Asphalt 5, the sequel to an excellent arcade racer, is now available on the App Store. Check out this gameplay video and intro trailer and take it from us: if you like knocking into cars and barreling down city streets without any regard for the posted speed limit, this is probably the game for you.
If you’re a fan of all things four-wheeled, you may have noticed that your hobby is somewhat well catered for on the iPhone lately. With EA’s Need For Speed, Namco’s Ridge Racer and Gameloft’s Asphalt 5 all competing for market space, the race for the front of the grid is as packed as it’s ever been.
But why on the iPhone, and why now? According to Gameloft, the App Store has always been the perfect platform for throttle happy racers, and developers are now able to focus on the quality of such titles rather than making them work in the first place.
‘Driving games are a natural fit for the iPhone and iPod Touch because of the accelerometer and touch features,’ Gameloft spokesperson Sanette Chao told us. The studio’s Asphalt 5 recently won accolades from sites across the board, including a 3 out of 4 from Slide to Play.
‘The success of Asphalt 5 on the App Store essentially comes down to really great production values. The franchise has evolved over the years and we have fine-tuned it with every version,’ Chao added. The Asphalt franchise now faces its toughest test with heavyweight series from EA and Namco now entering the scene.
Rather than being a concrete sign of gaming maturing on iPhone, some believe the “big boys” are actually using the likes of Ridge Racer and Need for Speed as a bit of a test designed to figure out just who is playing iPhone games.
‘I don’t think there’s any specific event which has made people go ‘right, now’s the time for racing games on iPhone’,’ games industry expert Rob Fahey told us. ‘I mean, it’s reflective of an overall growing confidence in the publisher market regarding iPhone. Publishers are increasingly willing to move their big franchises to the platform and even to invest fairly significantly in doing so, but that’s a movement that’s in no way limited to racing games.’
Fahey believes the appearance of established console franchises is more a result of traditional publishers trying to get a handle on just what kinds of classic games an iPhone audience will take to.
‘Old, established, respected brands like Civilization and Space Invaders have done very well,’ Fahey said. ‘It’ll be interesting to see how newer brands like Ridge Racer and Need for Speed, which have traditionally sold themselves on graphics and spectacle, will stack up on a platform where consumers seem to value very different things.
‘I guess what it boils down to is that the iPhone is so new that we’re really not all that sure who is buying games on it. The ‘iPhone consumer’ is a really nebulous concept– it’s grown past the early adopter stage now, but app purchasers are still probably broadly tech-savvy consumers. Beyond that, we just don’t know. In truth, the arrival of stuff like Ridge Racer and Need for Speed is going to be important in establishing some idea of what brands actually mean in this market.’
So, while Gameloft’s Asphalt, an established force in the mobile market, was always likely to make its mark on iPhone, the performance of its rivals over the next few months could well determine just how much competition it has over the next couple of years. Let us know in the comments: Are you buying any or all of these racing games?
For some reason, nitro boosts don’t seem to come standard anymore. Also, we don’t recall ever bouncing off of a restaurant patio or iron railing like our car was made of flubber. Despite its wacky physics and some awfully unbalanced Elimination rounds, Asphalt 5 is a pretty good arcade racer that might hold its own against the next Need for Speed game, especially with some tweaks.
The things we loved about Asphalt 4 are all back: You’ve got a dozen locations, each with four different events. These can include normal races, one-on-one duels, and races where the real goal is to power-slide a lot, or rack up money by causing damage or driving dangerously close to traffic. We had fun with these modes, especially since the tilt controls are spot-on and the excellent graphics fly by at a nice frame rate. Asphalt 5 looks much, much nicer than Asphalt 4.
Lead, follow, or get out of the way.
However, we stalled when it came to the Elimination modes. Unlike in Asphalt 4, it’s now too tough to knock out an opponent’s car, and they’ll stay the heck away from you when you come charging. You often have to get seven knockouts in three laps, and most of the time it’s a struggle just to get within striking distance. In Asphalt 4, racking up eliminations was like knocking down pins with a bowling ball, but here, it’s terribly frustrating.
After beating every other mode that was available to us, we were forced to play these Elimination rounds to unlock the rest of the game. With as much variety as Asphalt 5 contains, you shouldn’t be forced to beat just one type of race to advance, but that’s exactly what happened. We have trouble imagining expert racing fans perfecting the art of the Asphalt 5 takedown, and casual gamers will definitely feel cheated by the difficulty.
Watch out, donorcycle!
The rest of our complaints about Asphalt 5 are minor. The female companions you gain access to are now real-life models, who coo at the camera while standing in front of a cheesy green-screen and CG car. It feels a bit juvenile, even for a racing videogame. Asphalt 5 also has no rear-view mirror for tracking your foes. Plus, when you’re tuning up your new cars, you have to individually select each component every time, when a “buy all” option would have made more sense.
We can forgive Asphalt 5’s super bouncy, mega-arcadey physics. After all, we liked that about the last one. And the graphics are simply gorgeous this time around. But the overwhelming difficulty for just one type of mode (when the others are not too challenging at all) threw us off. There’s a lot of fun to be had in here if you can figure out the trick to beating the Elimination events, but we just worry that not enough players will get to enjoy the entire game.