You may remember the original Nintendo DS having a meager launch, just as the 3DS has had. There was one decent racing game, Asphalt Urban GT, which I thought was among the better games in that initial list. While a few other entries in the series have since been released, Gameloft is once again helping to usher in another Nintendo handheld with the great-great-great-great-grandchild of that DS launch title: Asphalt 3D.
+ Plenty of content. For a handheld racer, and a company that usually designs casual cell phone games, Asphalt 3D has quite a lot of content. The car roster is varied. It doesn’t tick every checkbox on the average list of dream rides, yet there’s still a great selection. There’s even a few cars that don’t usually enjoy the spotlight, like the Abarth 500, KTM X-Bow, and Lamborghini Estoque concept car; plus a few motorcycles are thrown in for good measure. There are lots of entertaining tracks, a lengthy career, and even in-game achievements.
± Graphics. The visuals are nice, but not great. Everything looks chunky, and there is plenty of jaggies to go around, but the textures and car models aren’t bad. While playing, you get the feeling that Asphalt 3D isn’t the 3DS’s best visual representative, especially if Resident Evil: Revelations or Metal Gear Solid are anything to go by. The crash animations are particularly bad, where it’s not uncommon to witness cars clipping through each other, the environment and bounce around in a manner that’s anything but realistic. The saving grace that prevents me from including this in the Bad section is that 3D effects are quite good. There’s a great sense of depth. and the chase camera allows you the perception of seeing right in through the car’s back window.
± Wonky driving mechanics. It’s always been weird to drive Asphalt’s cars. However, this one plays the best out of all released in the series thus far. The game’s driving model borrows heavily from Burnout, with outrageous drifting and nitro boosts for driving dangerously and taking down opponents. The cars lack weight though, and plenty of tracks don’t even require braking. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Asphalt 3D lacks challenge.
– Terrible sound. Asphalt has never been known for its audio production. The music is awful, the female announcer is over-enthusiastic and annoying. Just about everything else sounds cheap. Fortunately the engines at least roar decently, which helps the game save some face in the audio department, but one massive oversight kills it. When racing, your car is constantly upshifting. You can watch the speedometer at the top of the screen pegged at peak speed, but the car still sounds as though it’s shifting into another gear. It’s bizarre and totally inexcusable for a racer.
– Limited multiplayer. Multiplayer is restricted to local play. No download or online play, even though older games supported online. I don’t think it would do Asphalt 3D much good though; I found it impossible to meet anyone online in those older games. Even with the 3DS’ slim line-up, it’s likely more people will choose the more familiar Ridge Racer over this. Even encountering someone else with this game to play or using Street Pass is unlikely. I haven’t.
– Disappointing. It seems Asphalt 3D is not all there. Having played other Asphalt games, I already came in with low expectations, and they still managed to low-ball it. This quality is more difficult to quantify, but Asphalt 3D is clearly just not polished.
You may have noticed that this review is shorter than most of what you see on COE, but therein lies a major flaw with the game. It’s just bland. It can be entertaining, and racing isn’t bad, but Asphalt 3D isn’t a great game by any means. Couple that with the $40 price, and I can’t recommend it. If you’re dying for a racing game, you’ll probably be better off with Ridge Racer. Licensed cars and less slippery mechanics compared to the aforementioned competitor are nice, but it doesn’t take Asphalt 3D the distance. There isn’t a lot available for 3DS, but $40 is likely spent better elsewhere. Rent Asphalt 3D, at most, but don’t buy it.