Shift 2: the bulge and nuzzle of Glendale

, | Game diaries

Take a beautiful woman. A classically beautiful woman, not some latter day slattern. Convince her to stretch out on a big fluffy bed. Nothing raunchy. Something tasteful enough to paint on the nose of a bomber. Now send her home. Carefully analyze the topography of the bed where she has just lain. Calculate a track over that topography. Now you have the Glendale Raceway.

After the jump, Shift 2’s greatest track

Glendale is a pleasantly undulating ride in the lower class cars. But once you get anything with power, Glendale is a white-knuckle rollercoater ride. It’s up and down, right and left, laughing with delight all the way, and constantly wrestling to stay inside the burrburrs. Deceptively shallow chicanes invite you to aim carefully and cut up the middle. But during a race, the other cars on the track might have a say in the matter. So while Glendale looks wide, gentle, and generous, it can get rowdy in there.

Glendale will bring out the best in your different cars. In my Audi TT, it’s an easy delight. In a tightly wound low-to-ground car like my shrill Lotus Exige S, it’s a thrill. In my class A souped-up Charger, it’s a brawl. In my Lamborghini Murcielago, it’s nearly a science.

The rises and dips drive home the physics of traction, otherwise known as “how much my car loves the earth”. Coming over a rise, the car loses grip because it’s moving up. Conversely, at the bottom of a dip, you have extra traction because the car is being pressed down, hugging the world under its tires. Finessing these rises and dips reminds me of games like TRIBES and Tiny Wings, where you have to move with the ground, appreciating its slopes and feeling its sea-like bulge and nuzzle. Glendale’s ground invites feeling.

Coming over a rise is an act of faith and blindness. You can’t see what’s over that rise. But once you’ve learned the track, you can anticipate it. You then enjoy the strange gratification of knowing something before you see it, and then having everything fall into place perfectly as it appears. Over the rise, you know the track bends to the left, so you let yourself drift over to the right and then gently cut left as you top the rise and love the earth a little less, but you’re perfectly riding the line around that bend you couldn’t see a half second ago. You know how you’re playing a shooter, and you know someone’s around the corner? Maybe you see his shadow, or you’ve got a special power activated, or you’re using a wall hack. I don’t know what you do, and I won’t judge (unless I’m playing on the same server, you jerk). But that feeling of opening fire just before you round the corner and landing your shots almost before your target comes into view? That’s like driving Glendale.

The Glendade Raceway has three configurations. Glendale Club is a surprisingly brief race. As soon as you’ve leaped off the starting line, there you are again finishing a lap. Glendale West features a new leg thrust sharply out, as if something in a burlap sack was trying to poke its way out. But Glendale East is my favorite. Instead of a new leg poking out, it’s got a voluptuous pair of curves along a gentle downhill slope. In a car of any power, you’re rocking through the chicane, first left, then right, then left, pressing down all the while. This sensuous chicane is unique to Glendale East.

Glendale has fewer stands of annoying fans sounding air horns. It affords a little privacy as it winds back into the trees, where it gets downright rural. Some sort of barn or train depot or farmhouse graces the starting line. I think I’ve spied an outdoor clamshell bandstand, where a local jazz band might play on summer evenings. On Glendale, I feel like I could pull over and have a nice picnic. I wouldn’t be surprised to be racing Glendale and to come across a tractor. There might even be an apple orchard just back there somewhere.

In addition to the usual real-world tracks, Shift 2 has plenty of made-up fantasy tracks with their own sense of character. The weird wide bends around the Tokyo dockyard through piled up cargo containers. The wind-in-your-hair speed and expanse of Ambush Canyon. The busy Mediterranean color of Casino Riviera’s long downhill plunge through a tunnel, which wouldn’t be out of place in a Wipeout game. But on the whole, I’d rather be in Glendale.

Click here for the previous Shift 2 game diary. And click here for our report on the new cars and tracks in Shift 2’s Legends pack DLC.