CTIA 2005: Asphalt: Urban GT 2 Hands-On

Hotcha! Gameloft's got a brand-new arcade-style racer...and we've got a hands-on preview from CTIA to match.


Urban GT 2 (2D Edition)

SAN FRANCISCO--Those guys at Gameloft never slow down--quite literally. Asphalt: Urban GT 2 runs faster, looks better, packs in more content, and generally looks like a great all-around sequel to the fun casual racer that came out earlier this year. We fooled around with a near-final build of the game at CTIA, and we're still trying to comb our hair back onto our heads.

Although Asphalt 2 will be available on a wide range of handsets and in many versions, including an announced N-Gage title and a likely 3D build for V Cast phones, we were only able to play the 2D version of the game, on a midrange handset--a Motorola V535. Nevertheless, we were impressed by the game's revamped look, starting with the several pictures of attractive women that have been integrated with the menus and loading screens. It gets better from there--the faux-3D graphics run really smoothly, and the backgrounds and vehicle sprites are of a much higher resolution than they were in the first game.

Another important addition to Asphalt 2 are licensed vehicles. The only two we saw during our test-drive were a VW Golf and a Nissan 350Z, but there are several other cars that unlock after you've earned a certain amount of money in the game's evolution (career) mode. In a first for the Asphalt series, we even ran a quick race on a motorbike of some sort. The presence of substantial tuning packages, from car color and rims, to engine, transmission, and tires, is also a nice touch.

Asphalt 2 maintains and expands its predecessor's use of multiple racing objectives. The overall balance seems to have been tilted even more towards games like EA's Burnout 3, where turbo-boosting and risky maneuvers are inextricably linked. The more rivals you crash into, crazy drifts you pull, and cops you outrun, the more money and turbo power you'll earn. The first game's ample police presence returns with a vengeance for the second game, too. In addition to the obligatory helicopters and cruisers, cops will now set up roadblocks for you to crash into. Any stoppage is good for a multithousand-dollar fine.

The game also introduces a brand-new play mode called "beat 'em all." The idea here is to run all of your rivals off the road before the race ends. Extra points are awarded for destroying cop cars and jumping several places in the pack midrace. Basically, this mode seems to reward a finely calibrated combination of driving skill and ruthless sociopathy.

We enjoyed our time with Asphalt: Urban GT 2, and we're looking forward to seeing the 3D versions of the game--which is not to say that the sprite-based build wasn't a blast. All will be revealed in the next few months, as the game rolls out across North American carriers and handsets.

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