I recently reviewed Need for Speed Shift on the PlayStation 3
and loved it. Of course, no multi-console EA release is complete without a PlayStation Portable version of the title, so Need for Speed Shift is also now available on Sony's handheld. Aside from the name, about the only thing in common between the console and portable games is the fact that they both feature cars.
Don't get me wrong - I didn't come into this looking for a watered-down version of Slightly Mad Studios' driving tour-de-force, but it's definitely worth noting that this isn't a simulation racer in any way, shape or form. Unfortunately, that still doesn't mean it's really all that great.
The game is incredibly arcadey, not only in terms of controls but in terms of progression as well. You don't really have a whole lot of options available to you at any one point, nor do you ever really control what cars you have, or what upgrades are applied to them. Instead, you work through a very linear set of events on your way to the top. Cars are unlocked by either beating all of the races in certain events, or beating your current rival in a showdown match.
One of my favorite parts about racers is managing my cash flow and diving into the dealership to figure out what I'm going to buy or upgrade next, none of which is available here as you earn this stuff automatically, essentially. The major problem, though, is that about half-way through the game I came to a grinding halt. See, after you beat a rival, you get that person's car and then a new rival shows up. That rival is in pretty much every single one of your events, and they remain there until they're replaced. That's fine for what it is, or at least it was until I got half-way through the game and my next rival showed up with a Dodge Viper. No car available to me was anywhere close to being able to compete with it, and as it started showing up in every event, it basically put me at a standstill.
Besides that pretty big issue, you really just feel like you're going through the paces. As I mentioned before, you don't really have control over what order anything happens in (though driving the same car over and over again is how you earn the Loyalty points that earn you upgrades). The track design isn't very good, and the limited number of courses get really repetitive rather quickly.
On the plus side, it controls fairly well for what it is. Powerslides are rather useful for keeping speed through a corner, and you have to rein your ride in just enough to keep it fun. It's a pretty fast game in general, which is always nice. However, some of the collisions aren't very good, particularly when it comes to scraping against a wall. Maybe it's a problem with the sound not being "vocal" enough, but you'll sometimes be touching a wall to where it's slowing you down, but it's not immediately obvious that that's happening.
The event variety is decent, but some of them are throwaways. For instance, there's a checkpoint event where your time keeps ticking down, and you have to get through as many checkpoints as possible before the time runs out. That one is fun, but there's a version that combines it with a normal race, and the checkpoint part becomes totally useless as you're just headed to the finish line anyway, and there's so much time on the clock (and gained from the checkpoints) that it becomes irrelevant.
The drift events can be somewhat fun, especially since the powersliding can be rewarding, but you really need to make sure your multiplier keeps going up in order to have your try count for anything. If you touch a wall half-way through the race, even if you do great everywhere else, you'll have lost your multiplier at the worst possible moment and the whole event becomes a waste.
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