Shift is the thirteenth Need for Speed game. It is considered one of the most hardcore installments of the series. Unlike many of its predecessors, it is oriented towards the actual driving simulation rather than arcade racing.
The creators of Shift aimed to realistically imitate the driving experience, making the game harder than an average NFS game. However, Shift automatically adjusts the difficulty depending on the player's experience and skills. Before the player enters the career, he or she has to complete a test drive at the famous Brands Hatch track to familiarize the game with his or her driving abilities.
Need for Speed: Shift offers a roster of more than 60 vehicles. As in most Need for Speed games, the player starts with a small amount of money and only a handful of available vehicles. To unlock and purchase better cars, the player has to win races. The cars in Need for Speed: Shift consists of four classes called "tiers". The lowest tier contains the cheapest and slowest cars, while supercars from manufacturers like Lamborghini and Bugatti belong to the higher tiers.
The game also has a detailed modification system. The player can customize not only the car's look but also its important details like tires and aerodynamics.
As the player progresses, he or she may unlock new levels. Some of them are based on real-life tracks of Formula One fame, including Spa-Francorchamps, Nurburgring, Silverstone and Laguna Seca. Others are purely fictional and only exist in-game.