:

    @ Blather Blob: Ahh, thanks for the clarification on that, ’tis a good question you pose, and I suppose only time can tell, but dammit, I’d just come to peace with the fact it’s wasn’t going to be a sim, now I’m all apprehensive again!

    I think my worry isn’t if the game is a sim or not, as different strokes for different folks (and I do enjoy most racing games, be it GRiD, Burnout, or GTR2), but more that the ‘Simulation’ genre becomes watered down/hazy, leading to more good looking but horribly handling racing games because marketing hears that ‘people want a racing sim!’

    I don’t demand that every major racing game is a simulation, but I do hope that there will always be a couple of recent/new proper simulations available amongst all the GRiD/NFS/Burnout games.

  20. Ken says:

    codemasters racing games are leaps and bounds above ea’s games, that has always been the case.

    i don’t see much coming from their newest title: shift. whenever there is BS promotion like the recent driver interviews it is always trying to mask up the fact that the game can’t deliver.

  21. Howard says:

    @DerangedStoat
    Goddamit! Those quotes you posted have just utterly burst my bubble and completely turned me away from this game. Oh well, at least I save some money I guess as no force on earth will ever make me play an abortion like GRiD again…

  22. DerangedStoat says:

    @Howard, read the link Blather Blob provided, it does provide a contradictory interview with the developer (rather than the publisher), that really tries to push the sim angle (makes sense since the interview is with a Sim fansite, the intro is in Italian, but the interview itself is entirely in English)

    It does seem like really could go either way though (sim or not) unfortunately.
    He notes some features that make is sound very sim like:
    -Differing grip on/off the race line
    -Full tuning options
    -Claims that the driving physics are the most advanced they’ve ever created
    -Things such as tyre deformation are simulated
    -Car damage changes handling

    And yet there are some that very very non-sim:
    -No tyre wear, no heat/cold tyres
    -16 cars max in a race
    -only 3 AI settings
    -fixed weather for each race (reads to be an aesthetic choice more than anything… yay lightbloom!)
    -Car damage sounds very forgiving

    And so on, I really don’t know what to think of it now, but my gut feeling is still that it’s still going to be a GRiD clone.

  23. Howard says:

    @DerangedStoat
    Sure, but this could also just be playing to your audience (read: lying) to get a sale.
    As you and I both know, what makes a good racer is whether or not ALL assistances can be turned off. This was the reason GRiD was so unutterably awful. While it had a decent, if not good, physics model, the fact was that even on “Pro” mode, there were massive amounts of assists running at all times so if, like me, you are used to playing games that give you full control you find yourself fighting continuously against these mechanisms making the game utterly unenjoyable.
    I have some faith in the team after GT Legends but claiming nonsense like “It ‘s the best physics engine we’ve made” is just idiotic because this is the FIRST one they’ve made. GT Legends used SimBins engine and all they did was create a mod essentially.

  24. Hi!! says:

    Howard: They did a lot more than that. They worked very closely with SimBin for a while. Look here:

    http://www.slightlymadstudios.com/about/

  25. Howard says:

    @Hi!!
    Fair enough but it still means that they used the core engine provided by SimBin, though GTR2′s engine was more advanced I grant.

    Still, this game is looking increasingly like a waste of time. When the devs and the publishers are spinning so much BS and gearing their pitch so markedly at the audience they are addressing it starts to smell of the level of lies that Codemasters and Ubisoft have become renowned for. As I’ve said before, I’ve no issue with arcade racers as long as they KNOW they are arcade racers and stop trying to pitch themselves as anything else. If only the people who make software would take their heads out of their arses and realise that lying to your potential buyers is ALWAYS, ALWAYS a bad idea.

  26. Howard says:

    Actualyl, I’ve just read that link you posted again, Hi!!. Does that mean that Slightly Mad Studios ARE SimBin?

  27. Howard says:

    Yea gods! I’ve just noticed on Slightly Mad Studios website that they have announced a Drift mode for Shift.

    Yeah, we’re done here…

  28. Vinraith says:

    Ah crap. I’m fine with everything else mentioned, but I’m never buying another racing game that makes me waste time playing “drift” challenges. That trend really, REALLY needs to die.

  29. RogB says:

    Howard:
    SM are PART of the old Simbin. The 2 bosses (Henrik Roos, Ian bell) had a big falling out, Ian Bell set up his own studio (blimey games) and basically poached most of the staff.
    Blimey have since went under and are reformed under a new name (Slightly mad – another atrocious title). And they are still squabbling with whats left of Simbin.

  30. pepper says:

    Someone send these developers a copy of NFS 2 and Hot pursuit/road challenge. With a letter telling them to bring back the fun. I miss those days.

  31. vasagi says:

    PLEASE add a ponitless FMV crime/murder whodunit subplot!

  32. megaman says:

    This makes me want to dig out my MOMO racing wheel (which I safely tugged away after NFS:Most Wanted). The engine sound alone might be worth it. :)

  33. Blather Blob says:

    @vasagi, @pepper: I don’t think EA are viewing this as “the next NFS game”. It’s more of an attempt at something different that can break out into its own series if it doesn’t die in the market, and the NFS name is already pretty tarnished from ProStreet if it does die. There’s an NFS MMO coming out next year, but then a “proper” NFS game is due in another year or two from the Burnout devs, which can be sold as a reboot of the franchise if all this experimentation fails horribly.

    @Howard: As RogB says, Ian Bell & co worked for SimBin making GTR 1, started on GT Legends, left and formed Blimey!, finished up GT Legends for SimBin as contractors, and then also made GTR 2 for SimBin. They then started on a Ferrari sim game, went bankrupt, and started a “new” company called Slightly Mad Studios (that seems to be a renamed Blimey! without the debt). Oh, and I think they made that free BMW game in there somewhere.

    I think the GTR series all used (modified) physics engines from ISI, but I’m sure they’re counting them as engines it is meant to be compared against. However, their physics programmer on NFS: Shift is Eero Piitulainen. I don’t think he worked on the GTRs, but he did do the physics of Richard Burns Rally, and a few people consider that to have been rather decent :).

    Here’s another interview with Ian Bell that’s equal parts encouraging and worrying. He talks about expanding the sim market by “educating the consumer,” and “working to convert casual players to more serious players by rewarding their efforts to increase their skills” but what does “blurring the line between arcade and sim, utilizing the best of both worlds to create a game which is the most immersive, but more importantly the most exciting and the most fun, because in the end, it’s all about how fun and rewarding the game is” mean for people who find realistic physics fun and rewarding?

    I really have no idea what it’s going to be like. I’m also expecting it to end up in that annoying middle area of GRID, where it’s not very fun as a pure arcade game but is also just frustrating if you try to drive it properly. Which is too bad, since I liked the standard NFSes, and would welcome a AAA-production-values sim racer. Still, it has enough uncertainty surrounding it that I’m still looking forward to finding out. But I liked the drifting in the first NFS Underground, it seemed really easy when you used the keyboard. It was the drag racing I hated, with its slotted lane changes.

    Anyway, there’s a pre-release demo promised, before the end of summer they’ve said. Which should mean very soon, especially with the game now coming out in NA on September 15.

  34. ascagnel says:

    This will never fly as a serious sim – there was no damage modelling. I watched the HD version a number of times and noticed that, even though all the collisions were hard enough and fast enough to justify at least a cracked windshield, none of the cars had even a scratch.

    GT5 finally got into the damage modelling game, GRID/DiRT, Forza, GTR/GT Legends, RACE have always been in it, and NFS:Shift is giving it a pass.

    Having no damage modelling now, especially on something that high-budget, is foolish. I would expect a “cosmetic” damage only mode from something like this, probably even as a default. But no damage modelling makes me sad.

  35. r4 says:

    Gaming is my passion. When it comes to acing games, I am mad about it all. My most favorite game in racing is Need For Speed Most Wanted. It is an awesome game. It’s graphics and music, all the things going with plan. Really a good one in racing.

    I like to drift my car every where. Not only in drift race, I am doing drifting in race events also. I like to do this. Good videos to see, it gave me some more idea about drift.