Asphalt 8: Airborne Review – Racing Takes New Leaps and Rolls

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Gameloft has seen huge success with its arcade style racing game, the Asphalt series. This game has always been popularly known for its nitro infused fast game play and crazy stunts. Asphalt 7: Heat offered great improvement in the widely popular series and now we have Asphalt 8: Airborne.

Asphalt 8: Airborne takes the popular arcade style racing and adds new twists and surprises that continue to excite the player even as the racing category in the App Store already offers some of the best games. However, with Asphalt 8, Gameloft seems to have a clear goal to be a top contender for the best racing title of 2013.

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The gameplay largely remains the same where you have career mode, multiplayer mode, social challenges, quick solo or local Wi-Fi mode. In the career mode you advance by winning events and gaining enough stars to unlock the next event. As you win events you also win in-game currency to upgrade your existing car or purchase new upgrades to enhance the performance of your car.

Gameloft has made the selection of cars for a particular event easy by categorising cars in D, C, B, A, S categories and assigning each car a “rank”. Sometimes it’s difficult to asses if the performance or speed of one car would make a significant difference in the race. This is where the new ranking system comes into play. In each race you will be shown recommended rank which can act as a guiding factor to decide which should be the next car you should purchase.

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If the car you own has a lower rank then you might just have to perform a “near perfect” race in order to stand a chance to win the career event. That brings us to the new difficulty level in Asphalt 8. Gameloft has tweaked the way the AI works in this new version. If the AI car is faster and higher rank it won’t be easy to defeat it. The top speeds of the high-end cars won’t let you overtake them even you continue to use nitro boosts. And if you’re unlucky and your car gets wrecked then you probably stand no chance to cover the loss of time. In the previous versions even if your car got wrecked a few times it was usually easy to cover up the distance. However, be prepared to be challenged to the extreme in Asphalt 8 for iPhone and iPad.

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The difficulty level is also tied to in-app purchases where you can purchase extra credits and car packs to make your virtual racing career easier. Credit packs allow you to be free to spend on any car you wish to purchase and car packs include a good mix of high end cars. Credits start as low as $1.99 and go up-to a max of $99.99. While it may be tempting to purchase more credits or cars it is not necessary to advance in the game.

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While playing career mode you may not earn that many credits to unlock expensive cars however, this is where multiplayer modes comes to your rescue. The multiplayer mode in Asphalt 8 puts you against 7 other players selected on the base of your level and car selected. This is by far the most enjoyable mode of the game as you race against real players across the world as opposed to AI. If you manage to stand anywhere between 1st or 3rd you will be able to earn decent amount of credits which will help you to unlock cars and purchase upgrades faster.

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So, overall I found the gameplay difficulty was well balanced. On one hand the career mode challenges you to extreme limits whereas the multiplayer mode balances the gameplay and gives you a chance to show your racing skills against real players. While for most players career and multiplayer mode will occupy the most time, it doesn’t stop there. In addition to these mode there is solo race, Wi-Fi and even a friend feed where you can race against your friends ghost and brag about defeating their best time. Also, another interesting feature added this year is the ability to race against your own ghost timing in any career event you’ve attempted before.

There are six types of racing events in Asphalt 8. These include classic, elimination, versus, knockdown, new infected mode and gate drift. Each racing event is unique and adds new twists to the gameplay. So, it always keeps the race interesting even as you advance in the career mode.

Spoiler alert:: If you don’t want to know about the all-new infected mode then skip this paragraph. In the infected mode at regular intervals the racer in last place gets “infected”. The “infected” racer has limited time before the car explodes and then spawns back into the game. In order to increase the time before your car explodes you can hit other cars and in turn “infecting” them. What makes this even more interesting is that each infected car gets unlimited nitro boost. In the end the racer finishing the race first wins the game. This mode adds new twist to the gameplay and is a welcome addition. It was both enjoyable and challenging at the same time.

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Gameloft has worked really hard on the 3D game environment and it shows. The game features some of the most scenic locations worldwide. You will be able to cruise from Nevada to Iceland to Tokyo to French Guiana to London to Barcelona to Alps to Venice to Monaco. This year the 3D locations have been enhanced with natural disasters and even events like a space shuttle taking off in French Guiana. Every time you race through these locations it never gets boring to notice these events happening even as you are busy tapping the nitro boost to race ahead.

The graphics are highly detailed and the physics engine performs very well. It includes an excellent selection of cars like Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Chevrolet Corvette, Mini Cooper, Aston Martin and many more. The selection of cars is great and has something for everyone. These cars have highly detailed graphics. When you view the cars in the garage you’ll be able to view even the shockers, exhaust pipes and the body of car reflecting the environment around it. When you are racing you can view the shockers in play as your car slightly bounces when you make a hard landing on the ground.

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This brings us to the “Airborne” moniker. In Asphalt 8 you’ll be literally “flying” for short bursts of “air time”. The roads also include ramps to assist you in leaping into the air. Some ramps have slight turn that enable you perform rolls. Here’s a tip, don’t be in a hurry to go onto to the ramp. If your speed isn’t fast enough you’re more likely to get wrecked.

I was particularly happy about the sounds in the game. The sound effects interact with the game as you crash into public property or even as the competing cars come in close proximity you can hear the engine of other cars firing up. This year you even get to choose between three music genres while playing the game.

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Camera angles certainly play a crucial role in making a racing game exciting and giving it the edge of the seat excitement. The settings menu in Asphalt 8 offers immersive, close and fixed angles. As your car races into the air the camera angle pans to show a dramatic cinematic view. However, the camera view also highlights a disappointment in Asphalt 8. There is no in-car view so you don’t get to sit in the drivers seat to experience the adrenaline rush of a real racing game. There are no side view or back view mirror assists so you just have to rely on the mini map to avoid overtakes. The game lacks in this area and this is something we’d like Gameloft to improve in Asphalt 9.

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The default tilt to steer control works well however, you may notice as you buy upgrades, handling and acceleration the performance will greatly enhance. But, for those who prefer complete control there are other control options included like manual acceleration, screen controls and more.

Asphalt 8: Airborne for iPhone and iPad retains the best arcade style racing game title on the App Store. New playing modes, realistic 3D graphics, amazing sound effects and months of playing value make this game a must have for all those who love racing games and even for those who haven’t tried one yet.

Rating: ★★★★½

What we like:

  • Realistic graphics
  • Ramps for air lift
  • Multiplayer with 8 players

What to know:

  • In app purchase might be required in order to advance in career mode quickly
  • Camera angles limited to outside environment. No in-car view

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