A proper racing video game should keep you on the edge of your seat. Welcome to Need for Speed Shift on the iPad from Electronic Arts. Besides high-quality graphics, the gameplay in this mobile version of the NFS franchise provides hours of engaging contests and levels set in Chicago, London, and Tokyo.
A total of 28 cars can be customized to your liking and driven on 18 different tracks. Your performance in career mode determines how much prize money you can spend on upgrades, and tracks and cars are unlocked as your driver advances through levels and earns badges.
Shown here are some performance upgrades: speed, acceleration, tires, suspension, and nitro boost will affect each car differently. The exterior look of your vehicle can also be customized for a price. The menu is simple and intuitive, taking advantage of the iPad's large touch screen.
NFS completely engages the driver with great sound effects and a decent music soundtrack (of course the volume of each is adjustable). Holding the iPad up and steering with a simple tilt simulates driving pretty well. The game is played in one of four different camera angles. One just shows the hood of the car on the track.
The controls are customizable to adjust the difficulty level. For a real gritty experience use the manual transmission and turn off the racing line (green arrows which help you choose the best path on the track). You'll need to drift and hit the brake to speed around curves without smashing up the car.
As long as the racing line is on, keeping the car on this line means the game will automatically brake in turns. This simplifies gameplay and lets you concentrate on keeping on the line. Although it sounds easy, it doesn't take away from the challenge of the game.
Inside the cockpit is another view. The windshield will shatter immediately if you bump another car or fly off the road into a wall. The realism here is suspect but it's a nice touch that makes gameplay fun.
This Dodge Challenger is using a nitro boost in full manual mode. The Clutch and brake can be seen in the lower left hand corner, with the gear shift on the right. To brake or use nitro boost just tap the screen.
London in the fourth camera view: a completely immersive experience where no part of the car interior or exterior can be seen. This was our favorite camera angle at the iPad Guide. With a really quick car driving gets more intense in this view, especially in the middle of burning nitro.
Your driver profile gets updated as you complete races and earn badges for specific achievements. Prize money is totaled and your career stats are listed as you progress to higher levels and unlock cars and tracks. Going back to get extra stars for improved performance keeps things interesting even if you've finished all of the seven races in one city.
Besides lap times and speed, you earn points for racing like a pro. Dirty overtakes, slipstream, never going off the track, mastering corners, and drift are just some examples of how you can constantly learn to be a better (and faster) driver in NFS. Winning each race is only the beginning.
Need for Speed Shift even has multiplayer modes so you can race with other iPad owners over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Electronic Arts did a great job adapting NFS to take advantage of the iPad. If you've ever wanted to drive a Bugatti Veyron, NFS makes it possible at a discount price. Version 1.0.1 is available in the App Store on iTunes for $12.99.