It's been five years since Asphalt 4: Elite Racing, the first of Gameloft's Asphalt titles to grace iOS, was originally released. It's one of those long running franchises that you can use to easily mark the growth of a platform, and looking at the brand new Asphalt 8: Airborne, it's been quite a journey. Keeping a lot from Asphalt 7, such as pricing model and overall structure, but with even better graphics, tighter controls, and more polish than ever, Asphalt 8 is one of the penultimate arcade racers on iOS today.
These games generally embody Burnout or the more arcadey Need for Speed games, where physics and accuracy take a backseat to speed, tricks, mad air, and road rage induced car killing. Pretty much the opposite of Real Racing 3 type simulators. In Airborne, you'll race through multiple events in a career, each worth a total of five stars each; three for placement, and two for race specific objectives. Races come in all shapes and sizes, with classic modes like elimination and time trial alongside crazy modes like infection. Yes, there is now a zombie mode in a racing game.
The key to doing well is mainly in using your nitro boost effectively. Like in Burnout, doing awesome stuff like drifting, getting air, hitting barrel rolls or flat spins, and running your opponents off the road will fill your nitro meter. Hitting nitro just feels satisfying every single time, and really gives you that needed sense of speed. One way to earn nitro if there are no cars or ramps around is to fishtail drift along a straight line. You can do this endlessly. I've found most cars at my level only decrease by ten or fifteen miles per hour in speed, but make up for it when boosting. You can have that tip for free.
As in Asphalt 7, the game is only one dollar, but comes with a long, long list of in-app purchases. There are tons of cars to buy, and upgrades for all those cars. The seasons are ranked in such a way that you'll usually need a car of a certain rating or higher to really stand a chance, and cars are already divided into divisions of D, C, B, A, and S. If you do really well, you won't have to grind too much for currency. You are rewarded pretty fairly. But when certain race events require a specific car that you might not have otherwise bought, it's hard not to grumble as you begrudgingly buy it. the IAP is optional provided you have some skill, but as always, seeing it makes this one spot in that back left of my skull hurt. I should probably get that looked at.
This is the most gorgeous looking Asphalt yet. It looks great, even on an iPhone 4. The soundtrack is all around excellent too. And I really like that they split it up into genres of Bass, Rock, and Electronic, though I liked the music in all three options despite being a metal head. The maps take you on a world tour through the streets of London and Tokyo, to the wide open country of Nevada and Iceland, and each map has some memorable pathways or cool background objects to look at. One map even throws massive moving construction vehicles at you. Facebook and Game Center are fully integrated, it's iOS Universal, and there are plenty of different control options. Definitely don't skip this if you like racers.