Asphalt: Urban GT Hands-On Preview

We think that Gameloft's Asphalt: Urban GT is already playing like a bumped-up Bentley.

Asphalt: Urban GT makes no effort to approximate an actual driving experience. It's barely necessary to slow down while rounding hairpin turns. Your car can weave and dodge through traffic with aplomb. Your primary concern is when to hit the all-important nitro burst. Right about now, fans of arcade-style racers everywhere have worked themselves into a state of fervent titillation. As they should--Asphalt is shaping up to be one of the most refreshingly playable mobile games to date, and a terrific exercise in reflex-driven action.

With films like The Fast and the Furious fueling the popularity of car tuning, Asphalt's showy, urban racing vehicles--licensed from brands like Ferrari and Lotus--are likely to be a big draw. Car customization and tuning is possible in the single-player campaign, which pits you against other racers on the busy streets of several, real-world locales. Most of this gameplay is fairly straight-laced, with recharging nitro boosts being the only real frill. What separates Asphalt from numerous, similar titles is its excellent presentation. The most important goal for any arcade racer is to capture a real sense of speed. Asphalt really succeeds in this regard.

The game handles simply, with an accelerator, a brake, and a nitro button. Lateral control is handled through the N-Gage directional pad. The game handles a lot like arcade-style racers, such as the old Cruisin' USA series. It's necessary to slow down somewhat through hairpin turns, but you'll rarely have to hit the brakes. Just make sure you press 2 to trigger your nitro blasts on the straightaways, and the competition will be eating your exhaust. This sort of simple gameplay works perfectly on the mobile platform, where complex controls would only be an impediment to enjoyment--after all, the lack of analog buttons already imposes certain restrictions on racing gameplay. Asphalt seems to do a great job of playing to the strengths of the platform.

We had a chance to extensively test the game's multiplayer (during a UK Gamestars N-Gage contest), and the game didn't show any signs of slowdown during Bluetooth matches. Extraneous car traffic was removed, either to reduce the processing load or foster a pure, competitive environment, with with nothing separating you from your opponent. Either way, Asphalt's multiplayer races are very exciting--a fact evidenced by the large crowds that gathering gathered around the N-Gage booth during the contest.

Asphalt: Urban GT seems to be well-worthy of the Gameloft pedigree. This game is already one of the most technically impressive games on the N-Gage, and it is a joy to play. We'll see if it takes the mobile racing pole position when it's released later this year.

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