Asphalt Urban GT
Developer: Gameloft | Publisher: Ubisoft | Release Date: 2004 | Genre: Racing | Website: n/a | Purchase: Amazon
Racing games have traditionally not been the forte of any hand held console & when the title in question is made by a company specializing in mobile phone games, well hopes are slim! I gave Asphalt Urban GT the benefit of the doubt however as they have done some great stuff, on mobile devices but it didn’t take long for the cracks to start appearing.
As a launch title for the DS, Asphalt has a lot to live up to but the game is a better showcase of the Nokia N-Gages capabilities. While at times it could almost pass for a first generation Playstation game for the most part it looks like the mobile phone conversion that it is. There are nine tracks based on real world location like Miami, New York, Hong Kong, Paris & Las Vegas but turn up the brightness & the faults become apparent. Large, garish, low resolution textures fill the landscapes & pop-up rears its ugly head. The horizon is also an ugly mess of pixels that can make it hard to see what’s coming. The game apparently can’t seem to make up its mind about collision detection either. Hit another car head on at full speed & you’ll just spin forward in a canned animation barely losing speed or momentum. Hit that same car from behind and it’s like hitting a brick wall. Trees on the other hand can be driven through, like they’re not even there. Baffling to say the least.
It’s quite sad as with the amount of content this game packs it really could have been something special. There’s a wealth of play modes to choose from including road challenges, time attacks and even cop chases. Then there’s the career mode called “Evolution” where cars can be bought, tuned & raced in different categories & classes. Cars on offer are from licensed brands like Audi, Lamborghini, Nissan, Lotus, Chevrolet & many more. You can even race in a Hummer if you wish. One would expect only limited car customization options like changing the paint job but this game throws everything including the kitchen sink at you. Turbo kits, air intakes, engine blocks, transmissions, brakes, suspension, you name it and it can be upgraded. One has to wonder why so much effort was put into this aspect of the game while the rest is so shabby.
Besides the sub par visuals and dodgy collision detection the game driving engine also suffers from a bit of and identity crisis. With the ramps that can be jumped & nitro’s that has to be refilled by driving recklessly. Civilian cars also behave like morons & are regularly found parked sideways in the middle of the road. Opponents are pretty aggressive but overall the game is very easy. The controls work well for the most part despite some redundancies like a horn & lights. The game has this nasty habit of not saving changes to the contend setup which I only mention because the default layout is so poor. Don’t expect any form of touch screen support. The bottom screen is only there to display a mini-map which is quite useful because of the short draw distance. The audio sound like it was lifted straight from a cellphone with droning sound effects & repetitive music.
As it stands Asphalt feels like a title that was rushed out, half complete. With more time & tightening of the racing engine it could really have been a contender. The multi player might be enough to sway some people into purchasing this but unless you can get it for dirt cheap I wouldn’t recommend it.
*Review originally published 2005.