Crashed and burned.
At first you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the smooth graphics, fluid controls, and wealth of game modes. Amidst a sea of launch titles that feel like they were rushed to release with missing features and poor 3D implementation, Asphalt 3D might appear to be a diamond in the rough. Upon closer inspection, however, the positive elements appear as they actually are: a facade. Gameloft tried their darndest to disguise the uninteresting, uninspired racer beneath the surface. And they almost got away with it.
[image1]Saying that Asphalt 3D is uninspired is actually an understatement. It’s extremely boring. While everything is technically in place for an entertaining road trip, issues mar the experience around every bend, just as they have on other Asphalt titles over the years. Just as past iterations of the game have been consistently disappointing (save for a few bright spots on mobile platforms), the 3DS iteration leaves much to be desired.
Arcade-styled racers are supposed to be strong on handheld platforms due to the focus on fast, furious gameplay sessions. Theoretically, Asphalt was on the right track on the 3DS, with vehicular gameplay relying on drifting, boosting, and finding shortcuts instead of tuning cars and driving realistic tracks. In reality, after a few laps the control issues become more and more bothersome, and the gameplay, which feels fast at first, begins to drag on. Laps seem to take forever, and even when boosting there’s very little sense of speed. It’s not uncommon at all to notice very little difference before and after a boost, either.
On the rare occasion that things start to actually speed up, which usually happens when going downhill or over a ramp, graphical pop-in rears its head, leading to annoying crashes. Considering a single crash can land you in last place from first, this can make those brief instances of fun more frustrating than anything. There are other gameplay elements besides simply racing, like tuning vehicles and buying upgrades, but they do very little to improve the core experience.
[image2]Just as is the case with the gameplay, the visuals aren’t strikingly bad at first. Hitting the road could definitely look worse, and while Asphalt 3D isn’t going to win any awards for presentation, the cars are all right-looking and the environments, albeit unvaried, aren’t all that bad. Even more surprisingly, the 3D is fairly strong; it’s easy to gain a point to focus on, thanks to your vehicle being in the middle of the road at all times, and the constant movement gives some nice depth, adding to the visual appeal.
This guise, though, is shattered once the game’s abysmal framerate issues begin to rear their head, and while they’re not constant, they’re frequent enough to become a nuisance. Take a sharp turn? Chug. Smack into another car? Chug. Drive down an open, empty stretch of road? Chug. Chug. Chug. It’s seemingly random and brings the game to an uncomfortable standstill every time it happens.
[image3]Crashes are rough-looking, too. Making contact with another car triggers slow motion for just long enough to show that there’s really very little collision taking place. Considering the handheld is capable of last-generation graphics, they could have done much, much better. Heck, Burnout came out nearly ten years ago, and those crashes are miles beyond what’s found here.
It appears, at a glance, that Asphalt 3D is an incredibly strong launch title. Local multiplayer, plentiful maps, decent graphics, and fast-paced gameplay should all mix together into something worthwhile. It doesn’t take long for everything to fall apart, though, and before long the scratches on the surface turn to full-blown gashes.