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Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed coming in spring 2011

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit hit shelves earlier this month and already, the folks at Electronic Arts have the next installment of the NFS series in progress - and has already played the next Need for Speed.

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Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed is expected to arrive in US stores in the spring of 2011 and like the first NFS: Shift, Shift 2 Unleashed is a racing simulator intended to take on the biggest titles in the industry like Forza Motorsports 3 and Gran Turismo 5.

Thanks to the folks at EA, World Racing and, I was able to play the new Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed a few weeks ago at a private viewing of the new game. Along for the debut was Chris Rado, whose ScionLife sponsored and World Racing-built Scion tC time attack car is featured in the game – as well as being available to check out in person. Another special car featured in NFS: Shift 2 Unleashed is Vaughn Gittin Jr.’s 1969 Mustang RTR-X, which made its debut at the 2010 SEMA Show and Vaughn was also there in person to check out the new Need for Speed.

As soon as the gameplay of Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed begins, it is crystal clear that this is a simulator – not the gamey racer that NFS is more commonly known for. The graphics are incredible, from the fine details of the car down to the sponsor decals on Rado’s time attack Scion that we were using, right down to the bolts around the interior when you are in 1st person view. From the motions of the driver to the track layout, NFS: Shift 2 Unleashed offers truly incredible graphics.

The time that I spent playing Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed was spent on the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, a massive venue that gives you a little of everything – from long, high speed straights to some super tight, technical turns. Unlike some other NFS races, there will be no sliding around turns at 150mph or running through the grass at high speed, cutting off turns to cut time.

Careful braking is a must, as once you are too deep into a turn only locking the brakes will save you from the outside walls. In the event that you should even take a turn a bit too wide, the elevated track edge and grass just beyond it are devastating at high speeds – often resulting in amazingly violent crashes with intense physical damage as the car tumbles. However, after a few laps around Spa-Francorchamps, I was able to get a feel for the steering and braking controls and at that point, NFS: Shift 2 Unleashed really shines.

We were able to tear around the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in both Chris Rado’s time attack Scion tC as well as Vaughn Gittin Jr’s RTR-X Mustang, with these two very different cars clearly illustrating the differences in handling from car to car.

In short, Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed, at least the demo that we got to play, was an incredible addition to the NFS lineup and between the graphics and gameplay, it should be a popular fixture in the racing simulation segment. With Gran Turismo 5 finally hitting shelves with balmy reviews, Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed could help EA's sim racer step over GT5 and challenge Forza Motorsports for the claim of the best new driving simulator for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Two thumbs up to the folks at EA – I can’t wait to get my hands on this game in the spring when it reaches stores!

A big thanks to the folks from Electronic Arts, World Racing and for the chance to try out this awesome new racing simulator!

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