Furthering the Need for Speed
With the exception of some drift events, most of the player’s time in Need for Speed will be spent rushing around circuits at very high speeds. Although Need for Speed does include some arcade elements and does give the player some rewards for being aggressive, trying to bash one’s way through the ranks isn’t enough to win most races. This isn’t a demolition derby, and the AI drivers will get nasty if pushed.
That said, learning to drive is easier said than done. This brief racing guide outlines the basics of racing in Need for Speed. Practicing these basics should be enough to clinch the pole position in any medium difficulty race.
Get a Grip
Friction is the lifeblood of every racer. It is the force of friction that keeps a car moving in the direction the driver wants. When the momentum of a vehicle overcomes friction, the car begins to misbehave, moving in a direction besides that which the driver wants. Racing is mostly about testing the limits of friction. The fastest driver is the one who can keep a car at the limit without going over it.
In Need for Speed: Shift, this means that winning a race requires a careful balance of speed, breaking, and steering input. The inclusion of Drift events may make one think that racing in Need for Speed: Shift can be won by going around corners sideways. In fact, that tends to be rather counter productive. Once a slide has begun, it will require more energy to recover than if the driver had gone around the corner smoothly, and this results a slower lap time. This is something many first-time virtual racers have a hard time believing. Arcade racers and movies tend to glorify the excitement of going around corners sideways, but real racing is about going fast.
Besides being careful around corners, it is also important to remember that accelerating, stopping, and cornering all require friction - and there is only so much to go around. Many players will want to accelerate out of a corner as soon as possible, but this can cause problems because accelerating will force a car into understeer or oversteer. Braking into corners is also a common mistake and it again will cause understeer or oversteer. You can break very hard or accelerate quickly in a straight line, but the more you are turning at the same time, the less you can slow down or speed up. Break heavily in a straight line approaching the corner, and come off the break as you turn in.
In summary, drive as smoothly as possible as quickly as possible.
Don’t Pick Fights
Given that Need for Speed: Shift gives points for aggression, one might think that getting into shoving matches is a good idea. They certainly are a lot of fun. However, they cab also make it harder to win a race.
There are two main problems with fighting other cars for position. The first is that fighting other cars interrupts the rule of driving smoothly. Swapping paint with another car will cause one’s car to slow down. That’s fine if you’re just trying to cause trouble, but those looking to stand on the podium will have to avoid this as much as possible.
The second problem is that fighting other cars is simply unpredictable. An unexpected tap to a quarter panel can cause a car to spin out with alarming brutality, and in such situations a recovery is often out of the question. Just one such spin usually means that any hope of standing on the podium goes out of the window.
There are certain situations where aggression can help, particularly when jostling for first place with a rival who won’t let you pass. Those instances are rare, however. For the sake of speed, don’t drive with road rage.
The Racing Line Lies
Even for experience drivers, playing with the racing line on is recommended at least for a time. Trying to race around a track without any knowledge of what Need for Speed’s rendition of it is like is a recipe for disaster, and adhering to the racing line allows one to stay competitive while learning instead of re-starting a race several times in a row whenever a new track is encountered.
That said, the racing line has its limits. There are two main problems with it. The first is it doesn’t do much to account for the weight of different cars. A MX-5 can brake much later than a Nissan 350Z. As a result, trying to following the racing line often results in the MX-5 losing a lot of time from braking too early, but it will also sometimes ask the 350Z to brake too late. Remember this when driving an new car.
In addition, the racing line’s colors are deceptive. In most cases red means stop, yellow means slow down, and green means go. The racing line is extremely conservative in most cases, however, so driving around corners in the green is quite a bit slower than optimal. Look for the yellow. Most cars will be able to run the racing line around corners while in the yellow. Adhering to this policy while learning the game can shave five seconds or more off each lap.
Of course, the eventual goal should be to turn the line off entirely. A good driver can carve corners much more quickly than the racing line suggests. The perfect line rests not on the track, but somewhere between your eyes, hands, brains, and guts.