(DSiWare)

Game Review

Asphalt 4: Elite Racing Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by James Newton

Quick off the grid.

For all Nintendo’s innovation in creating its DSiWare download service, it can’t be helped noticing that the Big N’s contribution to the line-up is pretty lacklustre – its calculators and clocks are derided, and for every Art Style there’s a Master of Illusion Express. They would do well to learn from Gameloft, who are steadily carving out a niche with full-featured, high quality download games. Their latest title is Asphalt 4 Elite Racing, and it certainly keeps their track record intact.

The controls are as you would expect – A to accelerate, B to brake and either the D-pad or touch screen steering wheel to manoeuvre your car. Using the D-pad is certainly easier at first, although it obviously lacks the analogue abilities of the touch screen making it something less of a fluid driving experience. Switching to stylus control has its problems too at first – holding down accelerate whilst steering feels unnatural and can be very awkward, but using your index finger instead of a stylus certainly helps. Sadly there's two pretty big flaws with the touch screen control that stop it from being a really satisfying control scheme: sometimes the wheel doesn’t reset properly to its central position resulting in a few infuriating crashes, but more annoying is the way holding the wheel alone is enough to slow you to a crawl, making it almost impossible to compete in the harder races using the touch screen.

Whichever way you choose to control your car, there’s a wealth of options available right from the start. Starting a career sees you pick from a tiny selection of cars (I went for the Mini – a classic!) and hitting the streets to take part in a simple road race, but later on there are one-on-one duels, challenges to take down a certain number of racers, cop races, cash challenges and more. Although Asphalt 4 might seem a fairly straightforward racing game on the surface, there’s plenty of variety in its challenges and it’s clear to see it models itself on the current crop of home console racers such as the Project Gotham and Burnout series, particularly with its use of real-world cities and “takedowns”. A quick tap of the B button will send you into a classic arcade tailspin as your back-end swings out wildly, which although satisfying at first can take a bit of getting used to if OutRun or Ridge Racer are more your usual racing tipple. The secret seems to be in tapping the B button to maintain grip, although there's something hugely rewarding about leaving your rear bumper sticking out for opponents to run into, causing all kinds of takedown carnage!

It’s not all arcade racing though, with the ability to customise your chosen car between each race with your hard-earned money. You can select anything from its colour to its crankshafts, and progressing further in the career lets you buy more expensive parts, increasing your top speed, acceleration, control and more. It’s not hugely important at the start of the game as unlocking the better cars happens pretty quickly, but as all your opponents drive similar levels of car to yours it becomes important to get the advantage wherever you can in the tougher races. It's not a case of buying the most expensive part either - some elements will increase your speed while decreasing your acceleration, so you can truly customise your ride to however you like to play, and even trade in your four-wheeled jalopy for something a bit slimmer by buying one of the available motorbikes.

The flyover before each course and overall level of detail in the game is very impressive for a download, and the ability to use photos of anything you like as billboards and adverts is a nice added feature. It works much better than in Real Football 2009 as you can get much closer to the adverts: it's surprising to see the posters you photograph heading towards you at 300 kmh! You can also use a photo to accompany your car in the local multiplayer races, a feature open to horrendous abuse if ever there was one. Sadly there’s no support for WiFi Connection races, but considering the completeness of the package it seems unfair to complain.

Conclusion

Asphalt 4 Elite Racing is potentially one of the best driving games on the DS, although some would say that’s damning with faint praise. Gameloft have set the bar for other developers to aspire to, with a huge amount of detailed gaming squeezed from the 800 points asking price with 28 licensed cars, 8 real-life cities and a decent-sized career mode. The lack of online multiplayer and dodgy touch screen controls are the only significant problems but don’t stop this being a must buy for anyone who’s keen to experience a top quality handheld racing game at a very reasonable price, and doesn't mind using the D-pad to do it.

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User Comments (56)

Homer_Simpson

#2

Homer_Simpson said:

Great, I was waiting for the review to see if I should get this. I'm off to download it now...despite the fact that I have an exam tomorrow that I should be studying for. eh.

brandonbwii

#3

brandonbwii said:

I have some question; Does the game feature download play? If the controls were annoying why was the score so high? Nice review overall, though you did make it seem like flawed touch control and lack of online play was something not seen in other ds racers. Those faults are very common.

James

#4

James said:

Sadly there's no download play mate, it's one "copy" per player, which is a shame.

Like you said, a lot of DS games have flawed controls but when I played Asphalt 4 with the D-pad I really enjoyed myself, and found it precise enough to do what I wanted most of the time. It's a shame that, having seen the game's controls on the iPhone responding pretty much perfectly, the DSi's touch screen resulted in poorer controls.

DazzaAdmin

#7

Dazza said:

@MDee - There is only 4 player local WiFi play. You can't challenge people over the Internet sadly.

Bahamut_ZERO

#9

Bahamut_ZERO said:

Good to see this doing good, I really want this to come out in NA soon. Even though Mighty Flip Champs got a 9, I think this is more of something I would like, so I'll get this when it reaches the US.

But again, Pop prevents me from spending my money! What ever happened to releasing it near DSi launch Nnoo!

James

#11

James said:

I agree it is a little easy - the money thrown at you in all events is ludicrous and with the unlockable cars coming along so frequently too it's not an enormous challenge. But then it's a downloadable racing game where you smash up cars - I like having easy access to faster cars to smash things up in :D

Wiiloveit

#12

Wiiloveit said:

I swear there was supposed to be some form of online mode here. Is there the option to check high scores or something?

ADDED: Just checked the DSi Shop, and it says nothing about an online mode whatsoever. Huh. Ah well, looks like I won't be getting this one after all, then. Roll on Brain Training / Hacolife / Pop / Mighty Flip Champs!

Slapshot

#13

Slapshot said:

@Prosody....What about draw distance? Ive bought GRID and Race Car Challenge and both games were rated very highly and the draw distances were terrible. I sold both games the day I bought them. Is this one any better?

LEGEND_MARIOID

#16

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

I wuld personally give this a 9 all things considered. That's just my opinion though.

I don't usually like serious racers as well

Outrunner

#17

Outrunner said:

Yeah Grid has bad draw distance. Also pretty bland visuals. This looks nicer at least with all the colours.

motang

#20

motang said:

Looking forward to this game. I love the downloaded games, I think it's more convenient as opposed to getting it from the store. :)

KnucklesSonic8

#25

KnucklesSonic8 said:

Wait a second. I thought the game was getting online play? Did they scrap the idea? How peculiar. Now I gotta think if I wanna get this or not when it comes to NA but it's pretty likely.

mrPlow

#26

mrPlow said:

Note that the controls can be customized so you are not forced to use A + B for accelerate and brake.
I for example found it more comfortable to use shoulder buttons (L+R) for those functions.

HOT-ROD

#27

HOT-ROD said:

I might have to just get it on ipod touch, just because it's better quality. I just want a good exclusive dsi game. Mighty Flip Champs is the only good one. This looks fine, but I can get it on ipod touch for better quality.

New_Age_Retro_Hippie

#28

New_Age_Retro_Hippie said:

"Only good DSi-exclusive"? That's a bit harsh. Pictobits was great. And even disregarding that game, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! is even better. It could have been a retail release.

J_K

#29

J_K said:

Surprised this didn't come out on a game card with all there is, I'm sure they could have made good bank on it with race fans. Perhaps being a cheapo download they figured the cheap factor would pay out higher returns.

minimario_man

#30

minimario_man said:

I know jangonov my original ds has got pixel cancer, so the top screen is starting to detatch. I need £150, now!

James

#31

James said:

Still playing this game even a week later, and having great fun going over the challenges I've already finished. Time trial modes and a proper online multiplayer would have been great but you can't have it all!

DaBargainHunta

#37

DaBargainHunta said:

I just got it. Can't wait to try it out. I loved Asphalt 2 and would've paid full retail price for this. To get it for 800 points ($8) is awesome.

Gamer83

#39

Gamer83 said:

I'll be downloading this tonight. Glad to see it's finally in the US. I've been waiting for a good racing game for DS to go along with Mario Kart.

Steviis_Father

#45

Steviis_Father said:

I think that Gameloft ought to be congratulated on such an effort, but to put things into perspective and proper context, maybe the conclusion ought to read, "Asphalt 4 Elite Racing (A4ER) is potentially one of the best driving sims on the DS..." simply because Mario Kart is arguably (though there really is no argument here to it being) the best racing game on the DS. Still A4ER's arcade-y feel helps keep the high-speed fun with the real-world cars, so it's a great arcade effort, too. Kudos to gameloft for coming so far in the handheld gaming world.

legochesser

#46

legochesser said:

Cool game, I like it, it should be named Burnout DSi xD, It has much from Burnout what I like! :D

Moochr

#49

Moochr said:

Great game but if ya got 800 points and you might get this or something else, get something else.

cheapogamer4life

#50

cheapogamer4life said:

This was my very first download. Bought after NL review and I still cant get enough of it.Quick Race mode will keep (anyone who buys this game) this game on your system for a very long time. Premium Game, Premium price, with loads of premium goodness pack in.......

HanuKwanzMasBif

#51

HanuKwanzMasBif said:

I agree. This game is great. Though I never use the touch screen controls while racing, and customizing your car just right is a bit tedious and frustrating.

Ickaser

#52

Ickaser said:

If only I had 800 points. I've played one of the Burnout games and really liked it, so this seems like a good purchase.

Ickaser

#53

Ickaser said:

I downloaded it a few days ago. Good game, just a bit too easy and I wish there was a mode for as many takedowns as you can until you die.

metal

#55

metal said:

Gameloft has never really impressed me. Their DSi Ware games almost always have a very short story, making gameplay and storylines a lot less interesting. Their games usually get boring real fast, as did Asphalt 4: Elite Racing for me. The only good game that came from them was UNO. I would dig deeper into this, but let's just say they also are disrespectful (in more ways than one) in some games.

xj0462

#56

xj0462 said:

its a shame that u cant transfer this to a 3DS if u could id do it on the spot

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