I love a good racing game. My introduction to the PS2 was Gran Turismo 4, and I was so hooked on Need For Speed that it might as well have been meth. For a while, I purchased every Need For Speed game they released and still have a few. There’s nothing like a good arcade racer.
That’s one of the reasons I was really excited to check out Asphalt 8: Airborne. If Asphalt can be easily described as anything, we’ll call it the mobile Burnout that EA wishes it knew how to make. If you’re like me and believe that great racing games rarely ask you to hit the brakes, keep reading after the break to find out why you need to do yourself a favour and pick Asphalt 8 up.
Pretty Car Wrecks
First of all, Asphalt 8 is gorgeous. This is comparable to what we were seeing on consoles just a few years ago. There’s stunning detail work and mind-boggling particle effects. Watching a car wreck is a particular joy, especially when you can see shards of glass flying everywhere on a high-resolution display.
The game looks beautiful.
Of course, it’s not just the particle physics that are great. Blur effects are handled nicely, and all the car models are particularly well rendered. There’s very little here that can’t be described in superlatives. The environments change frequently, with one early race in Nevada going from sunny Nevada skies to cold and snowy winters in the middle of a lap. (I’ve never been to Nevada, and I doubted this was an accurate representation, but then I remembered I was playing an arcade game with cars doing barrel rolls at 250km/hour.)
I was pretty excited to see the relatively-recent Tesla Model S in the game.
The all-important car models are also superbly rendered. They look completely and utterly classy. It’s fantastic. And the cars that were included are awesome. I was impressed that they went so far as to include the Tesla Model S as an entry-level car. It shows that they’re not just recycling older models, but that they’re interested in including up-to-date vehicles in the game wherever they can.
Racing is similar to older games in the series. If you’ve never played Asphalt, it’s super easy to learn. Your car automatically accelerates. Tapping on the bottom left of the screen hits the brake, which you can use to drift around tight corners and such for extra points (and points will give you NOS). NOS is activated by tapping the right side of the screen. You’ll just start flying.
There are lots of ways to keep track of your stats in every game mode.
There’s lots of modes to play and there’s also a fantastic, easy-to-use multiplayer racing mode that’s worth trying out. Your class of car is automatically put into a race with other vehicles in its class, so you don’t have to worry about being unfairly placed with users who have faster cars.
That being said, although some people are great drivers, the AI in Career mode is nothing to sneeze at. My competing drivers were pretty aggressive, trying to use oncoming traffic to crash me, Burnout-style, and put me more behind. I was surprised by the aggressive tactics of one driver, who had sidled up next to me and started trying to isolate me onto the right side of the road. Before long, I realized my opposition had seen a divider probably 200 metres ahead and wanted to force me into it.
The AI is pretty competitive, as you can see by the times here.
Needless to say, I got nice and aggressive back. I crashed the AI’s vehicle. I was pretty proud.
The point is that the game itself has a relatively intelligent AI that’s not likely to generate too many complaints. Beyond that, Asphalt 8 also introduces some new features that go along with Airborne as a title. You can now fly off jumps and do barrel rolls, getting massive points for those along the way.
Asphalt 8 gets you literally airborne.
Some circuits get interesting designs as a result, with one racing taking place while a space shuttle is lifting off. The push of air from around the shuttle means that you’re floating for an extended period of time. You’ll feel like you’re flying as you navigate the in-air barriers of the space shuttle station and try and see your way through the smoke of the takeoff. It’s a great map, but it’s particularly stunning on a mobile device.
While we’re on that topic, it’s worth mentioning that the game was absolutely flawless on my Nexus 4. I never experienced any slowdown or jitters, and it felt like everything was made for my device. That being said, the screen did feel cramped, so I gave it a shot on my Nexus 7.
This is a game that really sings on a tablet. I have the first-generation N7, and I experienced a little lag at the end of a race when a car beside me crashed and sent several barricades flying into my windshield as I crossed the finish line. That being said, that was a lot of computational work for my little tablet’s older processor, and I’m not surprised it started to slow down. But the race was also over, so what difference did it make? The bottom line: If you’re using a relatively new device, Asphalt 8: Airborne is going to work beautifully.
There are in-app purchases, but I didn’t find them too invasive.
I also want to take a moment to mention the on-screen menus. Thankfully, the in-app purchases aren’t incredibly invasive — although they are obvious. It’s easy to take your game online and see who in your friends lists are playing, although I declined to do that for privacy reasons. The menus themselves are a little bloated and garish, but you’re not spending a lot of time there. You spend a lot of time racing, and that’s where it really counts.
Singing Asphalt’s Praises
If there’s one thing I love about Asphalt, it’s that this is a no-nonsense racing game meant to get you on the track and playing with other people as quickly as possible. It’s gorgeous and high-octane, and buckets of fun, but it feels like the games I used to play when I was younger. There’s no story, there isn’t much to read, and it’s just meant to be a great time-waster.
At the end of the day, it’s a lot more pure than most of the other racing games that the big studios are putting out. Like I quipped earlier, I think it’s everything EA wishes they could be making with Burnout for mobile devices. It’s a game that encourages all sorts of devilish driving and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s going to be harder to find a better time than Asphalt 8 for 99 cents.