One thing about Shift 2: Unleashed [$5.99/HD], just real quick: Don't bother. If I had to summarize EA's latest Need for Speed sim, it certainly wouldn't involve the word "unleashed." This is about as misleading a subtitle you could attach to something so tame and afraid to do anything outside its comfort zone.

I'm still high off the faster, crazier NFS: Hot Pursuit and the dialed back Real Racing 2, I think. Shift 2 exists in a limbo-like spot somewhere in between those titles, with a slightly heavier weight toward the realistic racing, which is something the franchise has only recently started dabbling in. We loved the first Need for Speed: Shift because it nailed what we wanted from a console approximation and it was a convincing, competitive iOS sim-racer. This sequel hits those same notes, but the standard, and thus what I expect, has raised since.

The idiots on your morning commute are probably evidence enough that passing the driver's test doesn't make you a great driver, just the same as Shift 2's isn't a great game because its basics are up to snuff. The sum of A Bunch of Cars and A Bunch of Tracks doesn't amount to much, particularly because there's little to differentiate the vehicles from one another beyond their look and stats. At least upgrading the speed, tires, brakes and all that jazz gives your ride a feel akin to actual driving. The tilt-turning sensitivity is as stellar as it's ever been in these iOS versions of NFS, particularly when turning off the driving assists.

Vehicles move faster as you move up the tiers, graduating from the D-class to C to B and so on, which is a structure so straightforward I found myself struggling to stay interested. I didn't feel like I was grew and improved as I moved up the ladder--more like I was checking chores off a to-do list that rewarded me with more mediocrity. Unleashed worked great for scratching the upgrade itch the series always gives me, at least.

Speaking of which, EA, it'd be far more enjoyable to let me improve cars at my own pace. Stop nagging me to spend real money on in-game cash every couple of races, yeah? Those incessant pop-up ads are really annoying. On the other hand, I didn't mind the interruptions encouraging me to use Origin, EA's new digital distribution service. I dig its implementation here--I tap the Origin icon and I can send challenges to current friends, add new ones, and play around with my profile. It's early, but the potential here for a universal in-game social network for EA titles is fantastic, and I can't wait to see how future games expand on the basics of daring someone to do better than you.

Most of all, I was caught off guard by the demanding difficulty of Unleashed, actually, and I consider myself a solid driver (at least when it comes to video games, let's not talk about my real-world insurance). Earning stars for first-place finishes and stylish, flawless maneuvering earns stars, and even at the C-level I struggled to earn enough to advance to the next set of time trials or 1v1 duels. I ended up replaying older races endlessly before burning out on Need for Speed playing it safe.

Shift 2 understands the racing genre like the best of 'em, but coasting on its competence and expecting us to adore what others (including EA) have done better isn't enough. So, yeah, once again: Don't bother. This is a bland, boring racing game compared not only to previous iOS Need For Speed titles, but also other racers already on the App Store. Wait for the inevitable iOS port of Need for Speed: The Run, which is so fundamentally different from the rest of the series that I gotta believe it'll be the refreshing change of pace we all wanted.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://www.meadiciona.com/charles_anjos Charles Albert

    The images are really a let down, almost no graphical enhancement.

    • BruteOutlawz

      Its much better then it looks in those screen shots, they dont do the game any justice.
       
      Personally i think this is up there with the best ios racing games.
      the cars have reflections and the sense of speed is amazing. (cockpit view ftw :)

      Great sound and graphics and really good controls.

      Gameplay is varied, racing, elimination, drift ,time trial ect

      A big step up from the original shift game if you ask me

    • BruteOutlawz

      Its much better then it looks in those screen shots, they dont do the game any justice.
       
      Personally i think this is up there with the best ios racing games.
      the cars have reflections and the sense of speed is amazing. (cockpit view ftw :)

      Great sound and graphics and really good controls.

      Gameplay is varied, racing, elimination, drift ,time trial ect

      A big step up from the original shift game if you ask me

    • BruteOutlawz

      Its much better then it looks in those screen shots, they dont do the game any justice.
       
      Personally i think this is up there with the best ios racing games.
      the cars have reflections and the sense of speed is amazing. (cockpit view ftw :)

      Great sound and graphics and really good controls.

      Gameplay is varied, racing, elimination, drift ,time trial ect

      A big step up from the original shift game if you ask me

  • Anonymous

    I disagree about Origin, we don't need yet another social gaming platform, which barely any other games use. I'd rather all games use Game Center.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      While true, at least this is implemented well.

    • Adams Immersive

      I agree. However, two things that help give Origin an excuse for existing: 1) it’s not iOS-only, and 2) it’s not new; it’s a fancier name (with new features probably) for the same old “EA account” that EA games were using before. (Scrabble comes to mind.) Which for some people means there isn’t even anything additional to sign up for.

  • http://www.facebook.com/madebymadison Madison Fotografie

    I guess no Touch controls, tilt only like the rest of the series?

    • BruteOutlawz

      Touch controls as well

  • JCman7

    I actually like the game. Yeah it's not as good as the other NFS iOS games but it is different in its own way. And I dont feel its too challenging either im enjoying it

  • Guest

    Anybody know why Need for Speed Shift was pulled from the appstore? :( I tried redownloading to replay it for old time's sake, but I couldn't find it anywhere...

    • Jcman7

      Make sure you use the purchased feature on your device you should be able to redownload it from that (The cloud) its in the updates section in the appstore on your device

      • Guest

        Yes I always use that feature(purchased apps under updates in the appstore). 

        Need for Speed Shift- the first one- is no longer available in the US Appstore....

      • Guest

        Also just checked via iTunes on a computer. Nothing. Need for Speed Shift is gone.

    • Jcman7

      Make sure you use the purchased feature on your device you should be able to redownload it from that (The cloud) its in the updates section in the appstore on your device

    • Jcman7

      Make sure you use the purchased feature on your device you should be able to redownload it from that (The cloud) its in the updates section in the appstore on your device

  • Anonymous

    I don't think anyone really wants another iOS gaming social network... Remember Crystal? Neither does anyone else.

  • http://twitter.com/jhrogersii James Rogers

    I agree with a lot of your assessments, but come out likeing the game more in the end. I like NFS Hot Pursuit, Asphault 6, and Real Racing 2 HD for their unique spins on arcade and realistic racing. I actually like that EA made a game that sits in the middle. There's room for that, I think. Also, the amount of control customizations are very welcomed. I have often accused EA of being lazy with some of their iOS titles. Last year's FIFA 11 and NCAA College Football are prime examples of this. However, I wouldn't put Shift 2 in that category, myself. The graphics could definitely be better, but overall, I think this game is worth the price.

  • jasonjj

    Have been playing this game for the last few weeks and just saw this. What a terrible, poorly conceived review... The game is GOOD. Maybe not a 9/10 but a 5?? Give me a break... A significant step up from the last Shift (more of everything, better graphics) and still in the top handful or racing titles EVER on iOS. I'll be playing it longer than most of the crap I buy...

SHIFT 2 Unleashed Reviewed by Mitch Dyer on . Rating: 2.5