Till Criterion rolled out Hot Pursuit last month, Slightly Mad’s SHIFT was very much the Need for Speed reinvention to beat: an SFX-laden sim racer which focussed squarely on life behind the wheel and at the far side of the speedometer.
The key difference with Unleashed 2 seems to be that there’s a hell of a lot more in the way. Besides the new visor cam, which borders the top and bottom of your view with fuzz, cockpits are vastly more detailed, with webbing down one window, crash grills and a host of dashboard read-outs to draw the eye perilously from the tarmac ahead.
Those who found the previous game disconcertingly “messy” won’t be especially tempted, then, but racing fans turned off by the sterility of floating external cams will be in their element. For more particulars – including some intriguing thoughts on what night-time races have in common with survival horror – here’s Lead Designer Andy Tudor.
How did you feel about the last game and what did you change?
That’s a broad question, isn’t it?
Why yes, Andrew, yes it is. You’d better get started then.
We looked at community feedback for a start – the community wanted more authenticity in the game. The rivals, for example – they were all fictional in the previous game, now we’ve got a team of Need for Speed drivers in there, real-life guys that are doing real-life things in the drift and race, GT3 and time attack worlds.
And with Autolog in the game you’ll be able to read about what they’re doing but then actually play against them in the game, so authenticity was a massive one. Handling, being able to control things to a finer degree, and then the connectivity. Being able to share information, show your proudest moments, upload videos to Youtube, beat people’s times in a more meaningful way. So yeah, basically, that’s it.
And then from our side, innovating in new areas. Because we don’t want to just push a sequel out, and say “there you go guys, happy?” We want to keep on top of the pecking order. Already we can see people looking at the cockpit view and saying, “ooh, maybe we can do a little bit here and there in cockpit view”. So we want to make sure that we keep pioneering in that area.
Can you give me an idea of the time frame for the sequel? Was it always on the cards?
Yeah, so the idea is that Shift is a franchise, and that it’s not just a sequel – it’s the next stepping stone from the first game. If you look back over the previous Need for Speeds, there’s definitely been an evolution in terms of illegal street-racing, and then Pro Street came along and started to put people on circuits, and then Shift came along and we’re definitely, very definitely on circuits. And now with Shift 2, we’re kind of like “OK, you know where you are – let’s just like add all the great locations there are in the world”. And I’ve completely forgotten the question!
I was asking about the time frame.
So yes, we knew there was this evolution of stuff going on. It’s certainly not the case that we waited for the sales figures to come in and then said “right guys, push a new Shift out there”. We knew towards the end stages of Shift, like: “OK, we’ve got some great ideas here, we wish we’d had time for that – all this is going to blow people away”.
What grabbed me most about Shift was the sense that you were looking out through the driver’s eyes, fighting inertia, feeling every knock and jar. Can you talk more about how you’ve expanded on that?
Yeah, I was speaking about this to someone before. You’ve seen our D-box over there, which actually pushes you back in the seat physically, and that’s something that happens in a real car as well – you put your foot on the accelerator, and if it’s a powerful car your head hits the seat rest.
Unfortunately people don’t have a D-box at home, they just have a gamepad. So you’ve got to take that emotion and that physical experience that happens in real life and then somehow translate it into virtual form. So in Shift we obviously had the cockpit view – cockpit view had been done in many games before, but we took that on and said “well, nobody really uses it – why don’t they use it”.