No matter how good the graphics or how realistic the cars, a racing game is sunk if it doesn't feel fast. A decent sensation of speed is essential to get players' pulses racing, and without it, no amount of Pussycat Dolls on the in-between level loading screens will make it a great game.
Gameloft learned this with Asphalt: Urban GT 2, as we explained in our review. It looked good, there was a broad range of cars, and a host of extras to unlock. Oh, and those Pussycat Dolls. But the slow in-game speed, sluggish handling and police cars seemingly able to ram you off the road at will let it down.
Well, Asphalt's back, and thankfully all those problems have been addressed. Meanwhile, the scope of the game has also been widened, with more locations to race in, and deeper strategy around the various races.
Let's start with the basics. Asphalt 3: Street Rules is another urban street-racing game, following in the recent treadmarks of Juiced: Eliminator and The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift (which we reviewed in both its 2D and 3D forms). Here you get to drive nine cars and three bikes in an effort to win as much dosh as possible, while avoiding the cops.
Asphalt 3 takes a pseudo-3D behind-the-car viewpoint, and although in truth the graphics haven't improved a huge amount since the last game, they still look pretty good for this genre. More importantly, the game's speed has been given a good kick up the exhaust, while the handling has been improved so that you're not constantly skidding into buildings. Needless to say, this is an improvement.
In regular races, you have to finish in the top three to progress, earning cash for your position as well as from stunts along the way, such as making huge jumps and bumping rival drivers off the road in wipeouts. As you drive, your Wanted level rises, which means cops will give chase, while if you're really spectacular, a live TV helicopter appears to broadcast your exploits to the world (and more importantly, boost your earnings).
Asphalt 3 is now properly fun, with you zooming along battering cars out of the way, and even using two nitro boosts at once if you want. As you earn more cash, you unlock new cities, tracks, cars, tuning upgrades and, erm, girlfriends. The tuning lets you upgrade a huge number of components on your car to boost its performance, while the girlfriends... well, they look nice, but also affect the gameplay. Really!
The more you play Asphalt 3, the more you unlock. The wider variety of locations – including St Petersburg, Honolulu, Rome and Bombay – offer plenty of graphical spice and an incentive to keep playing. As you progress, the game gets tougher too, so it's not the sort of thing you can breeze through in a few hours. A counter keeps track of what percentage of the game you've unlocked, as motivation.
The additional racing modes also add depth. Beat 'Em All is a Burnout-style romp where you have to just smash as many cars out of the way as possible, Cop Chase has you following other miscreants, Duel puts you in a head-to-head battle, while Cash Attack focuses on pulling off jumps and drifts to earn as much money as possible.
Asphalt 3 is truly impressive, both for the amount of detail it squeezes in, and the way it has directly addressed the faults of its predecessor. Put your thumb on the accelerator and enjoy the ride!