Theres a review about Need for Speed: Shift - Graphics comparison, engine info at www.pcgameshardware.com. I am giving it here-
With Need for Speed: Shift publisher EA and developer Slightly Mad Studios want to revive the NfS series in mattes of gameplay and technology.
Need for Speed: Shift - The engine
Shift's D3D9 renderer is a pure cross platform development, but the Pc version offers higher texture resolutions and higher detailed models besides the tracks. The engine utilizes a full-fledged FP16 HDR pipeline with Tone Mapping and Deferred Shading for lighting. The renderer is even compatible to Multisampling Anti-Aliasing - which can be activated in the game like the Anisotropic Filtering. More features offered by the engine are Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Soft Shadows, Ambient Occlusion as well as Post Processing effects like for example the popular Depth of Field of heat haze. Shift also offers Motion Blur for the full picture or for individual parts.
A self developed part of the engine deals with the driving physics, the damage model, which affects the behavior of the cars, and the simulation of the G-forces. The latter ones are caused by strong acceleration, abrupt breaking maneuvers or fast changes of direction. In the game their effect is simulated by the picture becoming less sharp. For less complex physics calculations (low-level), like collisions with the track limits, Nvidia's Physx API is used. According to Slightly Mad Studios the engine is multithreaded.
Need for Speed: Shift - Graphics and sound
While we weren't convinced by the Shift graphics we saw at the Gamescom, EA's racing game looked quite convincing on our test system. Although some textures could be a little sharper, the Lens Flare effect is used too often and some shadows and Alpha Tests flicker, but this is criticizing on the highest-level: The overall appearance of Need for Speed: Shift is extremely atmospheric and the title looks just better than any other racing game released up to now - so the developers didn't promise too much. Especially the luxury cars are very detailed, the (visual) damage model is unmatched. In our gallery you can find about a dozen screenshots that have been taken at 1920 x 1200 pixels with 4x MSAA and 16:1 AF.
As the following picture comparisons shows, you should however not reduce the quality too much: On minimal settings the texture are washy and ugly, aliasing gets very annoying. A lot of details aren't even recognizable or are just missing, like the shadows for example. The atmosphere of Need for Speed: Shift suffers seriously from too low settings.
The surround sound is on the same high level as the graphics. The engines are roaring so brilliant that playing Need for Speed: Shift without a potent sound system is definitely less fun.
Need for Speed: Shift - Performance estimation
Although we wanted to deliver graphics cards benchmarks of Need for speed: Shift, we have to refrain from doing so. In our version of the game Nvidia's Geforce cards were running without problems, but AMD's Radeons were noticeably slower that usually. AMD is already aware of the problem and is working on optimizations for Shift. As soon as we receive a solution for the problems we will deliver benchmark results for graphics cards and processors.
Either way a graphics card of the upper entry level like a Geforce 8800GT/512M is fast enough for maximal details at 1680 x 1050 pixels with 4x MSAA and 16:1 AF for more than 40 fps at 1920 x 1200 with Anti Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering you should at least have a model from the upper middle class like the Geforce GTX 260-216/896M or something better. Nevertheless a capable dual-core CPU is required for such framerates, too - especially when up to 15 other cars are displayed, the fps can drop noticeably..
Too bad that Ati users are having performance issue. But I think ati will release a hotfix soon.