Need for Speed: SHIFT

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Black Box behind Nov 2011 Need for Speed

EA does a COD with alternating dev strategy.

EA's vision for the Need for Speed franchise involves alternating the developers behind every November release in a similar way Infinity Ward and Treyarch alternate development of Call of Duty games.

Xbox 360 vs. PS3 Face-Off: Round 22

Xbox 360 vs. PS3 Face-Off: Round 22

Tekken 6, DiRT 2, NFS SHIFT, Brutal Legend, Il-2 Sturmovik, Operation Flashpoint.

Wow, so many games, so much to write about and so little time to cover absolutely everything. It's fair to say that the office is almost literally dripping with code, and there's simply not enough manpower to dissect it all while maintaining regular Digital Foundry duties. So, with this month's mammoth 22nd Face-Off, we're covering six of the best and the most interesting of the recent releases, with the aim being to take a look at the rest over a series of smaller-scale DF blog updates as and when time permits.

As usual, the words are backed up with a battery of comparison shots, and pristine quality h264 videos too - all derived losslessly from the HDMI ports of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. In a slight departure from the presentations of past, the cropped 632x500 vids are now history. They did the job admirably before Eurogamer TV transitioned to HD, but with full 720p at our disposal, the old-school videos seemed somewhat superfluous to requirements.

The full 720p presentations are now embedded into the article itself in a similar manner to the DF Bayonetta demo showdown: simply press the full-screen button in the player to get the full effect, or click through using the EGTV link to get a larger window.

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Need for Speed: SHIFT

Need for Speed: SHIFT

Short shift.

Need for Speed has been having an identity crisis. EA's premier racing series - a guaranteed Christmas number one not so long ago - ought to be successful enough to feel confident in itself. It had the girls, it had the cred in a crude, streetwise way, it had the sales. But it wanted more. Like a Hollywood pretty-boy going paranoid, exhausted by a punishing schedule and a ruthlessly commercial agenda, Need For Speed craved respect.

After a wobbly couple of years in which open-world racing and police chases were thrown away and then hastily reinstated in ProStreet and Undercover (improving matters neither time), uncertainty has tipped over into full-blown schizophrenia. This year, Need for Speed is heading in three different directions at once: a free-to-play PC game for the Asian bubble-tea crowd (World Online), the old-school arcade thrills of Nitro on Nintendo, and SHIFT, a po-faced tilt at the gritty world of simulation motor racing. In other words, the burnt-out matinee idol is taking some time to tour the world, write a children's book and do some off-broadway theatre.

SHIFT is analogous to the latter: a worthy, well-intentioned stab at garnering some critical respect. EA's persistent charm offensive with reviewers has in this instance extended to making a list of car games we like (Project Gotham, Forza, Gran Turismo and Race Driver), hiring some talented British coders to copy them (Slighly Mad Studios, who worked with Scandinavian simulation heroes SimBin on GTR2 and GT Legends), and applying a thick patina of focus-tested EA gloss and gimmickry to reassure the man in the street.

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EA splashes nine games over the Expo

L4D2, NFS, Dragon Age, Brutal, more!

Well, it's that time again - more top quality titles have been announced for the Eurogamer Expo and, like some kind of cross between Gareth Barry and an BidUp TV infomercial, we're passing the facts on to you with unerring accuracy.

Riccitiello confirms Criterion NFS game

Riccitiello confirms Criterion NFS game

And his mate has seen Battlefield 3.

Electronic Arts boss John Riccitiello has said that Criterion is working on a "revolutionary take on Need for Speed", while EA COO John Pleasants has confirmed DICE is working on Battlefield 3.

Riccitiello had been clarifying that Burnout and Need for Speed wouldn't merge when he told Kotaku, "We don't have a plan right now for a separate major launch on Burnout, because the team doing it is working on a revolutionary take on Need for Speed."

Meanwhile, EA COO John Pleasants, speaking at an investor conference, said, "I've had the luxury of looking at Battlefield 3 over at DICE in Sweden... Of course, that's not in the [current] fiscal year, but that is a product that is looking very good."

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Need for Speed: Shift

Back on track?

Following a mid-life crisis presumably brought about when the last few games in the series sold a mere billion copies each rather than the forecasted gajillion, Need for Speed is changing. In fact, it's developed full-blown schizophrenia, with its '09 offerings split into three distinct strands covering the core, casual and free-to-play audiences in turn. According to EA's VP of marketing, Keith Munro, offering three games rather than one represents "the inverse of milking", an unfortunate turn of phrase which conjures farmyard imagery of such a bizarrely disgusting nature, that we can probably leave it at that.

EA Black Box doing secret NFS game

"Our strategy is the inverse of milking."

EA Games marketing bigwig Keith Munro has told Eurogamer there is one more secret Need For Speed game in development beyond the three titles revealed earlier today.

Revamped NFS series launches this year

Revamped NFS series launches this year

Broken up for different audiences.

Electronic Arts has told Eurogamer that it plans to reinvent the Need for Speed series by launching separate core, casual and 'Play 4 Free' games this year.

Need for Speed: Shift will launch on PC, Xbox 360, PS3 and PSP this autumn - as will Need for Speed: Nitro on Wii and DS. Need for Speed: World Online will be released to the Asian online PC market this summer, before heading West in the winter.

Need for Speed: Shift will be made by Slightly Mad Studios of GT Legends and GTR 2 fame, with help from EA Black Box producer Michael Mann and EA Games Europe bigwig Patrick Soderlund.

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