You could perhaps be forgiven for having not really heard of the Asphalt series before, with much of its existence dominating iOS and Android devices. However, it has also spawned a number of critically well-received titles across both the Nintendo DS and PSP platforms, and it would seem that developer Gameloft are certainly aiming to replicate some of the success for the launch of the Nintendo 3DS.
Asphalt 3D, as it is so aptly called, marks the series’ debut on Nintendo’s latest handheld, and even eagerly revving its engine alongside Namco Bandai’s Ridge Racer 3D amidst the launch line-up, it still has enough individuality to differentiate itself from its immediate direct competitor.
At first glance the game can easily be mistaken for a more hardcore driving simulator, featuring over 40 licensed vehicles ranging from the stalwart Mini Cooper to the classy Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport. There is an impressive array of car manufacturers on show here – Nissan, Ford, Tesla, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lamborghini to name but a few. Yet under such an extravagant bonnet, there is a far light-hearted gameplay experience on show.
Heading straight into Career mode, you’ll first have to prove your worth through the number of competitive leagues on offer, beginning with the pitifully named Copper League but eventually gravitating to the dizzy heights of the Asphalt Ultimate Trophy League. Participating in each will allow you to begin to not only earn money but to also accumulate XP which in turn unlocks access to higher-end cars, upgrades, sponsors and decals for you to purchase.
Ensuring that you’ll never get bored, Asphalt 3D also serves up a selection of game types to challenge you, incorporating the following: Race, Time Trial, Leader of the Pack, High-Speed Chase, Vigilante, Cash Attack, Drift, and Duel. I imagine you’ll be able to guess the aim of each from their name, especially with a few standard modes in the mix, but it is those that allow Asphalt 3D to elevate itself away from these that allow it the most justice.
High-Speed Chase, for example, sees you flee from pursuing police cars, whereas Vigilante flips this, seeing you chase down perpetrators and ram them off the road. Duel, on the other hand, pits you against one other competitor who’ll use dirty tactics to aim to maintain the lead.
You’re also able to sign up with Sponsors as your career progresses, which is a nice touch. Each offers their own benefits, with the Royal Purple Synthetic Oil company boosting the quality of your car’s handling and acceleration, whereas Jamaica Nitro Racing extends your boost bar by +20%. A series of in-game Achievements also add a certain level of replayability, although I can’t imagine that many will be that dedicated in regards to completing them all – even if the majority are seemingly quite easy.
Car handling is light, yet well-suited to the core gameplay which sees you whizz your way around tracks themed upon a selection of seventeen worldwide locations. Hovering throughout each track are three types of floating power-ups: N20, Money, and Repair. N20, predictably, is your boost, with each collected power-up filling a metre found in the corner of the screen, with the player able to use it at whichever point they deem necessary. Money gives you a cash boost to your winnings, whereas Repair is perhaps the most useless. Cars hardly get damaged, and such power-ups, according to the developer, remove “scratches, dings, dents, and assorted metallic boo-boos from your vehicle.” If you can get such damage, I either never saw it or it was hardly noticeable.
Reminiscent of the Burnout series, you are also able to knock your opponents into the side of the track, causing them to be propelled into oblivion and temporarily play catch-up with their competitors as they wait to momentarily respawn. It’s a nice touch, but the collision detection leaves much to be desired, with cars literally bouncing off each other as if the mechanic had been sorely influenced by fairground dodgems.
I guess it reflects the arcade-style of the game, yet you’d expect to be more accustomed to a more gritty set-up. Literally forcing against your competitors as fear sparks in their eyes before they’re mercilessly crushed against the barrier… too far? What has been implemented works well enough, but it could’ve been far better.
Controls are fairly simplistic, with A and B being used to accelerate and brake respectively. Either the Circle Pad or D-pad can be used for steering, which in itself is particularly light in design, with the N2O Boost able to be utilised with either the X, Y and R button dependant on what you find most comfortable.
Competitive online multiplayer is also absent with only local on offer, allowing six players to race against each other with one acting as the host. You’ll be able to select your vehicle, whereas the host has the added luxury of being able to choose which track you’ll soar around.
More thought, however, has been placed in the utilisation of the Nintendo 3DS’ StreetPass functionality, allowing players to earn in-game cash for any other Asphalt fans that they meet if their Career XP is higher. In addition, you’ll also be able to swap Ghost data, as well as Viral Ranking, Ghost and PayTable data.
Asphalt 3D in itself is quite solid, offering a racing experience that differs to that provided by Ridge Racer 3D. However the areas it falls down relate to technicalities, with the graphics never quite seeming on par. Whilst the 3D effect works especially well, much of the graphical prowess seems to have been dedicated to the cars rather than that of the surrounding environments. Incredibly bland, there are many occasions where the backdrops of each track will pop-up in places making for a rather jarring experience. Cars fantastic. Tracks not so much.
Despite such issues, Asphalt 3D shouldn’t be purely dismissed. Its Career mode, offering perhaps more depth than its launch competitor, is a blast to play through, especially with the variety of game types that continually differentiate your experience with varying levels of success. Not necessarily the strongest of the launch line-up, but certainly one that has plenty of content to keep you busy for a long while.