System: Nintendo DSi (Also on iPhone)
There are very few good realistic DS racers out there, and there are even less enjoyable titles available for download on Nintendo’s DSiWare service, so what are the odds that a great racing game would come along and be available exclusively via download? Not very good. Stepping up to the plate to take on this seemingly impossible task is Gameloft and a dual screen rendition of their Asphalt 4, originally released on the iPhone.
Can this downloadable racing title really stack up against full-retail game card releases, or is this yet another forgettable title in the DSiWare’s lineup of shovelware?
I’ll be honest with you. When I downloaded Asphalt 4 I wasn’t expecting very much. The DSiWare service has been completely void of any sort of real gaming entertainment aside from a few standouts like Mighty Flip Champs and Mario Vs. Donkey, but I was in the mood for a speed-filled one night stand.
To my thoroughly pleasant surprise, however, I found Asphalt 4 to be not only 800 Nintendo Points well-spent, but a shockingly deep and comprehensively competent racing game. Sporting a capable 3D engine, Elite Racing boasts a handful of different play modes and enough unlockable cars, upgrades, and tracks to keep most players busy for much longer than may gamers have come to expect from a DSiWare title.
The game offers three different main modes of play. Quick Race mode is ideal for passing the time while sitting on a bus or replacing reading material when on the stool. You are given a random car, random track, and random challenge, and that makes for quick fun.
Career is Asphalt’s meat and taters, as this is where you are going to race through a nice assortment of locations, each offering a handful of modes, to earn cash and purchase new vehicles and upgrades. And trust me, there are tons of unlockable rides and tune-ups, enough to keep the average gamer occupied for a decent amount of time. There is plenty to enjoy here.
Lastly there is Multiplayer mode, which offers competitive local racing, via wireless DSi to DSi connectivity. While there is no online mode, it’s hard to gripe too much since the game is so cheap. Besides, there is enough single player content to keep you busy without having to worry about getting your rump smashed by far superior online foes.
Cars all control wonderfully with the d-pad and buttons–much better than would ever be possible from the iPhone. There’s just something buttons can offer that tilting and blindly tapping on a touch screen can’t do. Speaking of touch controls, Asphalt 4 on the DSi offers the option to control a virtual steering wheel as opposed to using the d-pad, but it is very unreliable and spotty, and I don’t recommend using it at all.
There are also an assortment of motorcycles to be obtained throughout your career, and while riding a crotch rocket at 178 MPH through St. Petersburg is definitely entertaining for a short while, you’ll likely find yourself reverting to the four wheeled automobiles rather quickly.
Of course, the visuals and audio are reported by many sources to have taken a slight hit in the transition from iPhone to DSiWare, but any gamer who has never played the mobile rendition (me) will find very little to gripe about in either department. Car and motorcycle models look about as good as one would expect, colorful scenery zips by without losing a frame, and city landscapes and backdrops are all acceptable.
I’m not a big fan of the sound design, however. All sound effects sound hollow, and the announcers sound like they are straight out of a SNES game. Background music doesn’t help much, as it’s all very generic and slightly annoying. Thankfully, though, it is easy to tune out and doesn’t hinder the experience too much once you start zipping through the streets of New York. But for those of you who will likely blame a loss on whatever they can, the music can be turned off so that it won’t be a factor.
One other thing that I thought was neat was that Asphalt 4 allows players to snap pictures of themselves (or whatever they want, really) to use for their multiplayer avatar or as billboards or posters. It’s not really a necessary or revolutionary feature, but it allows for a bit more personalization to the experience.
If you have a DSi, an internet connection, and eight bucks to spare, then you need to download Asphalt 4: Elite Racing immediately. This game has more content than a few retail racers that went for over $20 at the time of their release. It’s fun to play, extremely addictive, easy to look at and light on the wallet. This is an easy recommendation for me to make.
- Great visuals for a downloadable title
- One of the best racing games on the system
- So much stuff to unlock!
- A complete bargain at only 800 Points
- Annoying music and disappointing sound effects
- Crappy touch controls
Score: 8.0/10 (Great)
Entertainment Value: 8.75/10