To be honest we could just leave up the headline, show you the screenshots and leave you to it. The second game was cutting edge at the time, both graphically and physically. Released when Colin was showered in gold with the seemingly magic Ford Focus. As if reacting to the change in teams, 11 other cars can also be driven in the special stages, and they are unlocked as you succeed or can be used for practice. Like TOCA, more cars are available as you get better.

If you want to just play the game, gears can be left to automatic, and once you're comfortable with that or if you're an F1 games veteran, you can then change over to manual. That's only after you've mastered control of the car and can stop it barrel rolling or jumping off into the river. We wouldn't recommend playing this way if your last game was GTA 3- or even sister title TOCA Race Driver.

With time and practice the game's as rewarding as its stock car stable mate with not a story in sight. Championship mode takes you through eight countries with varying terrain, and elements such as dust dirt or snow will end up realistically coating the car and changing the handling characteristics. Aside from 2D spectators (who are supposed to be flying past you at speeds to quick to notice) the six month delay from the release of the console version has gone into making this game exploit modern graphics card capabilities- and just like TOCA, almost everything that could fly off a car when you crash, does so- spoilers, bonnets, bumpers, smashed windows and damaged or amputated wheels (with one spare tyre if you get a puncture) and as great as it looks, it costs you vital seconds.

Mirroring Channel 4's excellent TV coverage, the practice runs where you get accustomed to the car are replicated, but three stages are then sequential with no breaks when you decide on the settings and then against another driver at the end of the second “day”- so you can't smash up the car as if it were just another practice. Better driving means better times.

As excellent as it looks and the physics model handles, the only downside is the game taking up 3.5GB of disk space and shipping on three CDs rather than a DVD. After everything else is so polished, having to waste time swapping CDs on install smacks of pandering to a decreasing majority.

There's a two player option and two more players can then take turns as long as you have USB controllers for the other three, but it'll still be divided into turns. Leaving out full-blown multiplayer is skimming a little and it depends just how quickly part 4 turns up. Hopefully this isn't the start of a trend by Codemasters.

Verdict

The game's great but if you're interested in any kind of online multiplayer experience you'll have to stick to TOCA. Annual updates in the EA mode, as great looking as they're guaranteed to be, need to be fully featured.