Asphalt Urban GT (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew



In Europe, Asphalt Urban is your first chance to get behind the wheel on your DS although there are other titles due. The US already has Ridge Racer with the coming months promising Mario Kart, Need for Speed and Cocoto Kart Racer. For now though, this is it. We were a bit concerned that it was developed by Gameloft, who are not primarily a GBA or DS studio and, who are in fact considerably better known for their mobile phone games. Bought out by Ubi Soft late last year Gameloft have also produced a version of this game for Nokia's N-Gage and while they are famous for producing visually appealing products your average cell phone game isn?t nearly as complex as a console game. Complexity though is a highly desirable feature for a DS game, as is how well it handles at speed, so how did it fare in our test-drive?


As you'd expect with modern racers there's more than one way to tackle the action. Gamers have become far more sophisticated in their needs since the likes of Out Run, so today a game which simply offers the challenge of getting from 'A' to 'B' mode and finishing first is no longer enough. Gameloft are clearly aware of this so even the front end offers three very different options: Arcade, Evolution and Multiplayer. The Arcade is the quick fix section allowing you to jump behind the wheel in a number of different ways. These include everything from a single random race to a series of five but you can also indulge in an against the clock mode and even a cop chase where you must pursue and 'lock' onto a number of other cars in 2 minutes or under.

If you are looking for a more immersive experience then you'll want the Evolution Mode. This takes in a number of Championships featuring a variety of car classes. It's not just about racing either as winning allows you to trade cars and also fine-tune them in your garage. Next up is the Multiplayer but I must warn you you'll require another copy of the game before even considering this. To be honest this is not a gaming highlight especially as there are considerable gaps that hamper your enjoyment of it. For example the first option removes all other AI cars from the road but it doesn?t inform the other players which cars have been selected (you'll have tell your friends yourself) so you can end up with some incredibly unfair races. The Championship mode is a little more even as players are only allowed to choose from a pre-determined class of car but it does beg the question why both are available in the first place. Finally there's the Cop Chase option which again is a little random because you're never quite sure who you'll be until you start playing and with little in the way of a points system this mode is more frustrating than satisfying.


Considering that this is a DS title almost everything is controlled by traditional means (i.e. buttons) but given that the most important aspect of a racer is handling we're quite happy that the developers stuck to a tried and tested formula as opposed to Ridge Racer?s more experimental one. This is an arcade racer in every sense of the word so not only do you not suffer any damage but also almost every collision will result in your car spinning around and losing speed. Another favoured move in racers, which has also been included here, is the 'drift', which can give you a distinct advantage once mastered. Probably the most disappointing aspect of Asphalt Urban though is that most of the vehicles at your disposal don't handle that differently so other than speed and acceleration it's difficult to set them apart.


Initially Asphalt Urban is a visual treat and so you?ll probably be admiring the scenery for your first couple of plays whilst still trying to keep on the road. However on closer inspection you'll see that the whole thing is more like a budget film set with many roadside objects such as trees and lights simply painted on flat boards rather than being true 3D representations of the real thing. This was clearly a development decision as this minor compromise does mean that the frame rate speeds along with little evidence of slow down regardless of how much is going on. The cars appear a lot more solid and there are a number of licensed vehicles to choose ranging from a rather cumbersome Hummer to top of the range sports cars. There has also been a fair amount of attention given to the menu systems, which are incredibly easy to navigate whether you just want a quick fix or to indulge in one of the more immersive modes.


Given the rather questionable compositions that the GBA has offered up over the years, the audio in Asphalt Urban is something of a surprise. The music suits the racing style action perfectly and if you have a favourite tune the 'jukebox' section allows you to select your preferred race soundtrack. The sound effects, whilst not as impressive still manage to replicate the sound of a car engine sufficiently albeit in the arcade environment.

Dual screen

Outside of selecting the odd menu (which can be done with the buttons) there's no interaction at all with the touch screen and its only use here is to display race maps. It?s very useful but hardly interactive.

Final comments

As we stated in the beginning of the review this is the only DS racer out in Europe at the moment and for that reason alone it's difficult to compare it to anything else. It?s clearly better looking than any GBA 3D racer but not nearly as good in the handling department and without doubt firmly on the arcade side of things. There's a lot of gameplay for your money though and, should you choose to, you could be playing Asphalt Urban for some time and that's without even trying the wireless multiplayer made. In the end though this DS launch title is something of a cosmetic exercise because while it looks very pretty it's not nearly as interactive or immersive as it could be mostly due to the rigid track design and complete omission of short cuts or alternative routes. In fact the whole thing feels a little rushed. The developers have almost ignored the touch screen completely except for some minor menu decisions. That said there's still a great illusion of speed thanks to the competent game engine allowing an impressive 60fps and until the next batch of racers comes along this is a solid demonstration of the type of visuals the DS can handle.

Pro: Looks Great.
Con: Minimal Touch Screen Use.
Final score: 6.5


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Boxart of Asphalt Urban GT (Nintendo DS)
Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: Racing
Developer: Gameloft / Ubi Soft
Publisher: Ubi Soft