Need For Speed: Shift VERSUS DiRT 2
Now we get to the meat of it. Before we get to the final scores and the verdict on each game separately, let's take a look at these two games, and what it means for you!
First, as it should be obvious by now, the racing styles featured here are two extremely different styles. If off-road racing doesn't appeal to you and you prefer shiny red, sleek cars with leather-bound wheels, Shift is your ticket. If the raw power of a souped up truck on a dusty desert course appeals more to you, DiRT 2 won't disappoint. If both cater to you, there's a bit more to look at.
Where Shift exceeds expectations is in its remnants of arcade fun. Long straightaways provide a feeling of intense sub-mach speeds, even as you get to most corners. "Pedal to the metal" racing rules the day here. Sure, you have to slow down for some sharp curves, but most of the tracks are designed for full speed high gear racing, and it most definitely conveys that feeling and provides a nice adrenaline rush. Its arcade point chains and aggression rewards are also uniquely fun. Blowing through the crowd, and racking up bonus multipliers is exceedingly fun, at least to a game hound, though I imagine to a true simulator fan it could be considered intrusive and unnecessary.
DiRT 2 on the other hand is a more finesse-oriented experience, in part due to its off-road nature, and partly due to the expert attention to detail provided by Codemasters and their professional racing advisors such as Block, Mirra, and the late McRae that have helped shape the series. "Pedal to the metal" will only run you into walls here, going it a bit slower and letting off the gas often enough will keep you stable, straight, and ahead of the pack more often than just blazing past them at best possible speed. The terrain will bounce you around quite a bit, so those slower, lower geared, speeds are essential to keeping in control. While there's always adrenaline in any racing game, it doesn't have that sheer speed-demon exhilaration provided by Shift, deferring to a more technical race style and skilled execution to provide its thrills. Those looking for an exhilarating race will certainly want to stick with Shift. Those willing to try their mettle at a very technical track and precision micro-movements will definitely enjoy DiRT 2 more.
One place that both games exceed above all others is the cockpit view. DiRT 2 provides a very realistic racing cockpit where the driver is very recessed and can't see as much of the track at once as evidence by the screens here. Shift places you more at the front, but the view is still immersive and is light years ahead of the sad, sad little view provided by Forza 2. With either one, those looking for a proper first person view of the track won't be disappointed. In the graphics department, however, DiRT 2 is the winner without question. It's hard to see from the motion-blurred screens here, but if we were to compare the overall graphics to cars, Need For Speed: Shift would be a 4-year-old Mercedes S3 to DiRT 2's Ferrari F1. Shift isn't bad, and many (Forza) would give their right tires for it, but DiRT 2's is simply unbelievable. The PC version of DiRT will be withheld until Windows 7 and DirectX 11. I'm not sure it will add all that much to the already spectacular visuals.
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