After years spent exploring the world of illegal street racing, Electronic Arts' long-lived Need for Speed series of racing games has taken a detour in Need for Speed: Shift, a surprisingly authentic racing simulator that leads players through a series of sanctioned, professional racing competitions. No criminals and no corny stories; just real-world cars racing on closed courses at breakneck speeds in front of bleachers filled with roaring audiences.
While Shift has arcade-like tendencies, it leans heavily toward the simulation style made popular by Sony's Gran Turismo games. The game uses the results of a single practice lap at the outset of the career mode to modify a wide variety of difficulty settings, from opponent intelligence to whether anti-lock braking and electronic stability control systems should be switched on. Once in the game players can change these settings at any point to make their cars handle more or less authentically.