|System: Wii, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Montreal||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 3, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Travis Fahs
June 10, 2009 - EA has decided to take their 2009 iteration of the long-running Need for Speed series in a decidedly different direction with Need for Speed: Shift. They knew right away that the hardnosed simulator approach wasn't going to fly with the increasingly casual Nintendo audience, so they've taken a two-pronged approach to pull the brand in completely opposite directions. E3 2009 marked the playable debut for the other game, Need for Speed: Nitro, with separate titles on the Wii and DS.
This is pure arcade racing, without any concessions toward realism or the hardcore audience. EA talks about targeting a casual crowd, but that might be shortchanging the appeal of a fast, accessible racing game, and Wii owners have grown quite fond of the genre. The developers are supporting the Wii Wheel, and another kiosk also demonstrated a Wiimote-only configuration played by pointing the Wiimote at the screen and twisting it side-to-side. They weren't shown at the show, but we're told that the game will also support the Nunchuk and even the Classic Controller and GameCube pad. Needless to say, we felt the Wii Wheel worked the best.
The controls were very simple, but the low camera angle and fluid frame rate really helped to produce an incredible sensation of speed. The mechanics are nothing surprising, with the basic drifts to control cornering, and a nitro boost that sends you screaming forward. The nitros refill themselves automatically, and fill up faster if you're playing well. The course, based in Madrid, snaked around unpredictably, but still kept a real-world feel. Unlike the more recent games in the series, this was strictly a closed circuit, so don't expect to see any open-world elements.
After the first lap, a police car showed up to give us a hard time. Cops have been a part of the Need for Speed series for a long time, but the implementation here reminded us more of Gameloft's Asphalt series. The cop wasn't easy to lose, but didn't seem to be a major threat, either. We took a bit of damage, but collecting wrench icons allows you to repair your vehicle as you drive no need to pull over for a pit stop.
EA's Montreal studio has been very successful in creating a game that is fast, eye-catching, and approachable, but we're a bit concerned that the whole experience is too vanilla. Although there will be four-player split-screen, there is no online mode, and the main racing mode seems to lack any features to really distinguish it from the crowd of other racers before it. Playing it safe can pay off in the lean summer months, but if EA wants to compete in the fall rush, they need to give gamers a reason to buy their game instead of someone else's.
CCC Freelance Writer