Game Review: Asphalt 8 Airborne for Windows 8.1
Asphalt 8 is, naturally enough, the name of the eighth in a series of racing games by Gameloft. It is the second in the series to be released on Windows, and the first to be given away free. It links up with your Xbox Live account and can, but does not need to, link with your Facebook account.
The racing is a lot of fun. The controls are a nice balance between too poor to avoid crashing and too good to ever crash. The multiplayer is everything I want it to be and nothing I don’t. I like this game.
There are many aspects of the gameplay in A8. I will try to address each by category.
There are eight “seasons” of single-player levels. Each level consists of a race of a given type, on a given track, restricted either to particular cars or particular car classes. A level has five stars to be won; coming in third place grants one star, second place grants another star, and first place grants yet another star. There are two side-missions in each level (such as finish race without crashing, drift a certain distance, get so much air time off of ramps, etc.) which are worth one star each.
Multiplayer mode is really well executed in A8. Upon entering, you will first select a car to drive. You will then join a “room” of up to eight players. Then you will all vote on whether to race in Classic, Elimination or Infected mode (see “Race Types” below), which of three random tracks to race, and whether to race 1, 2, or 3 laps. The combination which receives the most votes is then loaded, and the players in the room then race each other.
Gameloft puts out special racing contests which yield special rewards — sometimes cars but more often other Resources (see below). These are released at the rate of about two a week and are open for a few days. During that period, you can race as many times as you wish, to increase your rank and winnings, provided you have enough fuel (more about fuel later)
There are two other modes. One is the “Quick Solo Race”, which allows you a single player race in any of your cars on any track you choose. The other is local multiplayer, which I haven’t tested. You don’t win anything in these.
This is a basic auto race; you race against other cars for a set number of laps around the course. First over the finish line wins.
In this race, there is a time limit. At the end of the time limit, the car in last place is eliminated from the competition. The timer has been reset, and the process repeats until only one racer, the winner, remains.
This is the same thing as a classic race in terms of determining the winner, but it is run quite differently strategically. Explaining it is complicated.
In an Infected race, the racer in last place during the first few seconds becomes “infected”. Its car turns bright green and a timer starts toward “Infection Overload”, the point at which the car automatically crashes. But all is not lost: infected cars have a limitless supply of nitro (a resource I’ll go into later. Suffice to say it allows you to reach very high speeds.) Infected cars can buy more time for their doom clock by hitting other racers. Those racers are now infected.
This is a solo “race”, in which you attempt to drift through semi-circular gates placed throughout the track. This is, personally, my least favorite race type, but it isn’t impossible to beat.
In this race, you compete with another racer in the task of running into the most cars. I suppose this isn’t technically a race, but it helps to stay ahead of your rival so you get to the target cars first.
In this race, you drive one model of car, your rival drives another model of car, and there are no other racers. Otherwise, this is the same as a classic race.
There are two forms of in-game money: coins and tokens. Coins are earned in all races except Quick Solo and Local Multiplayer races. Tokens are often prizes for Events. Both coins and tokens can also be bought for real money.
Fuel is consumed by racing in events. Different amounts are consumed depending on the race. Fuel is replenished over time, or it can be bought with tokens.
Nitro is used in races to reach high speeds. You start each race with your nitro bar about a quarter full. Nitro is found on the track in glowing yellow and blue bottles, which you pick up by driving into. Nitro is also replenished while you drift or fly through the air. When you engage nitro, you will travel much faster until your nitro bar empties.
All the cars in this game are simulations of real-world cars (like the Mercedes-Benz concept car in the pictures) They are grouped into five classes: D, C, B, A, and S. Class D are the worst cars and Class S are the best. Cars can be bought for either coins or tokens, depending on the model, and some are prizes in events. Gameloft also bundles some cars into packs which can be bought with real money.
Cars can be upgraded, or “tuned”, for better performance. Some upgrades are bought with coins while others are available through the “pro kits” system, which essentially makes upgrades Event prizes. All upgrades take effect instantly upon purchase.
Recommended Course of Action
If you have Windows 8, and you like racing games, you should have Asphalt 8. And if you don’t like racing games, you should consider trying this. It isn’t a crime-spree game (You are breaking all the real-world traffic laws, but you don’t carjack people or fight the police.) or a fantasy cartoonish thing. It’s a realistic racing simulator with just enough stunt action to be cooler than real. And it’s free.
Reviewer Score: 9/10
All images screenshots of my install of Asphalt 8 Airborne by Gameloft.