Ubisoft is seemingly one of the keenest third-party supporters of Nintendo’s new handheld console. With no less than four titles arriving alongside the Nintendo 3DS today, most of which based on one of the publisher’s key franchises, Ubisoft are most certainly poised to capitalise upon the hunger for new software at the hands of the early adopters. Of all the titles Ubisoft is presenting, Asphalt 3D may not be the biggest priority for many gamers, but on day one it is surprisingly one of few racing titles available on the system.
That it is almost alone in the racing genre is undeniably a blessing, as Asphalt 3D isn’t exactly the most groundbreaking piece of software. Nor is it the most exciting, for that matter; a facet that is near-essential for racing games. Instead, Asphalt 3D is happy to rehash everything you would expect of the genre without any new thrills: gameplay modes, race types and eccentric vehicle designs will have to come from elsewhere.
Within the Career mode’s Competitions menu lays a series of Leagues, each with five challenges. Four challenges are unlocked to begin with in each League and completing these four not only unlocks the fifth, but also the next League. Players earn cash and experience for each challenge beaten, the latter making new vehicles and upgrades available to purchase with the former. To say that Asphalt 3D’s gameplay set-up was reasonably run-of-the-mill would be an understatement, but given that the gameplay relies on that which has already been offered by racing games more times than can be remembered, it comes as little surprise.
There are eight race types available in the game, including the aptly named Chase and Drift modes, but it’s the more traditional Circuit, head-to-head races and time trials that make up the bulk of Asphalt 3D’s events, with additional challenges varying from race-to-race and offering further bonuses. Once in the race, players will find that tracks are littered with pick-ups offering extra cash, boosts (of which there are multiple stages available, including the visual-changing full boost) and vehicle repairs. The two former pick-ups are self explanatory, but the latter is somewhat of an uncertainty as the cars don’t show any physical damage on-track, nor is there any kind of indication as to how much damage has been incurred. During Electronic Theatre’s extensive playtest of the game, not once did we ever find ourselves unable to continue due to the amount of damage sustained by our vehicle.
Bigger thrills are available in the multiplayer game mode, available locally for up to six players. Each player will need their own Game Card as there is no single-card download play, but as with most racing titles the human competition will often result in much more tense races – especially played with friends in the same room. What’s more, Asphalt 3D features an interesting StreetPass system, in which a player’s best times and other statistics are transferred locally, and besting competitors in the indirect viral gaming will offer in-game cash as a reward.
The technical quality of Asphalt 3D is certainly a mixed bag. While the vehicles have obviously been drawn incredibly well regarding the potential of the stereoscopic 3D presentation – gamers will undoubtedly marvel at the interior viewable through the rear window at first – the environments are obviously lacking. Right-angled declines and inclines in the road and repetitive backdrops act as a significant irritation, and the lack of visual feedback for collisions is simply an oversight that cannot be ignored.
While Asphalt 3D has obviously taken inspiration from the top tier of home console racing games, be they Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, DiRT 2 and many others, the game is unfortunately hemmed-in by it’s mobile handset roots, just as was the case with the original Nintendo DS launch title. Asphalt 3D may provide some fun as a first taste of stereoscopic 3D racing in the palm of your hand, but expect it to be one of the first Nintendo 3DS games to hit those pre-owned shelves.