Gameloft’s got us in a bit of a bind. Their games consistently push the technical limits of the iPhone, with each new iteration in a long-running series like Asphalt looking and sounding better than the one before. But without a bit more creativity, the Asphalt series is starting to feel like it’s stuck in second gear.
The sixth Asphalt game (and the third on the iPhone) is another brilliant technical achievement. The environments are each detailed, colorful, and distinctive, and we detected almost no graphical pop-in or frame rate slowdown when we played on a 4th generation iPod Touch. At the same time, it’s not the huge leap we saw from Asphalt 4 to Asphalt 5.
Jet car stunts.
The gameplay, however, is exactly the same. You control your car with about as much finesse as a bowling ball or a shopping cart full of Jackasses, blasting through tracks at hundreds of miles per hour. Instead of a vehicle, it’s more like driving a comet. Don’t worry about racing lines or slipstreams– general recklessness is close enough for the arcade chaos of Asphalt 6.
Most of the events from the last game are still here, and they range from normal races where you have to place in the top three, to more aggressive variations like “beat ’em all” where you have to cause crashes. Causing opponents to crash is much easier in Asphalt 6, because when your nitro boost maxes out, you become an invincible wrecking ball in the blue-hued Adrenaline mode.
Besides Adrenaline mode, the other notable addition is a star-based system for unlocking new cars, upgrades, and tracks. You’ll get 1-3 stars based on your performance in the race, but two bonus stars are awarded for completing side objectives, like drifting or picking up cash icons. Unfortunately, there’s no way to see how close you are to completing bonus objectives while you’re racing.
A lonely drifter.
What’s really missing from Asphalt 6: Adrenaline is not the graphical flair or well-balanced gameplay progression. Gameloft has found a way to churn out iPhone games that can look as good and feel as viscerally exciting as Hollywood blockbusters. But like those blockbusters, we are sometimes left looking at a product that lacks basic creativity.
With basically the same events as the last game, there’s very little incentive to buy this year’s Asphalt. The sassy female announcer has some clever intros for each stage, but that’s nearly all the human personality in this entire game. The rest is just a world of madcap rocket cars in glistening cityscapes.
Like Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, we want to see the Asphalt series break out of its mold a little bit. Top-of-the-line graphics and online multiplayer are great, but it’s time to introduce some new concepts into the series. The real champion this month in iPhone racing games is Real Racing 2, which leaves Asphalt 6 with the silver medal.