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Need for Speed: Shift

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Need for Speed: Shift is the 13th installment of the long-running racing video game franchise Need for Speed; published by Electronic Arts. It was announced in December 2008 as part of a three-game announcement that includes Need for Speed: Nitro and Need for Speed: World Online. Shift was developed by Slightly Mad Studios in conjunction with EA Black Box and published for Electronic Arts. In the new franchising model for the series adopted by EA, Shift takes its place focusing on simulation racing rather than the arcade racing of previous titles in the series.

Gameplay

Cars

There are 60+ cars which are divided into 4 tiers. Tier 1 refers to family cars, tier 2 refers to higher performance cars, tier 3 refers to supercars like the Lamborghini Gallardo, and tier 4 refers to fast supercars like the Lexus LF-A and Bugatti Veyron.

Car customization

The car customization options include cosmetics as well as performance mods and is more in depth than previous games, affecting aspects such as; alignment, aerodynamics, tires, brakes, differential, and gears. Nitrous will also be an option for tuning, but different from previous Need for Speed games as it will be simulated more realistically. There are body kits and weight reduction, which affect the aerodyniamics. There are visual customization options like rims, vinyls and paints.

Tracks

There are 19 tracks in total including real world circuits such as Brands Hatch, Nurburgring Nordschleife, Road America, Spa, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Silverstone, Willow Springs, Donington Park National and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Development

According to an interview from Shift’s producer, Geever, the game has been in development for two years. He also mentioned that the game features a new “Driver experience”. G-force will play an important role in the game, as it will affect both the player and the AI. The in-car view will also return, making its first appearance in a Need for Speed game since Porsche Unleashed. The in-car view will be highly detailed, and it will be possible to see the driver changing gears and moving his head to get a better view of the mirror. The crashes will affect the players visuals. While crashing, there will be a temporary blur on screen. The sound aspect will have detailed car crash sound, as well as a sharp gasp of breath from the driver before a collision.

Soundtrack

The soundtrack of Shift remains similar to that of EA’s prior driving sim, Need for Speed: ProStreet, featuring a scored soundtrack rather than a general track list as is seen in previous titles such as Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and Need for Speed: Carbon.

Patches/Add-Ons

EA promised that patches would be released with new features in addition to bug fixes. The Patch 1.01 added LAN (Local Area Network) play and Mouse Support, providing full menu navigation to the game, to the PC version. Patch 1.02 added 5 cars (Toyota Supra Mk IV, 1971 Dodge Challenger R/T, 1969 Dodge Charger R/T, 1967 Corvette and 1967 Shelby GT-500) and a new online “Team Racing” game mode, where a Blue team of racers runs against a Red Team. In addition, the 1.02 patch fixed several performance issues (especially with ATI cards), improved gameplay, and increased the maximum number of players online from 8 to 12.

On February 16 EA Need For Speed released Ferrari DLC pack that contains 10 Ferraris, also extends the SHIFT’s career mode with 46 new Ferrari specific challenges designed for the Ferrari cars to participate in including hot laps, eliminators, endurance races and a world tour. Completing the perfect Ferrari package are an additional 125 gamerpoints as a reward for undertaking various exciting challenges. Available on Xbox 360 for 800 Microsoft Points the Ferraris available include Superamerica, Scuderia Spider 16M, California, 599 GTB Fiorano, F430 Spider, 430 Scuderia, F430 GTC, F430 Challenge, F50 GT & Ferrari FXX.

An Exotic Racing Pack was also released which features cars like the McLaren MP4-12C, the BMW M1, the Gumpert Apollo and the Acura NSX.

New tax breaks cause confusion, enforcement issues

New tax breaks enacted last year are causing confusion for taxpayers and enforcement problems for the Internal Revenue Service, according to a government report issued Thursday, the deadline for filing individual returns.

As of March 5, the IRS erroneously gave out $24.2 million in Making Work Pay tax credits, according to the report by J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration. The IRS issued a total of $25 billion worth of the credits during the period, for an error rate of less than one-tenth of 1 percent.

The IRS also erroneously issued about $4.7 million in tax credits meant for people who bought plug-in electric cars. The new tax breaks were enacted as part of the massive economic recovery package passed last year.

“Our report concludes that the IRS is having a mixed filing season this year,” George said. “On the one hand, they are having difficulty implementing many of the changes created by the passage of the laws designed to stimulate the economy. On the other hand, the news is not all bad as the IRS is detecting and stopping more erroneous refunds this year.”

The report covers returns processed as of March 5. At the time, the IRS had received about 61 million returns. The agency expects to receive about 140 million individual returns this year.

“Any time you have major tax changes you will see some confusion over it,” said IRS spokesman Terry Lemons. The IRS is doing “everything we can” to work through problems and process returns quickly.

The stimulus package enacted last year presented many challenges for taxpayers and the IRS, making an already complicated tax system even more complex. There were tax credits for qualified families who buy new homes or make energy improvements to existing ones, as well as tax breaks to help pay college tuition or buy new cars.

The Making Work Pay tax credit was President Barack Obama’s signature tax break in the package. It provides individuals with up to $400 and couples up to $800.

The homebuyer tax credit was so popular that Congress extended and expanded it in November. Buyers who have owned their current homes at least five years are eligible, subject to income limits, for tax credits of up to $6,500. First-time homebuyers — or people who haven’t owned homes in the previous three years — can get up to $8,000. To qualify, buyers have to sign purchase agreements before May 1 and close before July 1.

The IRS expects half the people claiming the homebuyer credit not to include proper documentation, such as a settlement statement, and that will delay refunds, according to the report.

As of April 2, the average refund was $2,950, up about $255 over last year, Lemons said. The fastest way to get a refund: file electronically and have the refund deposited directly into a bank account, which takes about 10 days.

Refunds can take six to eight weeks for last-minute filers who use paper returns and receive checks, Lemons said.