Gameloft puts the pedal to the metal in one of its best iPhone racers.
Rev those engines. Asphalt 5, the latest in Gameloft's long-running arcade racing series, is a smooth-handling game that never lets up on the gas pedal. If you can accept the fact that it doesn't have an ounce of realism under its hood, you'll love every high octane second.
Asphalt 5 provides 12 beautiful race tracks, from the snowy foothills of Aspen to the beautiful tropics of St. Tropez. You'll race against five other opponents, using nitrous oxide to boost ahead and occasionally drift around corners. Over 30 cars are available, from compact little Mini Coopers to top-of-the-line rides like the Lamborghini Murclelago LP 670-4 SV and the Ducati Monster 1100s.
This is arcade racing, plain and simple. You'll use tilt steering to control your vehicle, while tapping nitro and brake buttons to initiate drifting. The controls respond wonderfully, although you'll hit a few walls at first as you get used to the motion controls. (Don't let that get to you, though. Getting back into first place is still a possibility, even after a few collisions.) If you're not up for tiring your wrists, other control options are available. You can also set the acceleration to automatic or manual, but we prefer automatic. That way, you just need to focus on braking and using nitro.
That said, since it is an arcade racer, Asphalt 5 isn't very realistic. You'll run into cars at high speed with very little (if any) damage to your own. You'll also get into bump-and-grind contests with other cars, and while they pose very little threat (save for one mode in the game, which we'll get to in a minute), you can easily send them careening into a wall.
There are eight modes to choose from, mostly made up of high-speed contests and time attack races. Almost all of them are great, save for Cop Chase. While there's a certain enjoyment that comes from slamming cars off the road in the same style as Burnout, this mode is way too hard. Most of the time, opponents see you coming, and either prepare for your assault or avoid you entirely. As a result, time ticks down and you can't move on to the next round. Fortunately, Gameloft is aware of the high difficulty issue, and will release an update that'll make it significantly easier.
If you're not up for racing against computer players, Asphalt 5 supports online and Bluetooth for up to six people. From the sessions we tried, the game runs smoothly, with very few problems, save for a second or two of lag. Online leaderboards are also available, via a connection through the Asphalt-5.com website. If you feel like challenging the best times out there, have at it.
Visually, Asphalt 5 is one of the better-looking iPhone/iPod Touch racing games. The tracks fly by at an alarming speed, and the details are never lost, not even after a nasty collision with passing traffic. Turns are real easy to see and navigate, and some of the smaller effects in the game, such as the glowing nitrous blasts from the rear of your car, are beautiful. Gameloft has really gone above and beyond, and we can already imagine what it has in store for Asphalt 6.
As for sound, the in-game music isn't bad, but if you're not into it, you can opt for your own play list. (Never has a high-speed pursuit been so affected by Air Supply's "All Out of Love".) In addition, the engine noises and crash effects are top-notch.
Aside from a lack of realism and a painfully difficult Cop Chase mode, Asphalt 5 scores a first place victory. The presentation is among the iPhone and iPod Touch's best, and the gameplay, no matter which way you configure it, is superb. Drop seven bucks and take a spin. You won't be sorry.
What's Hot: Tilt-sensitive controls, fantastic graphics, a wide assortment of cars to choose from, plenty of racing modes (including online multiplayer), you can play iPhone/iPod Touch songs on the radio.
What's Not: Not the most realistic racer, Cop Chase mode is much too difficult.