Shift 2: Unleashed Red Bull Content Pool

The experience of traveling at top speeds in a race car is closer to being strapped into a roller coaster or a space shuttle than blissfully cruising down the highway in a Toyota Corolla. But in most video games that try to capture the sport, the feeling you get from virtual racing usually compares closer to the latter than the former. But if you’re serious about your racing games, Need for Speed Shift 2 Unleashed maybe your flavor.

FOR REAL

The realism factor has upshifted, however, in Shift 2: Unleashed, a game in which EA has introduced a helmet cam mode that makes for the one of the most immersive racing experiences ever to come to a gaming console.

Unlike the top-down and slightly behind the car view that remains the default camera angle for many racers, Shift 2 sits you in the car itself -- a view comparable to what games like Call of Duty do with a first-person perspective for gunfights. As you hit the high gears, your vision begins to shake and your adrenaline starts pumping as you barrel down a track.

NOT FOR THE TIMID

Part of the source of the adrenaline rush from Shift 2 also comes from the fact that this is not an easy game in the least. If you can’t tame your cae and keep it from drifting into the grass or running into barriers, there’s no blue turtle shell from the likes of Super Mario Kart that will save you -- you’re simply going to lose many races.

When the game first boots up, a quick two-lap practice session helps the game decide what difficulty level and driving assists you’ll want to use to start with. Even then, you’re going to need more than luck to win. Prepare not only to learn each track, but also to tinker with the fine tuning of your car until you figure out what tire pressure works best or what kind of suspension suits your style of driving.  

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CLIMBING TO THE TOP

All this hard-scrabbling for the podium is worth it, because the cash earned in races will earn you whole host of upgrades for your current car or the option to purchase one of more than 140 real-life vehicles -- ranging from Chevrolet, Audi to Lamborghini.

Additionally, like a sort of virtual driver’s ed teacher, experience points are earned for good in-game driving like mastering corners, drafting and overtaking opponents. As you level up, you’ll have access to more events -- including the FIA GT3 and GT1 class of races. Along the way, you’ll also face off against real life racers like New Zealand top drift driver “Mad” Mike Whiddett. If you manage to somehow beat Whiddett, you’ll get his Red Bull Mazda RX-7.

VERDICT

Arcade racing fans who never touch a brake button might be intimidated by the realism of Shift 2: Unleashed, but if you’re serious about racing, few games have the sheer high-octane thrills and knuckle-whitening action as EA’s latest in the Need for Speed series.

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