Need for Speed: Shift PSP Review

IMG_0162Remember a couple days ago when I said that this NFS for the PSP was looking up?.  and it finally looked like there was going to be a decent PSP version of NFS to take the crown from the original Need for Speed: Rivals that was released with the release of the PSP way back?.. remember?

How I had said that while this version was still a little wonky, it was miles ahead of every other release of a PSP version that I had come across?

God, I was so ready to give this one high marks.  I’m glad I played a little further into the game before decided how I should score it.

*Sigh*

Well, That didn’t really pan out they way I had hoped.

Gameplay—————————-

The first suspect of the game is the fact that it does away COMPLETELY with the whole money system.  Yeah, I know….crazy right?.   Instead, it employs a “Loyalty” system.  which gives you points per car you drive.  So, say, you drive the Charger a lot.  you’ll get points that eventually unlock new tires, engine tune up, and so on.  Doesn’t sound bad right?.

Well, before I get into that abortion.  I want to point out that this is only related to the SHIFT series of games, out now for other systems.. by name, and name alone.  Controls are different, far more arcadey. No money, no customization aside from paint.  It contains silly Rivalries like from Most Wanted, where there is a Blacklist of sorts that you have to work your way through to become the best.  NOS setup is different.  everything is different.. and for the worst.

Ok, back to the miscarriage that is the Loyalty System.. It doesn’t kick you in the teeth until you realize that if you’ve been driving a single car the whole game trying to build up “Loyalty” to keep unlocking stuff for that car, that you have basically SCREWED yourself from EVER advancing again.

I didn’t even think of this as a problem until this very scenario happened to me.  I like Mitsubishi.  So, when I unlocked the Lancer Evo, I used this car over and over, and even when quote faster unquote cars became available, I kept using it… and winning without issue, I had unlocked all the items to unlock through the whole loyalty thing.  But once I got to a certain part in the game, I was against a brick wall.  Apparently, my car, I had been using so much, wasn’t going to get the job done.  AND, since I hadn’t unlocked anything for any other car.. I now was forced to re-race and even re-re-race challenges I had already beaten in a different car, just to built up Loyalty to unlock it’s ability to be faster.

In short, the Loyalty System is broken, plan and simple.  Money would have been the best way to get what you needed.  I course race a car I was comfortable with, buy newer cars, stick with my comfortable car until I had enough cash to truly trick on the new one and boom.  Or if they really just.. HAD to stick with the stupid Loyalty system.  At least show more specs about the damned cars.  The car specs are broken down to “Speed”.  “Grip” and “Drift”.  Simply too little info to understand which car is best to use.  no info on acceleration, what the Top speed might be.  nothing like that at all.  And since you have NO choice over what part you would like to unlock first in the loyalty system, you are forced to, like I said, race over and over and over until you are able to get up to the point to unlock one cars engine tune up, which may require 30+ races.  versus a different cars Engine Tune up which could be had for as little as 10 races.

Aside from this nearly game breaking aspect, this was turning out to be an Alright game.  The controls, for the most part, where tight.  Leaps and bounds above any other PSP Need for Speed game.  all the rear wheel drive cars where a little annoying to play on tight courses, as tapping a wall would ping pong you off into the other wall…than back to the other.  The 4 wheel cars felt pretty good, which is why I stuck with the Lancer… which in turn completely eff’ed up my game.

The menu system is laid out in kind of a dumb manner.  the main menu and pause menu is fine, but the chart in which you select your next race is tilted slightly upward.  which then throws off the D-pad inputs.  press, what I thought would be left on the menu, would instead make the curse move up.  it’s just a “style” over function that should have just been left alone.

The Difficulty didn’t help the “Brick Wall” situation either.  One set of challenges and you’re winning by a few seconds, and then on to the next set and you simply can not catch the leader no matter how perfect you run the course.  Again, this may be because I was “suppose” to use the newest car that was unlocked.  But if that is the case, Give me some indication that the new car is actually faster.  Because with the very little info they give about the cars performances, The game showed that my current car was just as fast, but had better “grip”.  So, of course I stuck with it.

Graphics————————————————–IMG_0161

Graphically, this is a nice looking PSP game.  lighting is pretty good.  texture work on the road and buildings is  sharp and detailed and the car modeling is pretty good.  Not totally spot on, but, by looking at the backend, you pretty much know what car you are driving.  When you get up speed though, everything begins to blur.  it’s obvious that this was an artistic choice to try and instate a sense of speed.  But it doesn’t quite work, and really just ends up feeling a little slow, but looking kind of blurring at a medium speed.  once you hit top speed it does look better and ends up being pretty stylish.  but until you reach that speed it goes from Good looking, to Meh looking, back into good looking. The overall sense of speed just wasn’t quite captured in the game.  Everything looks detailed and all under the right conditions, but even at 180mph it feels like 65mph down a freeway.  This isn’t really a deal breaker, but a great sense of danger and speed would have been greatly appreciated.  Especially when it speedometer says your going 165, and you keep losing 1 second at each check point to the leader and there is nothing you can do about it.  Hitting the NOS at top speed will cause colors to bleed out until the NOS subsides.  this is a cool effect, but again, even with the camera shaking, and the colors bleeding and everything streaking on the screen.  it just doesn’t feel fast. Another thing missing, as I said in the impressions post.  is the incredible in car view from the 360 and PS3 game.  The PSP seems like a system that could handle an in cockpit view.  We’ve been told many times that it’s basically a portable Playstation 2.  Yet, it still hasn’t reached that peak. (excluding the awesome God of War game. which actually looked better than the Ps2 original.)

Sound——————————————–

Sounds alright to me.  It’s nothing spectacular.  The music in the game is all hop-hop and DJ work.  For the most part, it’s an alright mix of music that, to me, didn’t get grating or annoying.  Some tracks where actually pretty alright.

Engines sounded distinctive, but nothing fantastic, you could tell they used different sounds for different cars, but you’re not going to be able to tell which car is which by the sound.  When upgrades are applied, I didn’t hear any difference to the engine or tired squeal.  Again, not a big deal I don’t think, it is a portable game and I don’t imagine it being a deal breaker if the engines don’t sound exactly like the manufacturer.  slamming into the wall sounds a little unpowered though.  you’re squealing around a corner and over-steer into the wall to hear, basically…. *poof*.  visually, it’s not bad, shrapnel fries off the car, and you see physical damage.  but the sound is more in line with a rough pillow fight then a car crash.

Final Thoughts———————————————————–

God, This is even more disappointing then any of the other releases.. only because it felt like it was going to be good.  even with the quirks and flaws I saw forming.  I never foresaw such a big problem with the unlockables route that they went with.  It seems like a dumb way to do it, but didn’t seem like it would completely screw me in the pooper like it did.

Here is my ultimate dilemma right now.  Should I rate the game on the grounds that it’s STILL a better experience (just barely.) to the latest Need for Speed for the PSP? which was undercover?.  Or should I rate it on how psyched I was at the beginning of the game, and how disappointed it made me by the time I gave up on it?  yeah, that’s right.  I gave up playing it.  I really don’t feel like going back and REPLAYING over half of what I already did just to fix the problems that wher caused by there foresight..  Hmm…

Final Score———–5.0

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