EA’s Shift 2 Unleashed is yet another high quality entry in to the racing market on iOS, but does it bring enough to the track to warrant your attention?
The quick answer is, yes, it does. Shift 2 is a step up from EA’s first game and adds further graphical and control enhancements to an already impressive engine.
Cars look more polished and the trackside scenery has been improved too, making Shift 2 one of the best looking racers out there. It all moves very smoothly as well, even on a 3GS. Small touches, like the windscreen cracking during smashes, really add to the realism and the new driver’s view camera is as effective here as it is in the console release.
But graphics aren’t the only thing that has been given an overhaul. The controls, already cited as one of the best systems for a racing game on Apple’s devices, are improved by the addition of drift mechanics and manual acceleration. EA have seen fit to keep the manual gear change option, though it gets a bit fiddly at times swiping up and down, and this is a nice touch for those who are serious about their racing games.
Driver assists are on as standard. Turning these off will add to the challenge. It means that anyone should be able to pick up and play the game, whatever skill level you are, but careful driving, even with all the assists on, is still rewarded as you gain points for following the racing line, taking corners just right and passing without bumping in to your opponents.
Emphasis has also been put on mastering drifting, but after a fair amount of time with the game I can hold my hand up and say I still haven't got anywhere near mastering it. Perhaps it's me, but the drift function seems a tad hard to pull off.
Points make for cash to add new equipment or upgrade your car. An almost RPG-like system forces you to balance these upgrades with saving cash for new cars or more expensive options in order to compete on later tracks. Some races also require you to have a certain type of car. Dipping their toes in the paid for credits market, EA have also added the option to buy cash for real money as well, allowing those who want to pay more an easy route into the upgrade process.
Aside from the regular Career mode, the game also has a new Quick Race Trials option, which will test your ability on specific features. one trial will ask you to follow the racing line while another gets you through drifting or cornering. It's a neat idea that adds a lot of longevity to the game and mixes things up if you get bored of standard races.
Online multiplayer, like so many EA games of late, is only local. While it’s a shame races can’t be organised over the internet, it does keep the framerate up and local races are very playable and easy to set up. We’re hoping that a patch will be added at a later date for worldwide racing.
While Shift 2 is a vast improvement over the previous game and certainly one of the better racing games on the App Store, it does have a few niggles. EA are pushing their new gaming platform, Origin, as much as possible and Shift 2 is the first game on iOS to be forced into this online system. All this would be fine if the damn logo didn’t keep popping up with a reminder to either register or do something else. On the iPhone the cross to remove this is too small and fiddly to quickly remove this text.
The menus could also be easier to navigate. There’s a lot going on in the game and it would be nice to have a simplified front menu that makes it easier to get into the game.
Shift 2 Unleashed is another polished title from EA and sits at the top end of the racing genre on iOS. Sim fans and arcade racers alike with both get a lot of joy from racing around the many tracks on offer and the upgrade system is impressive.
- Sound: 9
- Graphics: 9
- Gameplay: 9
- Longevity: 9
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