Review: Asphalt 3D (3DS)

On the surface one can’t help but feel sorry for Asphalt 3D. Despite there being a number of games in the Asphalt franchise, it has nowhere near the brand recognition or fanbase that Ridge Racer commands. Can the game leave behind its iOS image and break into the upper echelon of racing games on Nintendo’s flash new handheld?

First impressions are surprisingly solid as you swoop into the futuristic car showroom. The 3D effect is fantastic as your car spins on the spot, with stat bars hovering overheard. It’s a simple trick, but it leaves you with a large grin on your face.

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[boxout]From browsing through the combined list of 42 licensed cars and bikes you would be forgiven for mistaking Asphalt 3D for a realistic simulation. Minis and Abarths are nestled between Ferraris, Bugattis, and Ducatis in a ‘who’s who’ of the motor world (including the very swish Mercedes SLR McLaren Stirling Moss). Whilst we live in an age where racing games with a 1000 car roster have been achieved, the 42 in Asphalt 3D are nicely varied and there is something for everyone.

Appearances, though, can be deceiving as the game is far from realistic. Instead of tyre choices and suspension settings you are given a game that is a cross between Ridge Racer and Buronout. The handling is 100% set up for those who enjoy arcade style racing with huge, easily maintainable drifts just a flick of the Circle Pad away. Boosting also plays a vital part, with various in game actions causing your boost meter to fill. There are four stages of boost, each one stronger than the last, with the final stage making the screen go a bit Tron-like as you try to avoid little things such as walls and buildings.

The main meat of the game can be found in the competition mode, which consists of 70 races broken down into 14 leagues. Winning these races will earn you both money and XP. Money can be used to upgrade your current car, whilst XP will grant you access to shiny new ones. Whilst not particularly deep, the upgrade system is a welcome addition, giving you the chance to buy and fit parts to improve your car in several categories. It also provides you with a bit of a conundrum when you unlock a new car – do you buy it, or stick with the machine you have invested so much money in already?

Rather than just straight race events, Asphalt 3D mixes things up with a number of challenges. First up is the normal race, which is just you against rival racers. The ‘Duel’ sees you in a one on one race against a car of similar power, in a test of your ability. Occasionally you will be asked to take part in a drift event, which requires you to drift and score over a set amount of points by the time your cross the finish line.

‘Cash Attack’ sees you trying to earn over a set amount of cash before your three laps are up, which can be achieved by picking up the cash power-ups, drifting, or driving like a lunatic. ‘Time Trial’ is exactly what you think it is; you against the clock in a race to the finish. ‘Vigilante’ is reminiscent of Burnout’s ‘Takedown’ event, where you must crash into, and incapacitate, a set number of racers before the track ends.

To try and inject even more variety every race comes with two additional, albeit optional, challenges to try and complete, which will earn you more money and bonus XP. Some of these are great, and make races far more interesting (racing without braking, for example).

Earning over a certain amount of XP will also unlock sponsors for your driver. Every sponsor brings with them a perk, such as a +7% acceleration increase, and it is up to you to decide which one suits your driving style.

There is an impressive amount of content on offer, however there are just as many duds as hits. Collision detection is so poor that it can make some bouts of Vigilante almost unplayable as the game steadfastly refuses to acknowledge contact with an opponent, even at 150mph. Drift events can also prove to be frustrating, as the tracks don’t feel like they have been designed with it in mind. The standout example of this is trying to score 10,000 points on a track made up of 80% straights. There are no words…

This all pales in comparison though to the, frankly unforgivable, slowdown the game is plagued by. Whilst most events run as smooth as silk, those with opponent racers in are prone to almost coming to a halt as your car goes from souped up racer, to racer driving in soup. Race starts seem to be the worst hit area, and it really does ruin the normal race types. A very poor show indeed.

Graphically the game is also a mixed bag. The car models look good, and much better than pictures might suggest, but the tracks themselves are bland and pop-up is rife. There are no complaints with the 3D though and it is definitely the star of the show. It comes into its own during the larger jumps where you actually see the depth between the car and the ground.

Pros

  • Great 3D effects
  • Good variety
  • 8hrs+ worth of content

Cons

  • Technical problems
  • Some poor design decisions
  • No online multiplayer

Overall Asphalt 3D is somewhat disappointing. Certain areas, such as the 3D, have been very well done. The core racing mechanics are also solid, but these are somewhat negated by the various technical issues. Add in the fact there is a total lack of online multiplayer, and you get the sense that things could have been done so much better.

Score: 6/10

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15 Comments

  1. Not a promising start, but then again, there are plenty of others. Also, I’m a few point away from 1000 TSA points! LVL4!

  2. In the reviews etc. I’ve read about the 3DS this game gave the players more eyestrain than any other.

    • Didn’t affect me in the slightest! Which surprised me. In fact, I’ve played 4 games over the last 2 days and feel fine.

      • The eyestrain was when traveling by bumps on the road causing a slight shaking of the screen.

      • So you mean I can’t play 3DS games in 3D whilst having sex? Ah, crap!

      • This is the main reason why I will probably give the 3DS a miss. I do most of my portable gaming while on the move so either on a bus or a train and I can’t be doing with blurry gaming.
        Its tough cos I hear conflicting reports. Need to borrow one off someone and try it myself I guess

  3. IGN gave it 3/10 so i must be the worst game of the launch games.

  4. Well, I have certainly read reviews giving it a much harder time that this, so it’s good to get a different perspective. But in all honesty, I think it looks rather awful.

  5. Other reviewers have complained about the price saying that it is essentially an iOs game for 40 bucks. What do you think about that?

    • I can see where they are coming from, for sure. £35-40 seems a steep price to pay, especially when Asphalt 6 HD can be picked up for £3.99, and that includes online play.

  6. Yeah, don’t think I could justify the price for this. Thanks for the review, Dan, great job!

  7. Fun Fact: Urban Asphalt actually started out on the N-Gage. I know because I played it on my N-Gage QD. It was good.

    A racing game that slows down when there are other racers on the screen? That sounds like a pretty glaring problem to me, I’ll stick to Ridge Racer 3D.

    • I was thinking that!
      I was playing Asphalt on my N95 before it went on the App Store, surely?

  8. I enjoy Asphalt on my Nexus S but from what I’ve seen, this doesn’t look to be leaps and bounds ahead of that, aside from the 3D, and that was £6.

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