Need For Speed SHIFT 2 Unleashed Designer Interview

This week, the latest game from the Need for Speed garage, SHIFT 2 Unleashed is launching on PlayStation 3. I recently caught up with the Lead Game Designer at Slightly Mad Studios, Andy Tudor, to talk about friendly rivalry with Criterion and how the game has been influenced by such unlikely titles like Silent Hill.

Need For Speed SHIFT 2 Unleashed Designer Interview

Hot Pursuit isn’t your game but you do share the Need for Speed umbrella with Criterion. Is it a friendly relationship or more like the Red Bull F1 team at times last season?

We’re both competent at what we do and eager for success but we approach the racing genre from totally different angles. We collaborate on many things, the obvious thing being the Autolog, and there are some other crossovers that I won’t spoil for you, but if you’ve played Hot Pursuit then you might find some nice surprises when you play SHIFT 2. I personally feel that we’ve improved on the Autolog system, which in itself is a perfect fit for SHIFT, which is all about shaving hundredths of a second off your lap times.

What are those Autolog improvements?

The first change we’ve made is the access point – in Hot Pursuit Autolog is accessed from the main menu but, in SHIFT 2, we’ve mapped it permanently to a button that is often overlooked: Select. We’ve expanded the ability to share replays, as well as photos, and we’re bringing in real-world data from and to keep players up to date with the world of cars and motorsport.

Autolog, as a social network in its own right, is a real game changer.

How healthy is the racing genre right now?

Just look at what we have had recently – everything from Hollywood action games like Split/Second and Blur, MotorStorm Apocalypse and DiRT 3 both looking great, Test Drive: Unlimited is out there, there’s Hot Pursuit of course…the variety is wide and each game satisfies a different itch.

When it comes to simulation driving, we’re now in a position to gain some ground on our rivals with new game modes and innovations to things like night racing, which is a common feature that has never been done properly.

The headline feature in the original SHIFT was shaping your own driving personality. Is that still there?

A lot of that has been dialled down in SHIFT 2 to make it deeper and more streamlined. We realised that there are a lot of currencies in the original game, like stars, XP, cash, aggression vs. precision… We’ve unified all of that with a new XP system that doesn’t try to represent what kind of driver you are, but how good you are.

You’re no longer rewarded for trading paint with other drivers, because the feedback we had was that overly aggressive drivers were disruptive to many players’ experiences.

We’ve also added further depth with additions like vehicle tuning.

Some people are turned off by vehicle tuning because it requires such specialist knowledge. How do you break down those barriers?

We’ve got this eternal dilemma in that racing game fans want more tuning options but, and let’s be honest here, tuning is one of the most boring things out there because you’re basically just moving sliders around and then going on the track to try and differentiate something that is potentially imperceptible, like how ‘good’ the car is around a corner. Everyone understands top speed and acceleration but something like weight distribution is, like you say, specialist knowledge. Unless you teach people this knowledge, they’re going to go from game to game not knowing what the hell it is and never using the feature.

The first thing we decided is that, if you do want to tune your car, you want to be doing it on the track, so you can do it at any point in SHIFT 2 by hitting pause. Additionally, if you’re going to have a slider for tuning then at least tell people what it does and how it affects those three recognisable attributes – top speed, acceleration and handling.

On top of that, we’ve included real time telemetry to give you information like tyre pressure, temperature and G-forces, and we educate you about what that stuff actually means so we can increase the use of those features and push the genre forwards.

Need For Speed SHIFT 2 Unleashed Designer Interview

How do you convey speed?

It all starts at grass roots and that visceral feeling of being behind the wheel. Cockpit view is the best way to experience that but we realised that relatively few players use it, so we’ve made improvements. There are lots of stylistic things you can do to convey speed, like motion blur, and one of the techniques we’ve used is to gradually blur out the cockpit as you increase your speed and your concentration on the road intensifies – that’s a focusing technique we’ve taken from first-person shooters.

At SCEE we sometimes use a continuum where you have colourful kart racers at one end and Gran Turismo at the other and a plethora of racing games between, according to their style. Where would SHIFT 2 sit?

That’s the racing spectrum and yes, we use that too. The original SHIFT was definitely in the middle as we tried to get the best of the arcade and simulation worlds, but with SHIFT 2 I’d say we’re hot on the heels of Gran Turismo. We talk about GT a lot and it’s a great game that people get hyped for and spend hours upon hours playing, and while we’re not trying to compete in terms of numbers, we think we can offer brand new challenges to those fans.

If you take a look at something like night racing, it has been done hundreds of times but never like we’re doing with SHIFT 2. We make it authentic and scary, drawing influence from games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, where you’re descending into the darkness guided only by torchlight. Real racers will tell you that you can only see the ten feet in front of your bonnet and it changes the way that you drive. Try a night race in SHIFT 2 and I can guarantee it will be nothing like any you have played before.

0 Author replies
TheKillerSnowman 01 April, 2011 @ 16:16

i like only Hot Pursuit.

nicolaischwartz 01 April, 2011 @ 16:20

Getting my copy tomorrow! Cant wait. Loved NFS Shift 1.

Carnivius_Prime 01 April, 2011 @ 16:30

The recent Hot Pursuit is so far the only Need for Speed I’ve ever really enjoyed (probably cos it felt much more like Criterion’s own Burnout which I love) but I may give this a go.

goog game,but GT5 much better)

good game,but GT5 much better)

Will there be a demo?


might get it but not to sure i wait on the reviews on it


These are the guys who said GT was stale right?



I don’t remember that particular comment, but these are indeed the guys who were talking crap about Gran Turismo at around the time of the Shift 1 release.

In my opinion the most absurd of the things they said was when they were talking about how much more accurate sim driving physics Shift 1 would have compared to GT5.


I have no problem with a dev talking about their game being better than the next. But at least back it up with a game that is better. Granted GT5 is far from perfect, but Shift isn’t even in the same league. Not to mention it has no wheel support.


Any chance you guys can persuade EA to let you do a proper sim again.Something like GT Legends but on PSN.I still play GTL but would love to see it with the latest tech.


im never getting a NFS game again… its really gone downhill… the last good one was undercover NFS SHIFT was my opinion [DELETED] i allso heard alot of negativity on hot persuit because of non customisation on looks only perforance i mean who wants to look at a boreing non colourful car? its what made NFS…NFS.when hot persuit came out i was considering to get it untill i heard this..,so never getting a NFS game again…sorry thats my opinion oviously everyone has diferent tastes…..


I would like to ask if there will be a local split screen option for two players? Thank you in advance.

Nothing on GT5

obiadekanobi1980 02 April, 2011 @ 11:36

u guy are mad gt5 is good but not that good the graphics are choppy one minuite then all of a sudden it stops me with its beauty i dont under stand it and those 24hr races are pathetic tried the nurburgring 24hr and after 8 hrs of racing which took me most of the day and half into the night then what happens?…. the ps3 froze on me and that was the last time i played it so hopefully shift will do what gt5 cant do actually work for 24 hrs straight do gt5 makers now how much stress these races put on our ps3s??? at least there should be a save feature which allows u to save every 4hrs as a few of my psn mates have had the same happen to them.

anyway will be picking this 1 up looking forward to night races lets see if they can pull it off and the revised autolog sounds good
heres hoping this is a cracking game…


That’s cute, he didn’t even mention Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport when talking about the well being of the racing game genre. He brought up arcadracers and in my opinion they’re not “healthy” to the genre right now.


I’ll add this : NFS Shift had a floaty handling and it had a noticable input-lag that made it very frustrating driving a car at high speed. I’ve been watching some streams and asked the guy who was playing the game if those issues were in Shift 2 – yes, they’re still there.

And to “Stoffinator”, NFS Shift 1 and 2 both have wheel support.

Carnivius_Prime 02 April, 2011 @ 21:18

@16 that’s your opinion. I really enjoy several arcade racers but I absolutely loathe the more ‘realistic’ racers like Gran Turismo. It’s absolute tediousness to play. No excitement at all. Real is boring.

Ginnungagap-X 02 April, 2011 @ 21:28

No sale. I returned my copy after finding jagged graphics obscure the track. I will very happily repurchase should the problem ever be rectified.

i think some people forgot that games are made to bring fun. i don’t really care if cars drive exactly like the real ones as long they make an impression that they do.

DArk-en-Ciel 03 April, 2011 @ 07:57


*facepalm* GT5 and NFS are different types of racing games, so saying one is better than the other is pointless. GT5 is aimed at gamers who prefer realistic car physics, tuning and racing, i.e it is designed to a racing simulator. NFS is aimed at gamers who prefer an adrenaline rush and quick-fix races, i.e it is designed to be an arcade racing game.

Both game franchises are very good in their own way.


The blog was most edgacating. I found this will up lift my game play. When i get the game.

eviroboy_1981 08 April, 2011 @ 21:54

“No sale. I returned my copy after finding jagged graphics obscure the track. I will very happily repurchase should the problem ever be rectified.”

Would they be the same jagged graphics and poor textures that plague GT5?

Just trying to be objective here, something that is hard when all you fanboy flamers are obviously quite blind.

Both games are great although GT5 in my opinion is ‘stale’ it’s just too clinical for it’s own good yet I’ve still ploughed hundreds of hours into it.
Shift 2 is much better than it’s predecessor, it’s visceral and gritty, the racing is much more in your face, as it should be. You ARE punished for your mistakes, again, unlike GT5.

Shift 2. Great game but does need to be played on the 360 to be fair, online is much better.

We close the comments for posts after 30 days.

Edit history