Asphalt 5 Review – webOSroundup

Well today has been a pretty amazing day. It is the first full day of CES and Palm led the charge with an action packed keynote speech. Now the goal here isn’t to go over all the highlights (there were a lot), but there was one major revelation that  is pertinent right now…3D gaming has arrived on the Pre. Now we all knew that the Pre has a pretty beefy GPU in it (on par with the iPhone 3GS), but until now there was no way to really access it.

Starting today Palm announced a new SDK that allows developers to circumvent the typical HTML, Javascript platform and go straight at the goodies underneath. This allows devs to tap right into the GPU and really show what the Pre can do. Asphalt 5 is a testament to that. This game, by Gameloft, costs $6.99 on the App Catalog, and graphically it is a stunner (especially when compared to anything we have seen so far on our phones). These aren’t Xbox 360 graphics, but there are some really impressive goodies in here. I particularly like the snow hitting the screen in the Aspen race. The lights in Vegas are also pretty amazing as well.

Aside from the graphics, what do we have here? Asphalt 5 is a racing game, pure and simple. It is arcady and fun with powerups galore and a very forgiving crash setup (I hit just about anything that was on the road and still won most of the time). Now personally, I am not much of a fan of racing games. Just not my thing. However, when I started playing this I got into it way more than I expected to. Just…one…more…race. Seriously, I was going to play it for just a few minutes earlier today and I found myself staring at my phone almost 2 hours later. Some of that was just reveling in the awesomeness that a game like this is playing on my Pre, but honestly the game is a lot of fun.

You start off in the garage. You can unlock a pretty wide array of cars including Ferraris, Ford GT, and some super sweet Lamborghinis. Once you have a car you can change its paint, add decals, and you can unlock goodies to upgrade the vehicle’s performance in a myriad of ways. All in all there is an impressive amount of content, including 50 different events on several different tracks. The events range from simple time trials to standard you versus six computer opponents to evading the po po for a while (that is the police for the less hip out there).

As you progress you also unlock girls that give you bonuses. Each woman you unlock lets you see a video and stare at pictures of her posing in front of fake cars. Personally, I think this kind of thing is ridiculous. However, I understand the intent, and I am sure it accomplishes that with their target audience, but it seems a bit unnecessary for me.

From a control perspective, the game gives you three options: accelerometer, steering wheel, and tap. Accelerometer is the default and it makes you steer by tilting your phone. I started this way and it works fine, but I found myself overcompensating too much. I personally like the steering wheel option. This way you use your thumb to act like the wheel of the car. It seemed to me that this was a bit more precise. The tap controls are just odd. You have to tap your screen over and over to turn. Not very effective…the other two ways work just fine.

The one major problem I ran into was crashing. It wasn’t constant, but it was definitely common enough to affect my experience. It even happened during the video review. Typically it is right at the beginning of a race, so at least it isn’t gonna die right before you cross the finish line. Still, Gameloft isn’t some new little developer. They are heavy hitters in the mobile game world, and they should have prevented this.

[Update] – It’s worth noting that this, and any other graphically intense games, are not playable (or even purchasable ) with a Pixi. It just doesn’t have the horsepower.

Pros

  • Simply amazing graphics
  • Nice controls
  • Good depth with lots of unlockables
Cons

  • Crashing…waaay to much crashing. It isn’t a deal breaker, but be prepared for it, cause it will happen.
  • There is only one track that plays…over…and over….while you race. It isn’t bad at first, but eventually it will drill a hole through your head.
Bottom Line

I like Asphalt 5. It is a fun game that is a great show piece for what the Pre is really capable of. I was really disappointed with the crashing however. This game would be a top pick if it were more stable.

If you are a racing fan or just want some serious eye candy for your phone (no, I am not talking about the girls…), then I would definitely recommend picking this up because it is only a matter of time until the crashing is fixed with some patches. Once that happens, it’s full speed ahead.

Want to learn more? You can see the video review and more screenshots of this app along with tons of others by visiting webOSroundup