Brushing the red line, grabbing top gear and clipping the apex, AllCarTech brings you our full review of the latest racing title to hit your PlayStation 3, Need For Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed. Last week we brought you our first impressions of the EA Games and Slightly Mad Studios racer and with a few more hours behind the wheel, we're ready to bring you our full test.
Gentlemen, start your engines...
There are two main types of Need For Speed game. The most well-known is the street racing series that have been giving gamers a rush of adrenaline for well over a decade. Always popular, the series really took off around the time that The Fast And The Furious popularised the street racing and tuning culture, and the Underground games were almost a videogame take on the F&F films.
The Hot Pursuit games put the emphasis on running from the cops in the latest supercars. More recently though, we've seen the introduction of the Shift series. Rather than illegal street racing, Shift focuses on a bona fide (and entirely legal!) racing career, swapping public roads for circuits and driver rivalries for championships.
Shift 2 Unleashed (S2U) is a development of the theme, taking on the Race Driver series at its own game and offering a less difficult (and perhaps more satisfying) racing experience than driving sim Gran Turismo 5. Your goal is to reach the FIA GT1 racing series, testing your mettle against Maserati MC-12 GT1 cars and more.
Chances are, if you find yourself frustrated with Gran Turismo 5's style of gameplay and endless grinding to generate enough cash to buy your dream car, S2U will prove an entirely refreshing experience where cash is easy to come by and you can be in some pretty hot metal within an hour of firing the game up.
You take to the track in a Need For Speed Nissan GT-R to determine your level of skill, and after a lap or two the game recommends some difficulty settings with options available for steering and braking assistance, traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes and other driver aids. You'll also get some money to assist with the purchase of your first car.
The choice is good - you won't be starting in a depressing 1980s hatchback here - and you can select from all manner of European hot hatchbacks, Japanese sports cars and more.
Races award you cash and experience points (XP), both of which mean prizes. Playing through the game unlocks vinyl decals, greater choice of cars and even prize cars. Within a few races you'll already be receiving some pretty tasty metal and earning enough money to upgrade your cars to full-blown racing machines.
Increases in XP allow you to level up, unlocking further series and awarding a hefty cash bonus each time. After five or six hours playing, we're rolling around in over half a million virtual dollars so you'll not be left wanting for cash to buy that brand new Pagani Huayra you've had your eye on...