Since its premier back in 2004, Asphalt has been a staple of mobile gaming. Gameloft’s first original hit and longest-running series, the urban racing franchise has, like many annual titles, struggled to differentiate each game from the last. Luckily the mobile market moves fast, and when phone owners get new handsets every year, a newer, shinier Asphalt is always an easy sell. This year’s entry, the third on Android, serves up perhaps Gameloft’s most audacious rehash yet, but launches at the bargain price of 99 cents, making the question not so much if Asphalt 7 worth your money, but if it’s worth your time.
Gameloft has been pushing the high-end of mobile graphics for years, but their most recent releases sport some genuinely incredible visuals, and this is probably the biggest reason for Asphalt 6 fans to make the leap. Packed with high-res textures and some subtle rendering effects like reflections and environmental shadows, it’s doubtlessly the best looking racer on the Play Store.
Alas, like N.O.V.A. 3, and other recent Gameloft releases, there are two graphical modes for high and low end phones, but which version your handset displays has less to do with your phone’s performance than it does Gameloft’s arbitrary and notoriously spotty testing. Even in its low-def digs, Asphalt 7 looks better than last year’s iteration, with more naturalistic colors and detailed car models, but it sure makes that massive 1.3 GB download feel excessive.
All of the gameplay should be immediately familiar to series fans. The power-sliding, nitro-boosting physics are nearly identical, and the “Adrenaline” mechanic added last year returns as well, allowing players to use a fully-charged nitro meter to perform a deadly speed boost that can tear through other cars. Blowing by oncoming traffic, performing drifts, and getting air all replenish that meter, lending some great risk/reward mechanics that make this one of the most solid arcade racing foundations on the mobile platforms.
That isn’t all that’s the same, though. A staggering 11 of the game’s 14 courses are remakes of courses from Asphalt 6. These are not mere retreads of the same locales, as the series has had many times before, but turn-for-turn rehashes of the same exact courses with hardly any changes beyond a newly varnished facade. Most of the game’s event types are immediately familiar as well, although Duel, Collector, and Time Attack have been dropped, replaced with a new “Old-School Arcade” event where players race between checkpoints for time bonuses.
The campaign mode is still meaty, with 60 cars to unlock and 240 events to plow through, alongside a rotating set of secondary missions that can be completed in any stage. The online game has also been polished up a bit, with better matchmaking and improved social features, and it’s much easier to hop into a quick game.
On those select few pieces of hardware that actually enable Asphalt 7’s full visual splendor, this is worth the purchase just as a graphical showcase. For those left behind, however, this is by far the most redundant entry in a series that was already sluggish to innovate. It’s still fast, fun, and frenetic, but we’ve played already played this game, and a new coat of paint won’t hide that this is still last year’s model underneath. For newcomers, this is a fine time to jump in, but those that have already exhausted Asphalt 6 might find themselves bored of the same old tracks.
Is it Hardcore?
Fast, fun, and frenetic, but a new coat of paint won’t hide that this is still last year’s model underneath.