First off, don't be fooled by my low amount of hours here on Steam with this game, I have done 2 playthough's when I owned it on the Xbox360.
This is a really good racing game that sits between not a full on arcade racer, but also not a full on sim racer. For me, it is a good balance between the two. I absolutely loved the first Shift and eagerly awaited this sequel. IMO, it did a good job of expanding and improving the many greats about the first one, while still managing to up the ante and introduce some new things. One of the biggest improvements individuals will notice after playing the first one is the way you upgrade the performance of the vehicles. If you've played Forza 3/4, then this type is oh so familiar to you.
There is now a much wider range of performance options instead of the tried and true Tier 1, 2, 3 formats. In this you are granted with pretty much any aspect of the car you could think of upgrading and giving them all to you off the bat, the strategy is finding that sweet spot balance of parts to give you the edge, without going over the performance rank (A, B, C, D etc.), which is what races are locked to, or going over your budget.
The physics are neither the best, nor as detailed as games like Forza or GT, but the damage and handling models are pretty stellar IMO. As I said previously this is not a full blown Simulation racer. This game is pretty deep as far as modern racers go these days so that’s good and I expect the average person to get a good solid 30+ hours out of just the single player career alone.
The AI in this game is quite comical sometimes and makes for some random comical relief. I normally play all my racing games in the highest of difficulty and even on "Hard" you will sometimes not too uncommonly see an AI opponent going full throttle in a straightaway and not even brake for the oncoming turn, leaving him careening off the track and slamming into the wall at high speeds leaving an explosion of parts and glass flying everywhere, or slamming into you or another AI opponents read end at full throttle, causing them (or you) to make like a space shuttle into the barricade. Sometime's I think they program to AI to do such nonsense to show off the physics engine haha!
However, this is nowhere near a perfect racer by any means and comes with its laundry list of faults that is for sure. Some of the most annoying are: The randomly crazy handling, grazing another driver often leaves you defying the laws of physics, by careening you off the map or putting you into an uncontrollable spin even tapping an opponent in the right spot at relatively slow speeds and at times wired input lag. This also happens just grazing a wall or similar object, which will leaving you scratching your head at how just barely scraping the wall at 40 MPH, sends you into a uncontrollable 1080 degree(3 rotations) spin...
Aside from that, the drifting in this game is absolute ♥♥♥♥, no thanks to some of the issues mentioned above and thankfully you can just skip that portion of the game entirely, other than the tutorial you are forced to do. Shift 2 still suffers from the dumbed down money system where after a few levels you have more money then you know what to do with and can max out every car you buy with ease, this kills some of the "I worked for this" feeling, or struggling to get that next little upgrade to give you more of an edge.
Shift 2 no longer has that "Obviously best car in the class" problem that was in the first Shift where there was that one car that was leaps and bounds better than the rest of the cars in that class as far as performance went. With the addition of a horde of new cars, quantity of cars and classes and the Performance Index system, there is now a whole new level of strategy in picking and choosing the best cars and parts to suit your gameplay, while still staying in the Performance Index rating.
In the end this is a decent console port with everything else being truly satisfying. Good deep racing scene with multiple disciplines, sometimes seemingly endless amounts of races, character leveling system, good customization esp. for performance parts and The graphics which I know most put a lot of emphasis on are decent, not as good as say Grid 2 etc., but still good eye candy in Ultra settings.