The first game I ever bought on the original DS was Asphalt 2: Urban GT, because I wanted to play a 3D, handheld racing game. It wasn't amazing, but I can still remember playing it in bed at 1am after getting home from the midnight launch. It holds a special place in my heart as the first game I owned on a beloved console. If Asphalt 3D was the only game I bought at 3DS' launch, it would hold an equally special place. In my bin.
It's a racing game, and a moderately difficult one at that. The AI drivers can see the same shortcuts as you and they put up a decent fight, boosting when they can and trying to knock you off the road. You can attract the attention of the cops who get super aggressive (but just turn into takedown fodder… sorry, 'knockdown' fodder – it's totally non-copyright infringing) and there are health, cash and nitro pick-ups strewn along the road.
Above: Slam into him at speed and run him into the wall for a Takedown. Dammit, sorry, KNOCKDOWN. My bad
If you refrain from boosting until your bar is full, you can activate hyperspeed boost. This turns the sky dark and makes neon lines appear at the sides of the track – a bit like late night bowling at the Hollywood Bowl, if you've ever tried that. It's a reasonably pretty effect and also allows you to eliminate opponents with one hit.
There are 'Knockdown' vigilante challenges, drift challenges (where you race the usual tracks but sliding as much as possible) and elimination events where you mustn't be last. Standard stuff, but there is undoubted enjoyment to be had from drifting around a long corner, OutRun 2-style. The sensation of speed looks good when the frame rate's behaving itself, and having real-time 'X seconds behind' stats on the touch-screen is neat.
Sounds alright, doesn't it? It isn't. Firstly, it was born an iPhone game, although the content's changed slightly from Asphalt 6. And the iOS versions look better, run better and cost a fraction of the price. £2.99 on iPhone, RRP of… really? £39.99? GAME is selling it for £34.99, but still, that's an absolute joke. Even with the 3D switched off, the frame-rate and angular scenery are reminiscent of the N64.
Above: This is a press shot. Looks nice, doesn't it? Don't be fooled... look at the next one
To its credit, the car models are nicely detailed. But that's where the praise has to end. The iOS version's pleasantly solid collisions are gone as cars repeatedly glitch through each other during crashes. Also gone are the iOS version's real-time environment-mapped bodywork reflections - on 3DS the bodywork sheen is just an unchanging graphic pretending to be a reflection. Jumps across rooftops slow the game to a crawl (before the car glitches through a wall and slides around before realising the impossibility of its own momentum vs an immovable object and crashes out) and the less said about the sound the better.
Actually, that last bit isn't true. I have to tell you about the sound. While you're accelerating, the engine sounds fine. First gear, second gear, third gear, fourth… by now we're going along nicely. Fifth gear smoothly engages and still the engine note rises. Sixth, seventh – wow, this is a sports gearbox and no mistake. Wait… eighth gear? Ninth?
When you're up to 'fourteenth' gear and still going, you know there's something wrong. I've heard games change engine notes before to maintain aural variety in long periods of top speed (Downforce on PS2 did this superbly), but this takes the biscuit.
Above: We don't have 3DS grabbing facilities yet, but this photo of the screen illustrates the basic scenery
As you race, you win upgrades and XP, which at least gives you some incentive to do better as it lets you level up quicker. Higher levels let you race better cars, but you'll have some decent ones after an hour or so anyway so it's of little consequence. It really isn't the kind of game where carefully tuning set-ups will make any real difference to the gameplay.
So what can I say in summary? It's a £39.99 inferior remix of a £2.99 iPhone game with bad sound, bad graphics and shockingly slapdash collision logic. Not only is it the worst game of the 3DS' launch line-up, it's a contender for the title of 'worst launch game of all time'. Worse than Pen Pen. Worse than Tama. Worse even than Altered Beast. Do I really need to say it? Avoid.
25 Mar, 2011