Asphalt Urban GT

December 3, 2004

[floatleft][/floatleft]Gameloft is a veteran in the world of mobile gaming, so it is no surprise that they did some wonderful things with their first title on the DS. Most of their titles are for mobile phones, so the increased screen size and 3D capabilities should help improve the overall quality of games from the mobile developer. If [i]Asphalt Urban GT[/i] is any indication, they are off to a good start.

[i]Asphalt[/i] was previously released for many mobile phones including the N-Gage. Since then, the graphics have been overhauled from 2D to the 3D version that you now see on the DS. Since the game is effectively a port, you won’t see any gimmicky tricks like putting clever mini-games on the second screen. Gameloft went for the most functional and common-sense use of that screen: an in-game map. The second screen also serves for navigational and menu functions when not in a race. Sweet, simple, and effective. Nice job, Gameloft.

[i]Asphalt[/i] sports a nice collection of licensed cars that really do look fantastic. To match up with the variety of cars, there is a nice assortment of cool and unique tracks on which to race. The tracks are located in a nice variety of cities, each with very different visuals to keep racing fresh.

[floatright][/floatright]Gameloft also aimed at keeping the game concept very straightforward, and what they ended up with is a very solid arcade-inspired racing game. You can choose from two main gameplay modes: arcade and evolution. Arcade is packed full with a few different types of races, including instant play, road challenge, free race, time attack, and cop chase. Instant play will just toss you into a random car on a random track with a random type of game, which is nice for those quick, short, on-the-go gaming sessions. Free race is a single race against the AI, while road challenge is a series of races. Time attack pits you against the clock on an empty track. Cop chase places you in a tricked-out police car and sets you loose trying to pull over the escaping cars. With the curvy tracks and less than precise controls, you may find yourself pulling out hair instead of pulling over cars.

The evolution mode is the equivalent to the career or story mode in most games. You are rewarded in cash and cars for your wins, and you have your very own garage to store and upgrade your rides. Car dealers are also on hand to sell you the elusive exotic that you have always wanted. Yes, you can also add a few aesthetic upgrades to your ride.

Controls in [i]Asphalt[/i] are very easy with gas, brake, and boost. Your shoulder buttons change views and allow you to get a rear view of your car. Gameloft has also given you the option of customizing the buttons any way you see fit. Fans of the [i]Burnout[/i] series will notice that your boost is increased as you perform risky moves such as skimming other cars or driving into traffic. N-Gage owners will notice that this time around, Gameloft has been quite stingy with the boost as the race begins. This will up the challenge in the DS version and make you rely more on raw driving skills instead of being a boost hog.

While ignoring the touch screen aside from navigation uses, [i]Asphalt[/i] does make use of the onboard Wi-Fi for multiplayer action. Multiplayer supports up to four players in single race and championship mode and only two players in cop chase mode. The downside to multiplayer is that you can’t limit the class of cars chosen for single races; so someone with a large garage of unlocked cars will have a definite advantage over newer players.

[floatleft][/floatleft][i]Asphalt[/i] is all around a solid game, but there is one glaring flaw: collision detection. I noticed early on that running into palm trees and a few other roadside obstacles did nothing at all. Apparently, these items are not large enough to warrant notice. Collisions with other racers will leave you frustrated as they speed off and you slow down dramatically. Plowing into oncoming traffic sends you spinning off into a cut scene but leaves you back on the road in most cases-sometimes going faster than before the collision. If you can learn to use these cases to your advantage and avoid collisions with other racers, then you will do just fine.

[i]Asphalt[/i] is one of the top games out for the DS right now, and aside from [i]Mario 64 DS[/i] it is my favorite game. If you are a fan of arcade racers, then you have to check out [i]Asphalt Urban GT[/i]. It keeps things simple and straightforward, while delivering a great on-the-go racing experience.

Score: 5/5

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