Following a reboot of the long-running arcade racing series on consoles, EA Mobile shows the iPhone Need For Speed's more serious side.

After years of cop chases, arcadey controls, and Maggie Q, the NFS franchise took a more Forza-like path for its latest console iteration. The much needed overhaul was a hit with critics, and now SHIFT effectively duplicates that same success on Apple's gaming gadget.

Role-playing Racer:Like its console counterparts, SHIFT's iPhone debut forgoes the free-wheeling approach that established the franchise, in favor of a racer that plays much more like an RPG. Through a robust career mode, heavy-foot gamers unlock points and stars for performing a variety of tasks. These fall into "precision" and "aggression" categories, and level you up without necessarily requiring you to win races. As you gain levels, you'll unlock new events, earn cash to upgrade and buy vehicles, and pad out your profile with Achievement-like badges. The super addictive format sets you on a path that quickly becomes as engaging as any just-one-more-level RPG experience.

Power Steering: As a gamer yet to embrace accelerometer controls as a superior alternative to traditional navigation, I was nervous about SHIFT stubbornly forcing them on players. Thankfully, my concerns were washed away like roadkill in a rain storm, as SHIFT controls like a dream. Simply tilt the device left and right to steer, give it an aggressive twitch to drift, and touch anywhere on the screen to brake. Additionally, a variety of assists can be turned on to ensure even sim-haters and rookie racers reach the finish line.

Visual HorsepowerSHIFT steals the cup from Asphalt 5 as the prettiest racer on the platform. From the detail-drenched real-world rides to the beautifully rendered globe-spanning locales, SHIFT sports a late PS2 era-like presentation. Even cooler are immersion-amping effects that'll spike your adrenaline and have you checking if your seat belt's buckled; nitro-fueled flames, smoke-spitting tires, and scenery that whips by at 150+ MPHs all do an amazing job of selling a real sense of speed and control. I've played plenty of console racers that don't do this good a job of immersing you in the pedal-to-the-metal moment.


Given that SHIFT's multi-player options look pretty limited next to the brimming career mode, I was tempted to add a "Hated" bullet highlighting this shortcoming. However, the lengthy solo experience is so solid and so polished, it's easy to overlook-and even appreciate-the developers obvious dedication to the single-player experience.

Need For Speed: SHIFT was developed by IronMonkey Studios and published by EA for iPhone on December 18th. Retails for $9.99. A code to download the game was provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed the game's career mode and participated in multi-player modes.

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