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Need For Speed: Shift 2 will be better than Gran Turismo 5. Discuss.
by Chris Hawke

This article is an opinion piece written to prompt discussion. To share your own opinion and debate the topic, use the comments down below. Please refrain from nastiness.

I like racing games. And there's an emphasis on the racing. Because I don't care for the cars much; whether it's an '05 model or the latest GT version with extra hubcap (that's a thing, right?), as long as it's faster than the last car I drove, I'm happy. Racing is all about the speed; the thrill of the blurring road ahead, the crowd whooshing by, the intense fear of one slight bump or twitch on the wheel sending your dreams, and vital organs, sprawling on the hard concrete surrounded by the crumpled husk of what used to be a car. Real life driving is a series of late indications, breaking at traffic lights, and getting lost in some godforsaken country road in Essex. Video game driving as all about breaking the sound barrier.

That's why I loved Need For Speed: Shift. It was dirty, like you were playing it smeared in oil and with your ears bleeding. The great selection of cars, paint jobs, tracks, or even the incredibly 'laddish' narrator ("Great job, mate. Sweet, innit?") were simply little asides to the main spectacle; the spectacle of speed. Shift was fast beyond fast; it was so violently electric that it grabbed you by you man-bits and screamed "LOOK! LOOK HOW F***ING FAST YOU'RE GOING! AHHHHHH!". Even at 70 mph, the superb cockpit view would start drawing you in; everything would blur apart from the road ahead, the wheel would jolt and spasm, the sound of the engine would mercilessly massacre your ear drums and stamp on the bleeding remains. Face pressed to the screen, palms sweating, heart galloping, all you could think about was the next corner - do you brake early?! Late?! NOW?! Shift would leave you rocking back and forth, in the foetal position, caked in sweat and faeces, whispering "I should have braked earlier...I should have braked earlier...".

But people didn't care. People were too mesmerised by Gran Turismo 5. Being in development for almost half a decade, the hype was building like blood pressure in some sort of horrific cyst. It looked really, really good. Not the cyst, the game. Unbelievably so. From the smallest bolt on a Nissan GTR to the Roman Coliseum, every single pixel was polished and perfected. Videos and screenshots looked so good it sent thousands of car lovers into a fit of hysteria. But while the rest of the world recovered their jaws from the floor, something bothered me.

I'd played Prologue. And while the graphics had me gawping like a seagull at dropped chips, I realised something. I wasn't having much fun. Once again trying to beat the time trail with my Suzuki Cappuccino, as the tepid J-pop seeped out of the speakers and the gentle, wheezy hum of the engine lightly tickled my ears, I surveyed the perfectly blue sky, the reflections from the Cherry Red paint, that goddamn awful HUD (Seriously? How much screen space do you need to block?) and one thought came into my head.


A 1998 movie with Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon, 'Plesantville' is a perfect 1950's television show; everything is pristine and in its place. Meticulously groomed men tip their hats to the passing ladies, as the birds sing and flowers bloom. Compare it, if you want, to Tranquillity Lane from Fallout 3; everything is so damn perfect. Why am I thinking of these places when I see Gran Turismo 5? Because while, graphically, Gran Turismo 5 may be flawless and paradisical, there's something fiercely sterile, eerily beautiful, and menacingly boring about it.

That's a video of NASCAR on Gran Turismo 5. You drive at over 300 kph. In an oval. While the car is absolutely perfect, and the clouds photo-realistic, and every single detail is recreated in this virtual world; is it fun? Will your palms sweat? Will you get an aggressive form of tinnitus from just 5 minutes of play? Sure, you can spend 15 laps going an a circle, admiring the views, but is that what racing is about? Isn't it about...this?

Sensory overload. Visceral bombardment. Emotional overkill. It's brash, dirty, slatternly, and frantic. Even the teaser trailer screams in your face and punches you in the chest. Like its predecessor, it's so, so fast. Far from the aseptic yawn-fest of driving around a £9,000 Skoda for hours on Gran Turismo 5 just to get a C-Licence, Shift 2 is likely to dump you in the drivers seat of a nitro-boosted BMW and scare you witless. And that is precisely why it will trump Gran Turismo 5; not the graphics, or the number of cars, or...go-karts - but because there's nothing like the immense speed you'll find in the Shift games.

As stated above, this is just one man's view. Discuss it down below, but please leave any nastiness at the door. Follow our Twitter for more, every day.

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- Chris Hawke

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