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Video Game of the Week — Need for Speed: Shift

In the intense and highly-competitive world of racing games, there are simulation games, arcade games and virtually everything in between. Simulation games put the emphasis firmly on driver skills, replicating all the complex car-handling moves that make real-world racing so difficult. (Think aircraft simulators for pilot training.) On the other hand, arcade racing games are generally about hurtling around a track (or through the streets) at 100 mph, with or without other cars for company.

Classic examples of simulation games include the groundbreaking rFactor, Forza Motorsport and the Gran Turismo series, which has sold over 50 million copies worldwide. At the top of the arcade enthusiast's list would be the Mario Kart series, the classic Daytona USA and Electronic Art's Need for Speed series, designed for the latest-generation gaming platforms.

Need for Speed: Shift is the 13th installment of one of EA's longest-running and most-successful franchises. The original Need for Speed was released back in 1994 for the 3DO, a console produced by Panasonic that struggled to gain a toe-hold in a market dominated by Nintendo and SEGA. It featured several police car chases and an obnoxious opponent that taunted you if you lost!

NFS: Shift
stays true to its roots and tries to please the many fans that have been accumulated along the way. Like other games that might previously have been regarded as hardcore, it also strives to appeal – with limited success – to the many newcomers to video gaming that have been attracted by the Wii console and more family-friendly titles.

NFS: Shift will definitely please racing car buffs. The game features 72 fully-licensed cars, ranging from the Bugatti Veyron to the Corvette Z06 to the BMW M3 GT2, which is showcased on the cover. The soundtrack is phenomenal and other audio effects, including squealing tires and even a short gasp of breath from the driver just before a crash, are all-too-realistic!

Single players have a choice of QuickRace or Career mode. Quick Race lets you set up races on 36 different courses, varying the class of cars, the number of laps and opponents, and even the time of day. In Career mode, you progress through four tiers of racing before unlocking the 10-race World Tour. Hardcore racers can head online, where options include a Driver Duel tournament mode for up to eight players and where the action is likely to get a little rougher!

All-in-all, Need for Speed: Shift provides an excellent racing experience for simulation and arcade fans alike, combining enough skills and thrills to keep everyone interested. For newcomers to the racing genre, it's likely to be just the first lap on a highly-addictive circuit!        

Need for Speed: Shift is rated E for Everyone and contains mildly aggressive driving tactics and the occasional grunt of pain. 

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PSP, PC
Genre: Racing
RRP: $59.99 (Xbox 360 & PS3); $49.99 (PC); $39.99 (PSP)
ESRB Rating: "E" for Everyone

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