I’ve been a little late to the party when it comes to mobile gaming, and as someone who’s grown up playing arcade racers on PC and consoles, all the buzz around the Asphalt series had me very intrigued. I enjoyed Asphalt 7, and Asphalt 6 before it, but I saw no evidence of the quality that the series has earned so much praise for. Asphalt 8: Airborne, however, is a class apart not only from its predecessors, but also from the competition.
If you’ve played arcade racers before, there’s very little that you’ll find new or unique in Asphalt 8. As with previous games in the series, it features a bunch of licensed cars that you can customise and race around fictional tracks set in locations like Iceland, Barcelona, Venice, London and Nevada. It’s a nice selection of cars and tracks, and I was seriously impressed by some of the game’s set pieces, which would put Split Second to shame. Think taking off a ramp and flying through the launchpad of a spacecraft just as its taking off. I ended up replaying some events just so I could experience the set pieces again.
Keeping the car under control at high speed using the tilt controls on iPad is finally manageable.
Gameplay is all-out arcade, but the controls are vastly improved. Keeping the car under control at high speed using tilt controls on the iPad is finally manageable. The drift mechanic works better than before as well, although on odd occasions, you’ll notice your car slow down much more during a drift than it should. Boost is always in ready supply. Aside from it being strewn around the track for you to pick up, you’ll also earn boost for drifts, drafting, jumps, barrel rolls, takedowns and pretty much everything other than wrecking your car.
Takedowns are again a big feature, and you’re rewarded with nitro for taking out your opponents. In certain races, takedowns will also earn you extra stars, which help unlock more races. There’s also the takedown event, of course, where your sole purpose is to take out as many cars as possible in the stipulated time. Takedowns work well too and are reminiscent of Burnout, although I’m not too fond of the cinematic slow-mo camera angle that pulls you out of your race and then abruptly throws you back in, often into a barrier or on-coming traffic.
A lot of what’s in Asphalt 8 has been there in the series for a while, but it’s all been fine-tuned to the point where it’s more fun than ever before.
As I said before, a lot of what’s in Asphalt 8 has been there in the series for a while, but it’s all been fine-tuned to the point where it’s more fun than ever before. The track layouts are a perfect example. In earlier games, the detours and alternate routes really didn’t add much. Here though, there are tactics involved. You can take a more straightforward route with more traffic and fewer options to pick up boost, or a bit of a winding road that also throws up lots of jumps. Tracks also feature more elevation than ever before, and you’ll often find two paths – high and low – running side by side. Another improvement is in the AI. Previous games were notorious for AI rubberbanding and it’s nice to see Gameloft get rid of it in Asphalt 8, or at least make it less obvious.
With all major mobile franchises now moving to free-to-play, Asphalt has stuck to its guns. At Rs 55, you get the full game, and while everything can be unlocked faster by paying real money, in-app purchases aren’t forced and the game lets you earn stars and in-game cash to progress. The career is broken up into eight seasons, each with a bunch of events across the Classic, Elimination, Takedown, Infected and Gate Drift types. You earn stars for winning races and achieving certain event-specific objectives. Earn enough and you’ll unlock the next season. You also earn cash for performing well and for in-race activities like drifting, jumps and barrel rolls. These let you buy more cars or upgrade the ones you already own.
For a game that costs Rs 55, Asphalt 8 boasts of some seriously high production values.
The World Series mode is Asphalt 8’s online multiplayer component. It’s rather simple – you enter a lobby and proceed to vote on a track and event type. You’ll earn XP for race wins, which will in turn help you level up. The net code is quite good and there was no visible lag whatsoever. Online multiplayer is also a nice way to check out the tracks you haven’t yet unlocked in Career mode. For a game that costs Rs 55, Asphalt 8 boasts of some seriously high production values. The detail in the cars and the environments is impressive and aside from a few framerate issues during pre-race cutscenes, the game ran flawlessly on my iPad 3 even during some of the grand set pieces.
Asphalt 8: Airborne is the most impressive racing game I’ve played yet on mobile. Gameloft gets a lot of flak for ripping off other games and churning out sequel after sequel, and a lot of that is justified, but they deserve credit when it’s due. A serious amount of effort has gone into Asphalt 8, and from the improved controls and track layouts to the crisp visuals and stunning set pieces, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more entertaining racing game for your iOS or Android device. At Rs 55, it’s a steal.