Asphalt Urban GT 2

What Were They Thinking? is a book filled with examples of harebrained projects, including, amongst others, an Iowa State university professor's proposal to blow up the moon and Coca-Cola's decision to bring New Coke to the market. It's also the phrase that will prey on your mind should you ever have the misfortune to play Asphalt 2: Urban GT (and the reason why we suggest the game should be included in the aforementioned tome's next edition).

Let's start at the beginning. The original Asphalt: Urban GT was a moderately successful mobile phone game created by Gameloft. It did well enough to deserve a sequel and Asphalt 2: Urban GT on mobile racked up a decent enough review score of '6' from us early last year.

But the decision to port the game to PSP, without apparently considering the far superior competition on Sony's handheld, ranks up there with Mick Fleetwood and Sam Fox hosting the Brit Awards or Gary Glitter taking his porn infested computer in for repair at PC World.

In short: What were they thinking?

It's about expectations more than anything: on a (relatively) tiny handset with a limited interface and rudimentary chip technology, Asphalt 2 proved to be a better than average mobile racer. On the PSP, it's the equivalent of Jade Goody taking to the catwalk at Paris Fashion Week. Compared to any number of excellent racers now available on Sony's system (TOCA Race Driver 3 Challenge, Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast and Ridge Racer, to name but three) this not only feels out of place but out of step.

Asphalt: Urban GT 2's  mobile heritage is instantly recognisable in the menus and front-end that take you from race to race, which on the PSP's considerably larger display emerge as tacky and coarse, respectively – indeed, when a screen of horribly pixellated licence agreement text greets you as the game loads you know you're in for a rough experience.

This sort of poor presentation isn't enough to ruin a title, obviously, but it's indicative of how flimsy and rushed the entire product feels.

Get into the game and things take a turn for the dismal. Driving through its blurry, jerky and characterless cityscapes is a passionless and unexciting proposition. Nitro boosts clock up speeds in excess of 300mph on your speedometer but, bar a blurring effect, you never feel as if the game itself achieves anything above molasses slow.

But there's a fundamental problem in structure and design that's a sin worse than any presentational considerations: Asphalt 2 holds absolutely no challenge and is repetitive beyond belief. Five hours into the game, we had won every single race with ease.

Bereft of any kind of difficulty setting, we can only assume this babyish level of challenge is another influence of the game's mobile origins; mobile gamers often have to deal with more unresponsive input and accidental jostling from commuters. But on PSP?

If you're still reading, races generally take three forms: racing to the finish line, elimination, and speed camera challenges. Money can be collected en route by driving through '$' symbols and the nitro gauge increased by passing through blue canister icons. The daft thing is that unless you are myopic or lack any kind of coordination, you'll never run out of nitro. This means you generally boost your way past all rivals on the first lap then stay out in front until the finish line. It's stultifyingly boring.

As in the Burnout games, you can take down opponents but this element is erratic and feels tacked-on. Sometimes hitting other vehicles sees you losing a thousand dollars and at other times you just bounce off bonnets, even if you hit cars head-on. Although vehicles can be upgraded and range from classic '70s muscle cars to more modern saloon vehicles and bikes, there's so little difference in handling characteristics that you'll soon tire of tinkering with vehicle selection or enhancement.

The final insult is that Asphalt 2: Urban GT is endorsed by the Pussycat Dolls. You'd be hard pressed to find a less relevant or worse implemented licence in video game history. An image of each of the lasses appearing on the race summary screen is about as exciting as their presence gets.

Do yourself, us and the video game industry a favour by avoiding this ill-considered, rushed and abject title at all costs.

Asphalt Urban GT 2

Bland, unimaginative, underpowered and insipid, we've absolutely nothing positive to say about it
Mark Walbank
Mark Walbank
Ex-Edge writer and retro game enthusiast, Mark has been playing games since he received a Grandstand home entertainment system back in 1977. Still deeply absorbed by moving pixels (though nothing 'too fast'), he now lives in Scotland and practices the art of mentalism.