Asphalt 3: Street Rules 3D

Motor manufacturers like to make a big deal about the new versions of the cars they release. TV adverts, magazine glossies, sponsorship deals, the list goes on. But more often than not the changes between the 2007 model and the 2006 one, for example, are little more than cosmetic. Different lights, or small alterations to the grill.

Asphalt 3: Street Rules 3D, at first glance, follows this formula, appearing to be little more than a prettied-up 3D version of the existing Asphalt 3: Street Rules game. The basic gameplay is the same, as is the plot, which gives you the keys to a collection of rides ranging from tuner sports to supercars, as well as a set of aeroplane tickets to a series of cities across the globe.

But look beneath the bonnet and you'll find that there's been some pretty intense work put into the mechanics of the game.

As well as the regular races seen in every other iteration of the Asphalt Urban GT series, the action spills over into other event types such as Beat-Em All, where the object is to destroy a set amount of cars before you complete three laps. This mode is especially fun and is probably as close as you'll get to playing console favourite Burnout on your mobile phone.

Before each race, you pick your vehicle from those you've unlocked via the traditional race events, choose the colour that best matches your hair do, and then you're good to go. However you're also given the opportunity to tune your vehicle and pick a passenger. More on that later.

The vehicle tuning option goes into quite a bit of depth. There are 16 different areas of your car that you can upgrade, including the usual tyres, brakes (which you'll probably never use) and graphic detail, like paint and vinyls. These upgrades are essentially akin to you adjusting the top speed, acceleration, braking and handling. They're more of a way of tweaking the feel of your ride to suit your preferences and driving style than trying to get an edge over your opponents, as the other racers always seem to be in similarly-specced machines to yours.

Along with the upgrades you also get to choose a lady to ride with you. Eye-candy though they may be, each gal also carries a bonus to improve your chances out on the road. You start with Sandra, who gives your car a speed boost, and later on you'll unlock ladies who reduce police attention and provide better coverage from the news crews, improving your score.

Once you're done drooling over the vehicles and the dollies, you're ready for the race. Like the other games in the series, you don't all start on a grid like a Formula 1 grand prix. Instead you start on your own, tasked with chasing your opponents over three laps and trying to pass the guy in first position before you pass the finish line.

Your opponents are pretty evenly spaced, so you'll generally only ever see one at a time, making it easier for you to concentrate on smashing him off the road or using your boost to fly past.

As the race progresses, you'll gain the attention of the cops, who are more than happy to use the same aggressive tactics to remove you from the road that you've been employing with the competition. This is where the boost comes in handy. Dotted around the race course are nitro pick-ups and, once collected, unleashing them helps you pass your opponent or out-run the law.

This tactic doesn't always succeed (you'll often find yourself being rammed from the road) but hit the boost again and a second stage kicks in, blue flames appear from your tail pipes, and you shoot off like a rocket. During a double-boost, your seemingly fragile supercar becomes a veritable tank and can smash through anything, including police by the side of the road or opponents who're slowing you down.

The gameplay of Street Rules 3D is as solid as its predecessors, with controls of the standard of any other mobile racer. While it opts for a more tail-out, slide-happy driving style than the likes of Project Gotham or Need for Speed Carbon, it is very enjoyable on its own terms, though frustrating if you're not comfortable with the way the car can sometimes seem to glide across the road through corners.

Additionally, there is the odd occasion when the 3D scenery, lovingly rendered though it is, pops up late. One second you're looking at an empty horizon, the next there's a whopping great building there. The camera can also be a bit close through some tight corners, not giving the best view.

But all in all, if you're a fan of the series and want something that's a bit more arcade-styled than Project Gotham, Asphalt 3: Street Rules 3D is definitely worth a test drive. The polish, the licensed cars and the fun of a bimbo on your arm (anyone remember OutRun?) means there's more than just a bodykit change on this new motor.

Asphalt 3: Street Rules 3D

More than just a coat of polish, this is a high-performance 3D version of an already great game