Asphalt 7: Heat — Extremely Generic but Extremely Competent.
On one level Asphalt 7: Heat isn’t much different than what we have seen a million times before. Fast, licensed cars, nitro boosts, the whole sha-bang. It is precisely that last part, however, that makes Asphalt 7 so successful in what it tries to do. It is the whole sha-bang, or at least enough of it to make the game more than worth your while. It could probably be cynically said that Asphalt 7 is shooting for the lowest common denominator, mashing together elements from various famous console arcade racing games in an attempt to appeal to every fan of the genre. If that is the cynical route you want to take, you still can’t fault Asphalt 7 on its execution. It is trying to appeal to every arcade racing fan and amazingly, it probably does.
Personally, I still can not get a handle on touchscreen and tilt controls in racing games, and if you feel that is the case for you it will probably still hold true here, but GameLoft does provide a wide variety of options, offering five different touchscreen layouts, some of which worked for me to a degree, and physical controller support. I simply plugged an OGG cable into my unrooted Nexus 7 on one end and a PS3 on the other and instantly I felt like I was playing Need for Speed on a console. The game is fast, fun, challenging, even if not especially deep, and offers loads of content for the initial price of $0.99.
Booting up Asphalt 7, you will see what you would expect. Three different game modes, Career, Quick Race, and Multiplayer in addition to time restricted challenges that unlock special cars. Initially Career is where you will spend most of your time. In it you will compete in races consisting of various modes such as eliminator (last place gets eliminated after the timer runs out until there is only one racer left) knockdown (cause the competition to crash a certain number of times) Old School Arcade (get to the finish before the timer runs out, while getting more time as check points are passed, just like the old school arcade games) among others. Along the way you will pick up nitro boosts and cash, perform certain actions that will increase your nitro meter, and attempt to cause competing racers to crash. Winning races will net you experience points, cash which can be used to buy cars and upgrades, and stars that unlock cars for purchase. While the game lacks any kind of story or progression beyond moving from cup to cup, unlocking cars and completing in-race goals that result in more stars manage to keep things fresh enough for a mobile game.
Not everything in Asphalt 7 is perfect, and it certainly has its flaws. The increasingly common but nonetheless shady business practice of offering rewards for outrageous prices is present here. Between the two game’s currencies it is possible, with two clicks, to spend two hundred dollars in Asphalt 7′s in game marketplace. I’m not going to speculate who Gameloft expects to spend two hundred dollars within their ninety-nine cent game, but I will say that if you allow your child to play this game on your device, make sure spending money on in-app purchases are locked with a password.
Moving past that, there is the question of how much of the game’s content can be unlocked without resorting to the in game marketplace. Really, it depends. If you are dedicated and manage your money correctly, it maybe possible to not spend anything beyond the original purchase of the game . There does become a point where it at least seems difficult to continue onward, but by that point you have gotten more than your $0.99 worth.
Playing Asphalt 7 on a tablet is the way to go when possible. While touchscreen controls are undeniably easier on a smaller screen, you will likely want to turn to physical controls eventually anyway. The larger screen allows you to see on coming traffic and obstacles much easier, and the impressive graphics are more easily appreciated on tablets.
The biggest issue with this is the multiplayer. It would be a great way to expand the replay value of Asphalt 7, however, since most of the people online have the best cars available, you are forced to either accept a distant last place, with the occasional battle for 5th place against another poor sap who jumped online without the best cars, or pay to advance the game and get the cars that can compete. You could alternatively wait until you have unlocked everything for free, but that takes a while, and you may find yourself ready to move on from Asphalt 7 before you reach that point.
A simple match making system based on the number of stars each player has would have resolved the problem, instead we are left with a multiplayer that is mostly off limits until the most advance cars are unlocked. On the plus side I found no problem finding a match and the games were as smooth as one could expect. It is just a shame that what should be a major feature of the game is nearly unplayable for everyone except the most dedicated or spend happy gamers. Other than that, the shady in-game marketplace and load times that are just a tad bit too long, it is hard to find many faults within Asphalt 7.
As this is the seventh installment in the series, a moment should be taken to speak to gamers who may have owned the previous version. Asphalt 7 is the natural profession from Asphalt 6. the graphics are better, there are more cars, more tracks, more everything. For only a dollar, it is worth most racing fans’ money to give this new iteration a go, but if you are have gotten sick of the Asphalt formula you should know that Asphalt 7 doesn’t bring much new to the table, it simply improves and expands every aspect while bringing in a few new, but not game changing, features.
Bottom line, if you own Asphalt 6 and you want more, definitely pick up this new iteration. If you find yourself tiring of the generic but extremely solid racing of the Asphalt series you can probably skip this one.
Asphalt 7 isn’t good because it innovates or breaks new ground, but because how well it emulates its console inspiration. If EA had picked up this game and called it “Need for Speed: Mobile” no one would bat an eye, that in itself is an accomplishment. While the production values are slightly lower than the EA racing games available on Android, so is the price point, and so are the resources needed to run the game. Asphalt 7 even managed to run on my long outdated Sprint HTC Evo Shift 4G, albeit with atrociously long load times and minor in-game performance issues. The fact of the matter is, Asphalt 7 attempts to appeal to the lowest common racing fan denominator, but it does it so well that it is impossible to fault it for that. It is the David Letterman of arcade racing games on Android, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.