The key to victory is to kick some serious asphalt
Wow, Asphalt 8: Airborne. Gameloft first introduced the series back in 2004, so that's almost one game per year in the series, making it something of an annual release for the company along the lines of some of Electronic Arts' library.
This time out, however, the key differentiation is the new addition of aerial stunts "powered by a brand new physics engine." It's not quite as revolutionary as it sounds, though, as flying off marked ramps and doing twists and turns in mid-air feels just about like any other game to ever allow your wheels to leave the ground. That doesn't make it unwelcome by any means: it just means that Asphalt 8 is catching up to some other titles in that regard.
Asphalt 8's graphics are all-around gorgeous, rendering 47 licensed cars with a stunning level of detail. Similarly, the 9 courses spread across the globe, such as Nevada and Tokyo, are a pleasure to look at; it's just a shame you have to speed through them so quickly to reach the finish line. Throw in some licensed music from Bloc Party, Mutemath, and the Crystal Method, and you have an experience which appeals to the eyes as well as the ears.
The actual racing, though, was a little bit hit and miss. Drifting with the brake button just never felt right, due in no small part to that brake actually bringing you to a complete stop. As a result, we seldom used it, though proper mastery might have helped some of the time. Conversely, we were thrilled to find that one of our favorite tactics from the Burnout games-- the Takedown-- works quite well in this, complete with slow-motion wreckage, and allowing us to use alternate means of taking the lead (is there any thrill like nitro-boosting your way through another car like a spear? We think not).
At first, the controls were a bit of a sticking point, but that was only the default tilt controls. Fortunately, there are four control schemes to choose from, and you can probably find one that works well for you. Personally, we preferred the option which allows you to tap the screen to turn left or right, with the brake and nitro triggered by specific buttons at the bottom of each side of the screen, rather than the unmarked screen sides themselves.
Asphalt 8: Airborne's numerous features and modes, including multiplayer, help round out this package. It's an easy recommendation for anyone who likes their racers a little more realistic than a cartoon kart racer, but with a healthy dose of over-the-top arcade action.
- Gorgeous graphics. Lots of cars and customization options. Multiple control schemes. Takedowns!
- Pulling off drifts doesn't quite feel right, at least if you're used to some other racing games. Can be tough to see oncoming traffic, particularly when they don't have their lights on at night (safety first!).