Shift 2: Unleashed

PS3 (also 360 & PC)

There are three types of driving game in this world: cutesy, arcade and simulation. This sequel to 2009ís original makes no excuses for being very much a game of the latter.

What you should be aware of from the off however, for PS3 owners at any rate, is that the game is dumped onto your hard drive whether you like it or not, like a lot of the new titles. So if you havenít got 4.5 GB spare, like we didnít, you need to find it. Donít bother looking down the back of the sofa, we already looked, and it wasnít there.

Once itís finally finished loading however, it doesnít take you long to realise that the game could easily overwhelm you if you let it. If you like your in-game tweaking, this could be your driving nirvana.

Youíre first presented with a series of dreary videos that canít be skipped, featuring some American guy who, despite the fact that weíve never heard of him, is meant to be quite good behind a wheel. He acts as your mentor and pops up with useful tips and encouragement (bless) from time to time.

Out on the track it all looks suitably pretty. The first problem we encountered that well and truly got us into a hissy fit though, was the fact that we could only steer using the left analogue stick. For us, using the stick feels like controlling a car with the accuracy of Todd Carty on ice. After one or two races, and several minutes loitering in sub, sub, sub menus however, we found we could switch to our preferred D-pad method. Phew.

boom reviews - Shift 2 Unleashed image
I only wanted to nip around the corner for a pint of milk. Think i made a wrong turn somewhere...

The key word the developers would no doubt like to use for this title is Ďauthenticí. And it has to be said, this is definitely following in the tyre tracks of Gran Turismo. It certainly looks the business, but then weíre easily pleased by pretty sun flares on the windscreen.

What we were less impressed with was the handling. Weíre not sure if it was just our initial choice of car (it had four wheels and roof, thatís about as petrol-headed as we get), but the vehicle was definitely over-steering. We lose interest mighty quickly when the steering is more sensitive than runnerís nipple. And considering how realistic the game claims its driving experience to be, there was definitely a sense of bumper cars when it came to contact with over cars on the tracks. The cars look great, but thereís certainly an issue regarding their weight Ė or lack of it.

And what will surely get simulation fans in a greasy frenzy Ė and left us cold Ė was the upgrade system. It helps if you know a bit about how cars work, but we just didnít feel the love; if you need a Haines manual to get the most out of a video game then weíre out. We gave it a go though, upgrading equipment that sounded impressive. The result was less satisfying however, with our car performing worse in all areas than before we started tinkering. And with no AA man on hand to reverse the damage, there was no turning back.

Not only does the game feature a well-stocked number of cars to choose from, and a decent selection of tracks to drive them on, but there are also plenty of different disciplines to master.

Online the game also features the Autolog system that was used in Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, so checking out your friendsí online times is a doddle.

If Top Gear is your favourite show of all time, then Shift 2: Unleashed may well be the type of game youíre looking for. Technically itís about as assured a driving game you can get. If your idea of fun is doing laps on circuits that are eerily familiar to you, in cars that mimic their real-life counterparts in disturbing detail, then this is probably for you.

But if your of the red shell school of driving, and think nothing of barging your opponent off a track only for them to explode into a ball of flames, then you need to overtake this number and keep on truckiní.

three out of five