With Asphalt 8: Airborne still doing the rounds, this year Gameloft has shyed away from delivering yet another numbered instalment. Instead the mobile-focused studio has released Asphalt Overdrive, an arcade style spin-off that is free-to-play on both mobile and tablet.
Where Asphalt games have traditionally focused on high-speed racing, Overdrive dramatically shifts focus and feels more akin to popular mobile hits such as Temple Run. Levels are composed of three lanes that racers can alternate between with simple left and right gestures. Obstacles take the form of fellow drivers, stunt ramps, and other hazards, all of which help to keep players on their toes.
The main difference here is that gameplay is finite. Though score-chasing still has its part to play, Overdrive offers up small, pre-defined levels as opposed to an endless roadway. This design choice works mainly in the game’s favour however, allowing Gameloft to break it into chapter-like stages, each with its own pocket of challenges.
With an obtainable three-star rating, these two to five minute bursts of gameplay see racers attempt to outrun the police and perform stunts to earn cash and acclaim. Back at the garage, players are then free to spruce up their ride or, to access more advanced stages, buy new ones.
The major downside to Overdrive’s progression system is the amount of grind needed to get past the first cluster of stages. After about an hour in, you’ll no longer be able to outrun the cops using the starter car, no matter how skilled you may be. Upgrades aren’t cheap, however, and soon you’ll be forced to replay missions in an attempt to slowly scrape together enough money to move on.
As in just about any free-to-play game, there is always a shortcut for those who are willing to pay. Shelling out a few quid here and there will top up your cash reserves while also granting access to bonus cars and customisation options. It has to be said, however, that Overdrive never shoves these in-app purchases in your face, nor does it bombard players with a shower of ads between every run.
Mutliplayer in mobile games is something I’ve never truly gotten into, at least when it comes to titles that don’t demand online play. Overdrive doesn’t offer multiplayer in the traditional sense, though it allows players to form gangs and collectively score points. It’s not an essential feature though definitely enhances the experience for those playing with friends.
In terms of visuals, the latest Asphalt isn’t head and shoulders above the rest of the franchise. Though it certainly looks great, especially when inspecting vehicles in the garage, it’s only an incremental improvement over Airborne.
As a completely free-to-play game, Overdrive is definitely worth looking into, regardless of whether you’re an Asphalt fan or someone just looking for that next handheld gaming fix. Though not really suited for long sessions, Overdrive is ideal for those short breaks and getaways, serving up digestible chunks of high octane gameplay.