Any day of the week between 10 PM and 12 AM EST, you can probably find me on Xbox Live playing GRiD (FYI... my gamer tag is simply Autoblog), and Autoblog Executive Editor Chris Paukert often jumps in for the fun as well. We love this driving game from Codemasters for its balance of accuracy and arcade-style fun. GRiD, however, may have some new competition from a franchise we thought, based on its recent spate of titles, was on its way out. As we reported last month, the Need for Speed franchise is being split into a trio of games: one for the consoles called Need for Speed SHIFT, a free one for PCs called Need for Speed World Online and a Wii-exclusive version called Need for Speed: Nitro.
Joystiq recently had time to play an early version of Need for Speed SHIFT and came away mighty impressed. "The game is 95% pure racing simulation, with a bit of arcade feel thrown in," is how they described it. What may set NFS Shift apart from similar games like GRiD and the Project Gotham Racing series is its interior view. Developers specifically designed the game to be played using the interior view, though other outside-the-car views are available. As such you get things like reflections of the driver in the side windows and – get this – the driver actually clutches the wheel harder during tricky maneuvers. There's also an effect at high speeds that blurs the screen so all your focus is on the track.
Joystiq only got to play two tracks using a Pagani Zonda and we're still in the dark about which tracks will be featured in the game and what the list of playable vehicles will be, but the early word is that Paukert and I may be playing a new game on Xbox Live very soon.