EA is essentially splitting the Need for Speed franchise into three new directions. Nitro is the more casual, arcade experience, World Online is an online multiplayer experience, and Shift is the most realistic of the three. We had an opportunity to play Shift.
Need for Speed: Shift is expected to feature more than 50 full-customizable licensed vehicles. We were able to test five race-prepped vehicles, including the Mustang Cobra, the Chevrolet Corvette, the Audi RS4, Porsche's 911 GT3, and the Pagani Zonda.
All vehicles feature realistic damage that has an effect on the vehicle's performance. For example, if you crash head-on into a wall, the hood may be damaged causing it to flip up and block your view, or being T-boned could affect your vehicle's handling.
Developers Slightly Mad Studios insist that, while NFS: Shift is more realistic than previous games in the franchise, it is not a hard-core sim like the Gran Turismo or Forza series. Their aim was to make the game more approachable to the casual gamer.
I think there will be room on my shelf for all three games when Need for Speed: Shift hits PS3, Xbox 360, and PC in Fall '09.