Review: Need for Speed: Shift HD
It’s yet another racing game for the new Symbian platform! It makes a lot of sense for Nokia to ensure this genre is strongly represented – it shows off the graphical capability of the N8 (and the rest of the devices in that family, including the C7) and they are strong brand names that give the platform legitimacy. Even though it’s more 'arcadey' that GT Racing: Motor Academy (reviewed here), Need for Speed: Shift feels a touch more realistic and a lot more fun.
Version Reviewed: 1.00(5)
While you have the quick game which gets you out racing as soon as possible, the core of NFS Shift (in fact the core of every modern version of Need for Speed) is the career mode. Here, you’ll take part in a series of different styles of racing, earning money for finishing well, following the racing line, clean overtaking, and other attributes. That money can be used to improve your car through various modifications (including suspension, nitro boost, better engines, chassis, and others), bodywork, paint and transfers for your car to change the look, and even upgrade to bigger and better cars.
You’ll start your career with some street racing in Chicago, and as you progress you’ll be heading to London and Tokyo, before taking on the World Tour. While you start with a reasonable car in the game (I went for the Golf GTi), you’re going to find that NFS on Symbian is a smooth and polished game no matter what you start with or how you progress.
You’ve a number of choices in terms of control to go alongside the tilting of the phone as if it was your steering wheel and tapping the touch screen for the brakes. You can choose three skill levels that can help your gameplay (assisted steering, assisted braking, and a visual racing line placed on the circuit). Even though the temptation is to start with everything turned on, it won’t be long before you want to turn some things off. I’d recommend you get onto manual braking as fast as you can as some late braking on the circuit will help you overtake the AI-controlled cars.
It's not just round and round a track racing, there are seven types of races to keep things fresh and varied, and provide a different type of challenge. To beat this game, you'll need to be a great all-rounder.
An old fashioned race for a number of laps around a circuit.
A point to point race, usually shorter than a circuit race.
- Driver Duel
Head to head, just make sure you win!
Similar to a circuit race, but at the end of every lap, the car running last is eliminated. Stay active till the end to win.
- Time Trial
Just you and the circuit, with a specific time to beat.
It’s a head to head, but your opponent drives a sprint course first, then you drive it. Best time wins.
Or power sliding your car around the corner – the longer you can hold a drift the more points you score towards earning your stars.
As you complete these races, you’ll earn stars. While the majority of these will be for race victories and getting on the podium, you can earn extra stars for hitting specific goals per race, e.g. leading for an entire lap on a circuit race. The stars are vital as it is the total number of earned stars that will unlock later races and circuits – not everything is available to you as you start.
NFS Shift is squarely in arcade game territory, but at the same time there’s enough realism here to give the game a little more bite than mashing down the accelerate button and touching left and right. A simple illustration is in the head to head games. If you want to overtake the car in front of you and you’ve not been buying all the upgrades as quickly as possible, you still can, but you’ll need to drive accurately around the tracks taking the fastest racing line and waiting for a slip from your opponent... and even then you’ll need to think smart to get past the car.
Compare this to games where you’re given a speed advantage in your car and you can just knock past an opponent at will and you’ll see why NFS Shift feels much more like a rewarding challenge. Not only do you need to drive fast, you need to drive smart and think.
The key, of course, is to keep winning and constantly updating the parts of your car – that gives parity (and sometimes just a little bit more) as you progress through the circuits and races. It’s a good learning curve that EA have been tweaking over countless versions of Need for Speed on multiple platforms.
There’s no comparison when you take the Symbian^3 version of Need for Speed and look at previous NF titles on Symbian – they’ve always been Java builds. This is native code and it shows. The frame rate is high, you’ve got responsive controls that transfer well through to the car – how it handles does vary according to the car and mods, and that’s great to see in the game.
Need for Speed Shift is polished, looks great, and is a genuinely challenging game that doesn’t present you any races that are impossible to progress beyond. Over time, I suspect it will start to feel repetitive, but EA have a recipe that works in these games. This is a successful transfer to the Symbian platform. Strongly recommended.
-- Ewan Spence Nov 2010.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at