I'm not bad at racing games - I can speed, swerve for pickups and wreck the car, no problem. I'm just bad at driving, so if there are no pickups and you're not supposed to crash, well...
Need for Speed Shift iPhone is very much a driving simulator instead of a traditional racing video game with it's unrealistic boost pads and such. All the cars and licensed and handle fairly realistically and the real thrill of the game comes from the visuals. Because true fans of the driving sims don't care about body damage or getting the cops to chase - they just want to see that glistening BMW slide through the corners like a warm knife through butter.
What Is It? Need for Speed Shift on the iPhone ditches the plot-driven antics of Need for Speed Undercover and focuses purely on the driving. The game features both quick race and career modes, career having four tiers with 28 events total with three difficulty settings throughout the game (Rookie, Pro and Expert - also you can create a custom level by choosing stuff like steering assists and manual transmission, etc.). There's also multiplayer on WiFi for four players and via Bluetooth for two.
What We Saw I eventually managed to complete a single racing track with the default car and then got schooled in a two player match. It went something like this:
EA Mobile Producer: Oh... I must've left the settings on Pro, so maybe you're not getting the brake assists...
Me: No, I just suck. It's cool.
How Far Along Is It? Very, very final. EA declined to give a release date but there is no way we'll be waiting longer than about a week to see this in the App store.
What Needs Improvement? Graphics Create Class System: Unless you have the 3Gs iPhone or the super-high end iPod Touch, you won't be getting the full benefit of the beautiful graphics in this game. There are also nifty special effects you can really only see on these higher end devices. So what we have here is a game that rewards the rich and punishes the people who bought iPhones and iPod touches last year or before. For shame!
Damage Only Shows Up In Cockpit Mode: Due to some weird licensing rules where car companies demand complete authenticity in damaged car models, EA Mobile was unable to include damage to your car in the game unless you're in the cockpit view. And even then, it's just some paltry shattered windshield - none of that dramatic crushed hood that I kind of expect to see after ramming into a guard rail at 130km/h.
You Have To Hold The iPhone Perpendicular To The Floor: The game uses the accelerometer to control the car. You tilt the iPhone as you would a steering wheel and tap in any of the four corners around your car to trigger the brakes for that wheel. This presents a problem for me, because my natural gaming pose is to the hold the iPhone parallel to the floor and look down at it. Holding it up in front of my face makes my arms tired - and I'm pretty sure people on the bus will stare at me.
What Should Stay The Same? Yay! Cockpit Mode! Because the game makes you twist the iPhone like you were turning a steering wheel, I find it very helpful to have the cockpit view in the game so I can see a real steering wheel turn when I tilt the iPhone. Also, it really shows off the detail of the game.
A Lot of Licensed Material: There are 20 licensed car models that are fully customisable and 20 licensed music tracks that actually don't suck. That's a lot of material for one tiny iPhone game and it definitely raises the quality level.
Multiplayer: Racing really only feels like racing when you're up against other human players. There's just something about knowing that that person can make mistakes that gives you a competitive spirit - and it's always fun to talk smack back and forth during the race.
It's Sooo Pretty: I really wish I could afford an iPhone 3Gs - the graphics were smooth enough to make me want to lick the touch screen*.
*Never lick your touch screen - aside from being plain gross, it's dangerous. Do you have any idea how much bacteria is on that thing?
Final Thoughts Here's how the demo ended:
Me: Stop pity braking! I can see you up there... Just finish the race and end my shame already.
EA Mobile Producer: Aw. Demo fail. But you still have to finish the track even after I beat you.
Me: *crashes into wall*