By Dusty Overby
on 10.6.09

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In a major step change from previous Need for Speed games, the recently released SHIFT sacrifices the bling and street-race customization that fans of the series have come to expect in favor of more traditionally-flavored, track-based action. In our opinion, this move towards simulation racing is a good one that will likely earn new fans for the longstanding racing franchise.

Graphically, major improvements have been made and, when ogling some of the lustiest sheet metal creations that the world has ever known, this is much appreciated. Though several views are available to suit different tastes, SHIFT offers one of the best first-person cockpit views yet seen in a video game. Aside from gorgeous rendering of the licensed cars, the game also throws in some slick motion and blur effects; in our testing, the frame rate seemed smooth and consistent – a must for any racing game. SHIFT provides more than enough digital octane to satisfy any gaming gear head.

Hit the jump for more impressions and gooey screenshots.

Of course, a simulation racing game is all about physics and handling, and, once you get your car dialed in SHIFT seems to have a pretty good grip on the situation. We found the default settings for the game to produce an undesirable amount of oversteer, but that’s easily remedied and needn’t spoil your fun. You can tweak the settings to your liking or take the lazy way out and go settings like those found here. You’ll also find many of the standard online offerings via Xbox Live or PSN.

The real fun of this game comes in its ability to offer a racing simulation that retains some arcade fun. Think of it as landing somewhere between Gran Turismo and Project Gotham Racing. SHIFT offers a keen leveling system that offers you points for both precision and aggressive driving moves. It’s this experience system that really provides the compulsion to press on, achieving the higher tiers and helming the increasingly stud cars that the title offers.

Cost: $60 (X360) | $57 (PS3)