Shift 2: Unleashed release date announced

Plus: first gameplay footage.

Slightly Mad Studios' simulation racer Shift 2: Unleashed will launch in the UK on 25th March, the rest of Europe on 24th March and in the US on 29th March.

Shift 2 is EA's attempt to beat Sony's Gran Turismo and Microsoft's Forza series in the hotly contested simulation racer race.

Last year lead designer Andy Tudor highlighted the differences between Shift 2, GT5 and Forza 3 in an interview with Eurogamer.

"The fun is behind the wheel, feeling you're on the edge, pushing it to the limit, putting in the cars that are relevant and cool to drive, allowing you to completely customise those from factory to the works level we had in Shift 1, and giving you the chance to then play against your friends in a social way," he said.

"It's a different way of thinking, basically. We want to take those guys on. We want to make a more authentic experience."

Despite Shift 2 being an extension of the Need for Speed brand, the Need for Speed moniker has been dropped from the game's title. It does, however, utilise the groundbreaking Autolog social tool used in Criterion's Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.

"If you want to ensure your place on the starting grid you can pre-order Shift 2: Unleashed Limited Edition and get exclusive access to three very cool, very fast cars and 40 unique career events," reads the official Need for Speed website.

"The cars included in the Limited Edition are the Nissan Silvia spec.R Aero (S15), the Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV, and my personal favorite, the Lamborghini Murciélago LP640."

EA show a glimpse of Shift 2 gameplay

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