Version tested: PSP
I don't even want to waste your time with this one, so let's do this efficiently. I'm going to go through some absolutely terrible things about Asphalt 2 and you just stop reading when you're convinced you're not going to buy it. I mean it. Go spend the time doing whatever it is people do when they're not playing video games. Go take your shopping for a walk, or water your granddad or something. In this small way Asphalt 2 will take up a bit less of your life and we can both feel victorious.
Let's start big. This is a port of a mobile phone racing game. Not even a 3D racing game, it's a port of one of those ones where you're stuck facing forward and you follow a streaming 2D road. They've given the game a 3D engine for the PSP and DS versions but it looks absolutely hideous and the origins of the game are hinted at by little things like an agonizingly slow turning circle and an inability to reverse. Boy, it's a glorious moment when you first find out about the reversing. Desperately slapping all the buttons on your handheld with your car scraping against a wall and all of your opponents overtaking you.
One thing you can do is nitro boosts. These draw from an onscreen meter that you can refill by driving into massive blue markers that float above the road. However using nitro has the same effect as taking down the competition by forcing them into walls, buzzing civilian cars and other things bootlegged wholesale from the Burnout series. But instead of being rewarded for these things, you're punished - in addition to netting you a bit of cash they also fill up your Wanted meter. When that gets high enough, police cruisers start buzzing you and helicopters start pointing laser pens at you. Eventually you'll realise the laser pens represent machine gun fire but the game's engine is so completely inadequate this takes you a while. Being pursued isn't too much of a problem since you're near indestructible but it is extremely irritating to be coming up to the final straight with half of the city's police force crawling up your jacksie while your AI competition gets a free pass.
Those takedowns you perform are quite something though. Since no one can reverse and vehicles other than you don't respawn, anyone you make crash has to end up right way up and facing the correct direction. This leads to some pretty awesome displays of physics where you'll squeeze a car against a wall and during the traditional slo-mo takedown shot you get to watch them pop into the air like a wet bar of soap, twist 360 degrees, and land in front of you going faster than you are. And then you get to swear and swear and swear.
This is a game with absolutely awful driving, which you'd probably agree is fairly key for a driving game. There's no sense of speed or power, and you never feel in control. The game's first championship is called Test Drive and puts you in the driving seat of the best cars and bikes the game has on offer, before taking them away and letting you work your way up to them. It's not just that you won't realise they're the best vehicles until you're given the worst - you might struggle to tell the difference between them at all. It's hard enough to notice the change in handling between the cars and bikes. And even if you can tell the difference, it's not significant enough to make you care deeply about unlocking better ones thanks to Asphalt 2's glacial pace.
See, the fact that this is a phone port means far worse things than just abysmal driving. The game is designed to eat up as many of the boring hours commuters have to spend on trains and buses as possible while fitting onto a teeny tiny phone. That means the little content the game does have is smeared over dozens of hours. Tracks are repeated over and over again, you spend money 'tuning' your cars and bikes to no visible effect and there are a frankly terrifying number of championships to beat. Long games aren't necessarily a bad thing but padding usually is, and this is Kevlar vest level padding.
Finally there's the game's bizarre licensed celebrity content. Asphalt 2 has bought the rights to use a single song, Maximo Park's Under Pressure, and oh my goodness have they felt they had to get their money's worth. Under Pressure plays in all of the game's menus. When you're selecting a game mode, your car, the race, colour schemes, new parts, options, anything at all, you hear Maximo Park's Under Pressure. At first, the long loading screen before races seems annoying because it gives you nothing to listen to and nothing to look at but a loading meter, but soon you start seeing it as a little oasis between the stress of races and hearing Under Pressure for the ninetieth time. Let's say you were locked in a box, or press ganged into the navy, or otherwise ended up having access to no other games and ended up playing this to completion. You'd have spent a half dozen hours listening to this song.
Then you have the Pussy Cat Dolls. The back of the box proudly shouts of their 'appearance' alongside a picture of them clambering over an ATV, whereas their actual presence in the game is limited to six greyscale pictures of them that appear behind your stats at the end of every race.
This is a poorly thought out, drab racer that might have been considered passable on mobiles but on dedicated games machines we deserve better. Don't buy this. Don't let anyone else buy this. Don't let the games industry know it's okay for them to port mobile phone games to superior hardware without upgrading them in any way. If you're genuinely interested in this series then Asphalt 3's already out on phones. It won't cost you £25 either.
2 / 10