As a publisher, Gameloft’s reputation isn’t exactly sparkling. While the company has undoubtedly delivered its fair share of innovative mobile products, the tendency to produce sub par handheld adaptations and revel in thinly veiled microtransaction vehicles often sees them tarred with an unfair brush. The Asphalt videogame series is now the exception that proves the rule, for while the recent Nintendo 3DS outing was less than average and the Windows Phone 7 (WP7) freebie Bug Village had few redeeming features, Asphalt 5’s arrival on Microsoft Studios’ mobile format deserves no less than a warm welcome.
Asphalt 5 features twelve tracks, each with four event types available in the Career mode. The variety of event types is pleasing, from the standard three lap races and time trials – which, rather oddly, are also referred to as ‘time attack’ in-game – to the elimination races wherein you have to take out a set number of enemies by ramming them into the track walls. Both Single Race and Quick Race gameplay modes are available in addition the Career, but considering the breadth of the core gameplay mode it’s unlikely that you’ll take part in either while there’s still structured events to be completed.
The videogame features a respectable amount of vehicles, including both two- and four-wheeled racers. A new vehicle is unlocked at each level reached with experience earned in the Career gameplay mode, as are tuning components. Which such a structure it’s reasonably easy to purchase a vehicle at a low level and buy tuning items to make it more powerful than one which you will unlock several levels later, but of course this adding horsepower comes at a cost. Finding the right balance between upgrading existing vehicles and purchasing new ones is essential in order to maintain an adequate bank balance later in the Career mode.
The visual quality of Asphalt 5 ranks highly, for while it may still have a few too many right-angled corners and poor draw distance, it does have some of the most varied environments of any racing title on the WP7 format. In fact, the bright coastal tracks play a wonderful contrast to the night time cityscapes and the more eccentric presentations. The vehicles aren’t slick enough to feature reactions to lighting conditions bar a blanket ‘light’ or ‘dark’ filter, but they do build simple damage layers upon impact. The sound quality isn’t quite up to the same standard, but in the same regard isn’t entirely offensive.
Despite the misgivings often attached to Gameloft’s name, they are a company that manages to repeatedly strike a balance between hardware, consumer and cost. Asphalt 5 is a mid-priced title on the Xbox LIVE enabled WP7 marketplace, and yet packs in more content than most of its competitors. Like most racing titles coming to the format Asphalt 5 does struggle to compete side-by-side with Hydro Thunder GO, but as a compliment to it there are far worse options available at a greater price.