New racing games are a common tradition around the launch of a new system, typically acting as a showpiece for the hardware’s capabilities. I remember first days of the Playstation 1 and how a certain Japanese racing game really showed off the beauty of arcade quality graphics at home. Racing simulators had been available on PC and, home consoles before, but there is just something special about those arcade racers with the outrageous drifting, Euro/J-Pop music, and crazy announcers. Now, we have not one, but two racing games competing for the title of “best racer” on the most powerful portable gaming platform yet. Asphalt 3D is a 3D racer developed by the smartphone gaming company Gameloft, and distributed by Ubisoft.
I must admit, when I heard that a new system’s premiere racer was developed by a smartphone gaming company, I had my doubts. However, since playing the game, I’ve discovered that Asphalt 3D is not nearly as bad as I was first expecting, though it isn’t without its share of flaws.
I would almost classify Asphalt 3D as an arcade/simulator hybrid, in that the controls have an arcade-like feel, but the out-of-track options feel more like a simulator. Asphalt 3D will have you racing all over the world, while obtaining money for car upgrades, and leveling up to receive new and more powerful vehicles. Many of the major automotive companies are represented here such as BMW, Ford, Lamborghini, and Nissan.
Much of the gameplay will have you racing in exotic locations. You will be in the heat of the race while drifting and firing up the nitro to gain some extra speed in order to take down your fellow road warriors. Yes, Asphalt 3D does use a takedown system and you will want to use it as often as you can. Another cool feature is how the game looks when you run on full nitrous. It looks just like the movie Tron, that is, if BMWs and Lamborghini existed in that world. However, not only do you have to worry about the competition, but you also have to pay attention to oncoming traffic. That’s right, the car collision mechanic that has been popular in many past-gen racers is employed here, making you feel like a regular Vin Diesel. Personally, I’m not a fan of oncoming traffic in my racers. It’s like adding land mines to Street Fighter.
This brings me to one of the most glaring flaws of Asphalt 3D: the framerate. The game is always choppy to the point of being unplayable, even with the 3D turned off. I have found that this can affect gameplay, especially if you are trying to avoid head-on collisions with oncoming traffic. At it’s worst you may only get about five frames of animation for a pre-collision warning. Speaking of head-on collisions, when your car smashes into another vehicle, you will see the moment of impact via a dramatic camera angle. However, due to the horrible hit detection and lack of realistic damage on the vehicles, the impact shots look more like two boxes hitting each other. I have found that the technical flaws of Asphalt 3D keep taking me out of the game, hindering my enjoyment.
There is some fun to be had in Asphalt 3D due to it’s plethora of game modes and local multiplayer. If you want to just jump in and race, Free Mode is nice for that quick five minute wait at the local Walmart. However, the depth of the game will be found in Career mode with many game types including Drift, Duel, Cash Attack, and Time Trial.
Overall, Asphalt 3D is a mixed bag: lots of good ideas mixed with bad execution. I feel that this was a missed opportunity. If the game had a few more months of polish, we could have had two great racing showpieces for the 3DS launch.
Review copy provided by publisher.