Need for Speed: Shift

Common Sense Media says

Illegal street racing series remade as legit racing sim.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Unlike previous games in the series, this is not a simulation of illegal street racing and features no criminal gangs or undercover police officers. Rather, the races are sanctioned and take place on closed courses. The goal is simply to become the best race car driver possible. You can, however, choose whether you want to race aggressively (by bumping into other cars) or with careful precision. Also, the game does not show the real impact of crashes, so kids could get the impression that crashes aren't all that serious.

Positive role models

The player has no visible avatar other than the car’s nameless, expressionless driver. However, players are supported by an encouraging pit man who explains each race’s objectives, offers advice for advancing through the game’s various tiers, and often suggests prior to races that the player “be safe.”

Ease of play

The first thing players do is race a single practice lap the results of which are used to set a wide variety of difficulty settings, from opponent intelligence to whether or not anti-lock braking and electronic stability control systems are switched on. The computer does a pretty good job of judging a player’s skill based on this one lap, but players can change these settings at any point to make the game as easy or hard as they like.


Cars crash into each other and show damage via scraped paint and cracked windows. The player’s driver may grunt during some of the more vicious impacts, but the game does not realistically depict the consequences of high-speed accidents.


Women who hold up signs before races show some cleavage and toned midriffs.


Not an issue.


Like most authentic racing simulators, this game is loaded with licensed cars (Nissan, Porsche, and BMW, among others). What’s more, tracks and vehicles are lined with billboards and stickers advertising real world automotive brands, such as Hankook and Falken.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Not an issue.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this racing game, which features professional drivers on closed courses in sanctioned competitions, bears little resemblance to other recent entries in the Need for Speed franchise, which were all about illegal street racing. That means there are no gangs and no civilian traffic. However, like most racing simulators, players can choose to drive aggressively by bumping into competitors and pushing them off the track. Drivers are never injured in these scrapes, and the cars show only minor cosmetic damage. While that is good from the aspect of not seeing violence, it can also be a negative since it leaves the impression that agressive driving has no serious consequences. It’s worth noting as well that consumerism plays a role via the game’s licensed cars and in-game billboard advertising; and that the game has open chat for those playing online so kids may hear things that are inappropriate.

Parents say

Kids say

What's it about?

After years spent exploring the world of illegal street racing, Electronic Arts’ long-lived Need for Speed racing series has taken a detour with NEED FOR SPEED: SHIFT, a fairly authentic racing simulator that leads players through a realistic (but fictional) series of professional racing competitions on closed courses. A hybrid between the arcade-like action of a franchise like Project Gotham Racing and the simulation style made popular by Sony’s Gran Turismo games, Shift allows players to race on real-world tracks using licensed cars that can be upgraded and precisely tuned. Meanwhile, players are awarded points based on their own particular driving style, which in effect encourages players to race either as cleanly or aggressively as possible. The career mode is filled with a wide variety of race types, including straight up races, time attack challenges, eliminator competitions in which the last-place car is ejected at regular intervals, and rivalry contests that see similar cars from different manufacturers squaring off against each other.

Is it any good?


Need for Speed: Shift’s real-world tracks are diverse and beautifully realized, and its licensed cars look and sound just like their real-world counterparts. They handle splendidly, too. Players can choose whether to make the cars feel realistic or arcade-like by altering a huge variety of modifiers, from electronic stability control and anti-lock braking systems to tire grip and steering sensitivity -- and this is before even entering the upgrade or tuning modules.

But the most satisfying part of the game is its rewards system, which sees players earning performance badges, winning money, and gaining in driver levels after almost every race. Indeed, progression is so swift and noticeable throughout the game that it can be difficult to keep from playing “just one more race” to earn enough cash for your next car or upgrade. It’s not quite as polished or epic as other racing simulators -- its collection of licensed cars is relatively low, and car damage appears more realistic in other games -- but Need for Speed: Shift is still a strong and welcome newcomer to a genre with only a few serious contenders.

Online interaction: This game supports open voice chat, which means that players could potentially run into others online who express language and ideas unsuitable for children.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the consequences of vehicular accidents. Shift is a fairly authentic racing game, but only in terms car tuning and handling. Its depiction of crashes suggests that cars can smash into solid barriers at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour with neither the car nor its occupant suffering any sort of serious damage. What do you think would happen to a real-world driver who experienced a similar sort of accident?

Game details

Platforms:Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PSP, Windows
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Electronic Arts
Release date:September 15, 2009
ESRB rating:E for Mild Violence (PlayStation 3, PSP, Windows, Xbox 360)

This review of Need for Speed: Shift was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byjoe biden June 20, 2010

online is a problem

think about it could a 5 year old whant to play online or story mode for me no he would whant to play with a parent or sibling. now 9+ is a diffrent story they are smart they can go on online but when they see bad words say it's not a word or never say that like my parent would threaten me.
What other families should know
Educational value
Safety and privacy concerns
Teen, 14 years old Written bybreakingdawn2012 October 31, 2012

FINE for any age

i really dont know why this is a pause for 10-17! the game is rated 3+ by pegi and has absolutely no bad language or anything
Teen, 17 years old Written byyesman-1 June 23, 2011

mediocre at best..

I wasn't particularly a fan of this one. I've played about every NFS game since the 2nd one (NFS 2 se) and I have to say the sim ones are probably the worst of the bunch. The game feels like any other track/sim game, not very challenging, especially since it slows your car at turns, it just gets old... The game does have some good parts, like an in-car camera, lots of nice cars, but thats about it. Everything else feels like Grand Tursimo or Forza.. If your a track racing nut, your probably going to like the game, but if your a street racing, cop evading guy like me, you might wanna pass on this one..
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much consumerism


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