#MobileMondays, Round...1.5? - Asphalt 8: Airborne
As promised in my previous article, here it is. #MobileMondays, round one (ish), where today I'm taking a look at one of the very first games that really slapped me in the face with the potential of mobile as a platform. That game, ladies and gents, is Asphalt 8: Airborne, one of a few seriously kickass titles by Gameloft -- more of which will no doubt show up here as the weeks pass. But just what is Asphalt 8, for those of you who haven't already heard of it? Well, let's answer that.
As its name implies, Airborne is the eighth installment in the Asphalt series, which, in a nutshell, is a set of arcade racing games that sit in the same sort of vein as Need for Speed. You've got gas, brakes, and of course, the all-important N2O bar. Out-drive your opponents, or out-battle them a la Burnout. Your choice.
As they say in "Burnout," "When speed is not enough..."SMASH THEM TO BITS!!!
Airborne? Aren't Cars Supposed to Stay On the Ground?
You're forgiven for making this mistake, I promise. But no. No they are not. I can't accurately express in words all of the epic that comes from making your car into a flying, spinning (or flipping) death top of awesome, so I'm going to take the easy way out here and let the trailer speak for me:
Yeah, the cars in Asphalt 8 are having a bit of an identity crisis. They seem to think they're airplanes, or rocket ships, or some bizarre combination of the two...AND IT'S AWESOME!!! How many other games can you say let you do a quintuple barrel roll IN A FERRARI?? I'll give you a hint: not many.
See, unlike its vehicles, Asphalt 8 knows what it is -- a fun, fast, very much arcade racer that takes one look at the laws of physics and violently throws them out the window. After which it sends several high octane sports cars speeding out said window. Which all do quintuple barrel rolls.
That's a big deal, because I cannot stress this enough: Games that don't know what they're trying to be usually tend to suck. Having a clear sense of "this is what I am" is quite possibly the single most important point to hit in game design. And Asphalt 8 doesn't just hit that point. It smashes it, head on, at approximately 240 miles per hour, and several hundred feet off the ground.
Okay, So My Car Can Fly. What About Driving?
Believe it or not, driving feels pretty good. The drifting system takes a minute to really get the hang of; you brake and start a turn to begin drifting, and essentially let the car "level out" to stop. Once you have it down though, it becomes a ton of fun to tear through long corners while driving almost completely sideways, even if that might not be the best thing for your overall speed. Plus, long drifts are one of the best ways to juice your Nitro Bar, aside from the orange pickups littered throughout the tracks.
There are several different control options too, so you can really find the one that works best for you: steer using your device's accelerometer, "buttons" on either side of the screen, or a virtual steering wheel. Use auto accelerate, or take manual control over the action. Having said that, as an added bonus, A8 supports gamepad input, like several larger mobile titles are beginning to, and this is by far where its slick gameplay really shines.
In my humble opinion, this is the best way to play. It includes immediate, zero configuration necessary support for the MOGA line of Bluetooth controllers by PowerA, which I will be going over in another piece in detail very soon. If Bluetooth isn't your thing though, you can always grab an OTG cable for a few dollars off the internet, and plug in many of your favorite console controllers. Or better yet, if you're running Windows 8/10, run the game on your PC thanks to the app store, which has become my new favorite thing to do. And yes, keyboard controls are supported there too.
Thanks to the fact that it was originally designed to run on much less powerful mobile processors, even my toaster of a laptop can run it on "Extreme" settings, too, which look fantastic. (Natively captured screenshot)
Alright, Alright, The Gameplay Is Good. But How Much Do I Really Get?
Ah yes, the age old "content" question. It doesn't really matter how good a game's core mechanics are if you're going to be bored and done with it in an hour, now does it? Thankfully, I can say that isn't something you'll have to worry about here. The game has a slew of cars and tracks, which continuously increases through numerous updates, as well as a variety of game modes, including standard and Elimination style races, as well as "Infected," where the virus-carrying players are running on a clock that only increases by performing takedowns, but have an unlimited Nitro Bar.
Many tracks also have a "Reverse" version, all of which have received careful attention to ensure the pathway alterations are well-designed, and vehicles all feel different enough to be satisfying -- and justify you owning them for reasons other than completing an event in the game's single player "Championship" mode, which is fairly robust.
There is also online multiplayer -- which while not perfect, manages to be fun enough to capture a handful of my game hours across both my Android and Windows profiles. The mobile versions also have local Wi-Fi as an option, (notably absent from the Windows Store version, unfortunately) which means if you just want to play with just your friends sitting around, you have the option -- provided you have enough devices to run everyone's instances.
But What About Price? You're Pitching This Game Like A Full Retail Release
I can understand why you might think that, because with everything I've said so far, it would be very easy to believe I was talking about a console game, if you took out all the mentions of "mobile." But that's just it: That's how good Asphalt 8 feels as a game. There's enough content, and enough things to do, to rival many more traditional games within the genre.
Lucky for you, Asphalt 8 isn't carrying a $59.99 price tag, or even $9.99. The game is free to download and play. Now, it does have microtransactions, and a lot of them. Everything from car packs, to currency packs for both credits (easily earnable in game) and Tokens (significantly harder to come by, but still obtainable through gameplay, as well as watching advertisements in app.) Add to that the fact that some of the later cars in game have astronomical purchase requirements, (in the millions of credits) and it's very easy to see that there's a desire for you to fork over some cash.
The price of some cars can definitely be a little ridiculous.
That being said, they do frequently run sales on everything from those credit and car packs, to individual vehicles, dropping their credit price down significantly. If you keep your eye out for those, you can make out with a pretty decent value proposition for your money. And frankly, with as many hours of gameplay as I've gotten out of Asphalt, I don't feel bad about any of the here and there purchases I've made in the game. I'm okay with supporting the developers, because compared to many other games out there, Asphalt 8 isn't the worst "freemium" game out there, by a long shot.
So there you have it. A complete overview of Asphalt 8: Airborne. Hopefully I've helped you realize that "mobile gaming" doesn't have to be synonymous with three hundred different clones of Flappy Bird. Or Temple Run. Yeah... *cough* Anyway! I look forward to reading your comments, and don't forget to tune in next week, to see what's next on the #MobileMondays chopping block!