As mentioned in my review of Moto chaser, there is a good range of racers on the iPhone. They all have their strong points, but none have quite delivered a full on experience as seen on the gaming big boys like the PS3 and Xbox 360.
Step up Asphalt 4: Elite Racing, produced by gameloft and available here for $9.99 (£5.99).
Asphalt 4 is an arcade style racer in the same vein as the Burnout series, made famous on the PS2. So if you love Burnout, then you may want to skip this review and head straight over to the App store and pick this game up. The object of the game is to win races by hook or by crook and to accumulate as much money as you can. All the while unlocking new vehicles, maps and game types.
The game features a good range of cars, from a Mini Cooper S, BMW M3, Nissan Skyline, Mercedes CLK and all the way up to the best and most expensive car, the Bugatti Veyron. Also available are a selection of Bikes from the likes of Ducatti and Kawasaki. You start with only a few cars unlocked, but as you progress and earn more money, more cars become available. Money also allows you to upgrade your car with a range of tuning options including car colour, rims and tyres, engine types, brakes, shocks and even weight modifiers. Some are mearly material but most change the way your car handles.
Once you have selected your car you can choose where you want to race and what type of race you want to enter. Places such as Rome, Montecarlo, LA, New York, Paris and Shanghai are available for a range of gameplay types. ‘Race’ sees you battling it out in a 3 lap street race, where you must by place no less than 3rd to progress. ‘Beat’em all’ requires you to take out as many opponents as possible within 3 laps, all the while avoiding the police (or taking them out too!). ‘Duel’ is a head to head where winning is the only option any which way you can. ‘Cop chase’ sees the shoe on the other foot, where you must chase down the leader and take them out before the finish line. And finally in ‘Cash attack’ you must earn as much money as you can by any means necessary.
Once in a race you are placed at the back and must make your way up the ranks in a similar way to Ridge Racer. To pass opponents you must perform nitro boosts, and once you have gained on them you can either pass straight by or take them out by either boosting in to them or driving them into walls, cars or off the road. Taking them out has its benefits as it gives you cash and also extra boosts. However, both of these are also available as pick ups along the road. Once you have reached the required objectives and laps, you can move on to unlock new cars, places and race types. The objective is to become the ultimate VIP in racing.
The controls for Asphalt are not the best out there, but they do feature 3 custom options. You can steer by touching on the left and right sides of the touch screen and boost is activated by hitting the boost icon next to the speedometer. Another touch option features a small virtual steering wheel which you can turn by touching it and dragging it left or right. The best of these options is tilt control, simply tilt the iphone left or right and your car will do the same. Flick the iphone forward and you will boost. You can also drift by flicking either left or right while in a turn, and steadily steering in and out of the turn will hold your drift. Drifting can also be done with the other control methods, but isn’t as responsive. All modes feature automatic acceleration and braking is pulled off by hitting the red button near the boost button, but you’ll rarely need it.
Having these different control types is a nice touch but Asphalt is a master of none. Other racing games out there feature better tilt control, such as GTS World Racing. However, the control doesn’t cripple the game, it’s just that it could be improved.
This game really shines in its presentation through both its graphics and sound. It’s the first racer to look like a fully fledged console game (which maybe is why it’s release was pushed back to add the extra polish). The full motion video intro, accompanied by a Linkin Park-esque musical number, lets you know that this is going to be no slouch in the sound & visuals department. Once in, you are presented with a slick touch interface allowing you to browse your garage of cars in 3D by simply flicking from left to right with your finger. You can also view your cars from any angle by spinning them in 3D. All menu items are presented with easy to identify labels, and navigation is simple, which is either scroll or tap based through touch. The in game graphics feature full 3D cars and tracks with good polygon counts and textures. There was a worry that Asphalt would be a port of the other mobile versions which feature presentation in line with 16bit era of racers like chase HQ and outrun, albeit with some 3D upgrades. But thankfully the iPhone version looks way better and is the first racing game on the iphone that make you feel like you are racing in a real, more engrossing, working world. It’s not all great though. There is some noticeable slowdown during races, with the frame rate taking a hit in places. It’s not as smooth as GTS for instance, but then again Asphalt features far more detail in both environments and car models, so some slowdown is expected. Also there are some instances where cars will pass through other objects. Again, like the controls, the slowdown isn’t a game killer. But lets hope in future updates these negatives can be improved upon.
Onto the sound, and as mentioned earlier, the game features some great music. What’s nice is there is a main signature piece that features in FMV intro, and continues into the the main menu and in some races, but each time it is subtly different through sound and arrangement. Most music is in an electro/rock fusion style, but some races have other music that fit with the environment such as Latino inspired music in San Paulo etc. Sound effects are strong too, with good use of engine noise and boost effects. There is some voice work as well, counting you down to the start or notifying you of your final position.
Overall this is a great racing game, the best package so far offering many play styles, tracks and cars. It really is a console experience in miniature.