Well, I downloaded and played the free demo yesterday that I found on the PlaystationStore. It gives 4 cars (Elise, BMW, Viper, and unlockable Pagani Zonda), and 2 tracks (London and some other oddly named one).
The gameplay is pretty much solid, but still overrated. Crashing shouldn't disorient you too much, unless you really smash something. Spinning out and flipping CPU cars is nice, and just about as hard as it should be, in terms of both realism and fun. Driving with the behind-the-wheel camera is, of course, a pain...and still overrated. I was just as entertained when I used the behind-the-wheel camera in Test Drive Unlimited for my PS2.
Cars handle well, but feel a bit sluggish unless you really pick the speed up. And that typically only happens on longer, straight areas of the track, because the acceleration isn't powerful enough to get the speed up without a decent bit of time to do so.
Powersliding around corners works, but don't expect it to be like NFS3. I found myself in the dirt quite a few times after only 2 races...which I suppose is realistic, but still annoying.
Overall...I can see the appeal of Shift, and I can also see how a lot of people could like it, especially if they plan on racing online with friends. But personally, coming from the viewpoint of an 'old school" NFS fan...it just doesn't do it for me. Shift gets a 3/5 from me after playing my demo.
The local magazine here has NFS: Shift on the cover, with the words "Racing just got sexier" and a sexy blond girl on the cover. Not that it really matters, but as far as I know there shouldn't be any NFS girl this time around right?
--- "Beyond the beaten path lies the absolute end. It matters not who you are, Death awaits you."