Need For Speed: Shift Is “Authentic”, Not A Simulation

Need For Speed: Shift Is “Authentic”, Not A Simulation

There are two Need For Speed games coming out this year, as part of EA’s effort to recalibrate the franchise. Nitro is for Wii and DS and is very much an arcade racer. Shift is for PC, 360, PS3 and PSP and, you’d imagine, veers more to the serious end of the spectrum. Just don’t call it a sim.

EA had been looking to reboot the Need For Speed series for a while, Shift producer Jesse Abney told me.

“The announcement last year came after several years of assessing the racing category, of understanding how broad a demographic it is and understanding our community of fans and where there interests lie. Certainly there’s a huge portion of them that are in the action and arcade oriented space, and there’s a portion that have grown up and ‘matured’ more towards the Gran Turismo and Forza style of racing.”

So, Shift, in Abney’s words became an offering to that latter portion of the audience. In essence, they’ve split the series into three different racing sub-genres – because in addition to Shift and Nitro there’s also the massively-multiplayer Need For Speed game coming next year to PC – to better tailor the experience to a diverse audience. Trying to appeal to everyone with the one product only leads to the overall experience being diluted.

But Abney is keen to point out this doesn’t mean Shift is a sim.

“We dub it an ‘authentic’ racing game because it’s rooted in professional motorsport,” he says. “It’s track-based, it’s got a collection of cars that not only includes the stock versions but also the Le Mans style, the WTCC style cars you see in those racing circuits.”

For Abney, Need for Speed is about accessible, fun, exciting racing, whether it’s the open world, cop-based underground races or the competition of track-based racing. A simulation is not something he thinks fits with that fun model.

“When you go full simulation, it really requires something less mundane than this kind of device,” he says, holding a PS3 Dual Shock controller. “You have to expect the player has a wheel, a clutch, an e-brake… in order to be able to model what it takes to operate at that level of fidelity. I think you’re cheating the fan when you have a sterile, grind-based simulator that takes dozens and dozens of hours of practice to get even slightly proficient with a gamepad.

“I may be overselling that point, but to me that’s my experience with those games. When I pick up the first device that I have available to me, which is a gamepad 99 times out of 100, my ability to control and have any type of fun with those games is remote. Need For Speed has never been after that segment. We don’t craft experiences like that because we don’t find them to be fun ourselves.”

Abney mounts a persuasive argument. Need For Speed has built its enviable success on the back of being approachable, and Shift – for all its nods towards simulation – isn’t suddenly going to become a hardcore game. There’s a huge gulf between Burnout and Gran Turismo, and Shift seems well-equipped to exploit that.

There are three kinds of racing gamer: the one who tweaks every aspect of the car to eke out an extra couple of tenths per lap; the one who doesn’t even realise you can brake; and everyone else who sits somewhere in between. That latter group is much harder to pigeon-hole with marketing bullet points, but it’s where the majority of the audience sits.

What sort of racing experience are you after?


  • i would have preffered NFS to stay with the arcade feel of underground.
    I know NFS started as a sim and i loved it, but once it became more arcade driven, thats when i really started having fun with it.

    Besides there are already SO MANY sim-like racing games which are awesome as it is (forza, PGR, Turismo) and not enough racing games that have realistic cars but arcade fun of sliding around corners in ways that would physics junkies sick to their stomachs.

    Sim or Authentic – it’s the same thing EA, don’t act like we’re idiots by changing the wording.

    • I think the (confusing) ‘Authentic’ branding is an attempt to create a new sub-category or definition for racing games.

      Since we’re not going to escape the marketing jargon any time soon, I would define an ‘Authentic racing game’ based on the above article as being ‘a driving game with accurately modelled vehicles/circuits/visuals, with driving physics midway between a those of a simulation and an arcade racer’.
      Vague I know, since there is no hard definition of when a game is a simulation and when it is arcade.

      For me, GRiD would definitely fall into this category, and possibly Forza/Gran Turismo (depending on just how realistic you want to define simulation to be)

      • Why do so many people dislike Grid? Is it because people thought it would be a sim and it wasn’t?

        I have it, and I must say that it find a perfect balance between Sim (NFS Shift) & Arcade style racers (Burnout).

        Burnout’s too arcade for me, and I don’t car about tweaking my car, and Grid finds a perfect balance between them.

        There just seems to be a lot of resentment out there for an awesome game which does not seem to deserve it. Best racing game I’ve ever played 🙂

  • I don’t know about everyone else, but the reason I buy need for speed games is because I like that illegal street racing aspect of the game. I was really disappointed when pro street came out, I hated the fixed tracks, I hated the no cops, I pretty much hated the whole game.

    I think the more “Authentic” NFS gets the less people will want to buy it. Go back to what you did in Carbon and Most wanted or else this franchise is dead.

  • needs to be more about road cars – point to point coastal races – epic cop chases – avoiding traffic and everything that made the original so good.

    if i wanted an ‘authentic’ experience i’d buy GT5/Forza3

  • It’s funny, looking at the comments above. EFFalcon misses “the old days”, when NFS was about supercars racing along the oceanside. Andrew misses the “newer” style of NFS, the fast n furious ricer city games (which gamers who miss “the old days” mostly hated). And now both are worried about this NEW direction change… I think they’ve harmed the brand by constantly zig-zagging between different styles, all it does is upset people who preferred the old style.

  • I remember playing the original NFS in about grade 7, now THAT was a classic. Of course it only had what, 7 cars or something, but I remember the documentary style videos on each of them and everything. Point to point racing in classic cars/supercars, it’s what NFS needs to go back to, just update the cars (and the engine obviously).

  • wtf first people say they hate the underground style now they switch you want it back! wtf! Personally I like where this is going. Being all ‘gangsta’ and listening to ‘hip hop’ PAH.

  • I’m after a simulation myself, and it was my understanding that Shift was going to be one.
    However, now that they have clearly stated that it’s not going to be one (despite marketing appending the ‘authentic’ jargon), I really don’t have an issue with it at all. It’s when games claim to be a simulation, and turn out to be far from it (ie GRiD) that really gets my inner angry internet mans going.

    I’m fine for a game to have visually authentic classes and vehicles, for fans who want to drive them and win without having to spend hours master handling and set up. Just as long as it’s not called a simulation… Shift now falls directly into this category for me, I know what to expect. And like Grid, it should still be a lot of fun to play.

    Like others have said though, I really don’t see how this ties in to the Need for Speed franchise at all other than the logo that will be printed on the box…

    • I keep forgetting NFS: Porsche Unleashed, my favourite NFS game ever.
      So there is a precedent for this type of ‘authentic’ racer in the Need for Speed brands history.

  • Look at the sales of GTR for the XBOX, and Richard Burns Rally for the Xbox and Ps2. They are the greatest racing simulations ever released for consoles, yet they sell poorly.

    I think that all that EA are saying above is “Real racing is difficullt, and our customers don’t want to learn how real racing works, they just want to go fast and go ‘weeeeeee'”

  • My favourite NFS was ‘High Stakes’ for the PSone.

    I guess that’s the point to point style. The old days…ahh yep.

    Can anyone recommend a current game like that?

  • “There are three kinds of racing gamer: the one who tweaks every aspect of the car to eke out an extra couple of tenths per lap; the one who doesn’t even realise you can brake; and everyone else who sits somewhere in between.”

    What about those of us who realise you can brake, but choose not to? It’s so much more fun to just use the other cars to help you turn corners.;)

    I was a huge fan of NFS until Porsche Unleashed. After that, I felt the series went downhill. (Hot Pursuit 2, anyone?) Most Wanted had me hopeful that they were returning to the old ways, then it was followed by Pro Street.

  • It is definitely a simulation with all the assists off. I’ve been conversing with one of the Admins on VVV Gamer who have played the game & he informs that Shift is a challenging simulation and one of the toughest games I’ve ever played.

    And for those who doubt the above, there are several hands-on previews on VVV gamer and a video of the Skyline HT2000 with all the assists off on the VVV Gamer Facebook page:

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