In Depth Review: Asphalt: Urban GT [NDS]
Yet, if I knew any better, the game I would have picked up in that J&R a few months ago wouldn't have been Ridge Racer DS. It would have been this game.
It all comes down to play control. Cars are all responsive. Period. In Ridge Racer DS, I accepted and almost compromised for the fact that the controls were a bit too loosey goosey for the given narrow track design and the overall speed of driving. But in Asphalt, I don't have to compromise for anything. The roads are wide enough to provide for smooth sailing, such that the tight controls work well with the scheme of things. Yet, they're still challenging and not completely devoid of obstacles as you'll see other cars moving with you, against you, or not at all. Even so, maneuvering around cars with the tight controls never becomes a sickening chore.
The biggest difference in the control, however, is the much more accurate drifting. Ridge Racer DS sported more of a powerslide mechanic that was way exaggerated; watch as your car floats around a corner and then struggle to steer yourself in the right direction. In Asphalt, you slam on the brakes, jam the wheel in the desired direction, then put the pedal to the metal. Screech -- turn -- zoom. The only niggling issue I have with the play control is the fact that your car literally slams to a halt when hitting another car from directly behind. No glorious crashes. No upending. No veering off to the side. Just a *thunk* and that's it.
What separates Asphalt from "just another" arcade racing game is the fact that it uses Burnout's "risky" driving mechanic. Sure you can drive around and far away from other things, but what's the thrill in that? Performing jumps over truck-ramps and getting involved in near-misses (a "near miss" is a hit technically, I don't know why that term has the meaning that it does, but I digress) increases your Nitrous meter. Every time it's filled you get a nitrous tank, up to six which you can use for a screen-rattling speed boost.
The variety of cars is also pleasing as well. The game uses real, licensed cars and decent visual representations of each. By god, they even have Hummer H2 models in there, though these control more like elephants than cars. In fact, I can't say for sure that every car controls like its real life counterpart, but as an arcade racing fan and one who can't drive well in real life, I don't see that as much of an issue. Each car can be tweaked, repainted and sold at a higher value. Not to mention different modes of play such as Time Attack and Car Chase, and I can almost forgive the fact that the majority of Asphalt's races take place on the same four or five tracks for a great majority of the game.
I mentioned the visual quality being sub par. Well actually, this only applies to the backgrounds, the road and its inhabitants. In fact, there's a lot going on in every track. The problem is that all of the detail doesn't really translate well to Asphalt's pixellated, blocky aesthetic. Certain things are hard to see and discern from others. Worse, watching an instant replay of your last lap shows only your car and the road. Crashes and jumps look entirely bizarre, as if you were crashing into invisible cars (well technically in the replay, you are). But I can forgive those warts because Asphalt plays at an extremely smooth and steady 60 frames per second, making it perform better even than Ridge Racer DS.
The sound rounds up the package, and it's not too shabby. There are some nice electronic tunes to listen to along with a few thrashing guitar ones, but the variety isn't as large as I would have liked, and overall the electronic music from other racing games is tastier to the ear, specifically Ridge Racer. The whine of the engine is also a bit too loud to hear the music through, and can get slightly mind-bending. Overall though, it's nothing to complain about.
Normally I'm a stickler for polish and execution. But in a rare moment, I'm going to go ahead and say that Asphalt: Urban GT plays so fun and has enough things to do that I couldn't care less if the damn thing were in black and white and had no sound effects to speak of. When a game lacks this much polish and I'm still having a blast, I have to recommend it.