Asphalt Urban GT

The prospect of having a garage full of exotic sportscars and a selection of tracks to race them on, all on a device that’s small enough to slip into your pocket, is an enticing one. Not as enticing as the real thing, of course, but not all of us have the sort of money that enables us to enjoy such extravagance, though we still dream. And buy the occasional lottery ticket. And see just how much we can sell a kidney for. Or the house. Or the kids. But still, it remains largely a dream.

So when Asphalt Urban GT emerged from the pitlane to take a lap around the N-Gage’s portable hardware we were, quite understandably, excited. Here, on a mobile phone (albeit a big one with dedicated gaming technology under the bonnet) is a fully 3-dimensional racing game that has the capacity to rival the experience offered by those on the big home consoles like the X-Box and PlayStation 2. Given that the rest of the racing games on mobile phone consist largely of 2D, upwards scrolling yawn-fests, relying on little more than the same mode of play as those old Tiger LCD handheld games you used to play, Asphalt Urban GT already has a head start on the competition.

Visually the game doesn’t disappoint. The cars are surprisingly detailed for their size, packing in enough accuracy to please the petrolheads without slowing down the on-screen action by being overly complex for the N-Gage to handle. The cities through which you’ll be speeding are equally beauteous, representing real-world locales such as Paris, New York and Las Vegas. Thankfully they’re not so accurate that you end up spending half an hour in a traffic jam on the Champs-Elysees or getting caught by speed cameras and having your license confiscated.

Where the wheels fall off is when you start attempting to race through these urban landscapes. This might sound like a strange complaint to have about a racing game but it’s simply too fast. The arcade-style handling, where power sliding and crazy skids are the name of the game, turns Asphalt Urban GT into a test of your reactions and not a great deal else. Instead of rewarding you for taking the racing line through a series of corners (the optimal route balancing both speed and distance covered on the track) you’re encouraged to simply fling your car around and avoid the oncoming traffic. As long as you can weave left and right and bounce off the crash barriers (which you'll do a lot thanks to the enthusiasm which which the cars skid) without losing too much momentum, you’ll be alright.

Which is a shame. We’re not ones for excluding anyone from games and aren’t campaigning to make Asphalt as hard as your driving test was. It’s just that we’d like to have seen more depth in the way the cars handle on the track. It’s especially frustrating because we so wanted to love this game. We’re big fans of the Nintendo DS version and the mix of actual cars (Lamborghinis, fast Fords, Audi TTs and so on), performance tuning and real-world circuits should have been a winner. Sadly we’re left with something that’s equal parts awe-inspiring and awful. It’s still better than the repetitive 2D titles that other mobile phones are limited to, but it just doesn’t live up to its potential.

Asphalt Urban GT

It's fast but you'll be furious, this high-octane action is for patient petrol-heads only