Asphalt 3D (Nintendo 3DS) - Review by Chris
As one of the biggest development studios in the world, Ubisoft are always ready and prepared to support any new console during its launch period with a host of titles and with the 3DS, it's no different as they're providing something for everyone. Here, we have Asphalt 3D, a port of a previously released game for the iPad and their attempt to provide a staple racing game for those looking for some high octane action from the get go. Unfortunately, as with ports on any console, a host of issues drag down their experience and leave them standing at the lights rather than setting the pace.
Asphalt 3D continues much like earlier entries in the series, providing squarely based racing experiences with no exposition so that you can get into the action as soon as possible. It marries your tried and tested standard racing with elements seen in the likes of the Burnout and Need for Speed franchises, to provide a wider range of races. Mode selection in the game is typical of what you'd expect from any title in the genre, with a strong single player component, time trial, race now and multiplayer options as well as StreetPass options for checking ghost data received from opponents on the street containing course records.
The single player component, a campaign if you will, tasks you with progressively making your way through tougher and tougher cup events, working up from Bronze classification to bigger and better things. Each event comprises of 4 main events which must be completed above a specific finishing position, usually 3rd place, before you can unlock the next classification of events or the fifth bonus event in the classification. As mentioned previously, the game brings in elements of other racing franchises so the events you'll encounter throughout the classifications aren't simply standard races. Elimination, Vigilante and Time Trial events are incorporated to keep things feeling fresh, along with secondary objectives in the events such as reaching top speed without using boost or not crashing into anyone, and the variety definitely helps make the campaign the most enjoyable aspect of the package, even if the driving mechanisms itself aren't of a particularly high standard.
Incorporated throughout the whole of the game, and something which you'll be invest in heavily in the campaign, are RPG like elements where as you complete races and objectives, you'll gain money and experience points. Through gaining the latter, you'll level up and gain access to new vehicles or customisation options which can be incorporated onto any of the game's 40 plus library of cars which you'll then buy with the money who've gained through completing events. Obviously, the higher you finish in a race, the more experience and money you'll receive so there is added incentive to do your best in the races and to even go after the secondary objectives.
From this standpoint, the single player seems good and with multiplayer options allowing up to 6 players to connect in local wireless on any of the tracks, with any of the cars and in any of the race types, there's definitely plenty of content here to keep you going. However, quantity means nothing if the quality isn't there and definitely, the driving mechanics themselves aren't up to scratch leaving the gameplay feeling like a mess and nothing more than a rushed attempt at cash grabbing during the 3DS' launch window. Regardless of the car you're using, at times they feel weighty while at others you'll be able to glide round a seemingly difficult corner with ease, making an included and severely broken drift mechanic and unnecessary and unused incorporation into the game. Everything feels decidedly slow, even when using a maxed out boost meter, opponent AI feels rubber banded at times and cheap positioning of non-opponent vehicles on the road as well as the inexplicable appearance of police vehicles in some races can ruin any minimal chance you have at beating the game's dodgy driving mechanics and cheap AI, resulting in a quick dissolve of any form of fun.
Controlling your vehicles as they speed round the tracks is carried out as expected, with the circle pad being used to steer and the face buttons being used for accelerating and braking. The shoulder buttons come into play as well for making use of your nitro. It's generally a decent controlling experience which is only really marred by issues of collision detection when you try to drift, a mechanism incorporated into the game which you'll never need to use, which will see you struggling to pull your car out of the barriers as the car glitches along them trying to maintain a drift even when you've tried steering out of it and braking.
The game's visuals are a very mixed bag, pairing some fantastic 3D car modelling with some less than stellar environmental design. The car models, all 40 plus models including the likes of premium sports cars like Bugattis and Ferraris as well as more standard cars like Audis and Fords, are the best of what is on offer with all cars being faithfully recreated in every little nuance which has gone into creating their bodywork.
Locations run the gambit from Athens to San Francisco to Rome and many places in between but the most striking thing about them is how poor they look in comparison to vehicles. Bringing the game over from the iPad to the 3DS, the developers haven't taken the opportunity to tighten the graphics in anyway and as such, locations look rather basic, mixing some 2D sprite work for some key architectural features in some of the tracks, such as the Parthenon in Athens, with rather basic 3D work which has been plastered with muddy textures. Confounding the poor visual integrity of the locations are some noticeable and often severe graphical issues, with visuals popping in with high frequency and a frame rate that is all over the place making for an uncomfortable viewing experience even with 3D turned off.
Some basic dance style tracks make up the musical setlist for your play in the game, more often than not failing the match up fully with the actual gameplay which never feels as frantic and high octane as the music would make you think. Sounds effects, particularly the engines, sound good enough and representative of the real deal but by the sounds of things, every car has an infinite gearbox continuing to gear up even when you've hit full speed. Some of the sound effects are grating though, such as the drifting sounds and the announcers voiced.
The 3D effect is put to good use throughout the gameplay, adding a layer of depth that does help in judging the distance to and the depth of a corner aiding you in setting up the optimal line to traverse the corner. However, because of the unstable frame rate, the 3D effect can be jarring and uncomfortable at times, even with the slider at the lowest possible setting. As such, you'll find yourself playing more often than not with the 3D off altogether. StreetPass capabilities are also incorporated, allowing you to swap course records and user created decals between other players you pass in the street.
Rather than play to the strengths of the hardware, Ubisoft and Gameloft have opted to simply port over an average at best iPad game, inflating the price disproportionately, and have done an incredibly shoddy job with it, with issues marring the game in almost all departments making for one of the most uncomfortable racing experiences that any console has seen in a long time. The few saving graces the game has, particularly the extensive single player mode, try their best to offset the issues but even if you attempt to persevere, they'll hound you at every corner.
Pro: Extensive campaign mode, car models look great, StreetPass trading of decals is a nice touch
Con: Plenty of visual issues, headache inducing frame rate, broken gameplay mechanics
Final score: 4