Videogames have never been so accessible to the masses. Though Xperia PLAY is first and foremost a smartphone for making calls, surfing the net, and organising your social life, there’s always that overwhelming urge to slide-out the gamepad and have a blast on one of the many titles you can download from Gameloft or the Android marketplace. Indeed, Sony Ericsson’s device gives you quick and easy access to games spanning across every genre and its portability means they can be played absolutely anyway. Furthermore, PLAY’s slide-out gamepad ensures you can play them the way they really should be played, ditching the gimmicky, touch-screen, screen-tilting accelerometer gameplay that has swept up the casual gaming crowd in recent years, for a more core gaming experience. Asphalt 6: Adrenaline is a perfect example of how accessible and addictive games on PLAY can be, and developer Gameloft has done well to marry that pick-up-and-play appeal with retro-infused, high speed thrills to make it one of the best titles to grace the platform.
Gameloft’s long-running Asphalt series has made numerous appearances since 2004 on a variety of devices including iOS, Android mobiles, N-Gage and 3DS and has gained quite a reputation for its slick arcade racing and impressive roster of playable vehicles. If you're familiar with Asphalt, you might be disappointed at Gameloft's lack of desire to really push the series forward—this is essentially the same as Asphalt 4 and 5, albeit with a more comprehensive car roster—but it does what it does very well, providing an instantly accessible, grounded racer that takes inspiration from the likes of Midnight Club, Need For Speed and BurnOut. Subsequently, there’s no need to worry about perfecting race lines or having to think at all about aerodynamic downforce; Asphalt 6 is a purely-thoroughbred arcade racer that will have you nudging other cars into incoming traffic, collecting nitro boosts and drifting majestically around wide corners at ridiculously high speeds.
Asphalt 6 boasts just three game modes: career, quick play and multiplayer. Career mode takes you across 12 different circuits challenging you to compete against others in a variety of race modes, from point-to-point races and drifting events to eliminators and duels. You win money and unlock vehicles along the way, as well as fine-tune your cars with a small range of customisation options, such as speed and handling. You can even apply decals and pick up sponsors as you progress. It's a familiar way to structure a career mode, but it's one that rewards you well for your race skills as you get access to better cars and get to feel the fruits of your labour with extra power around the track. Customisation could have been a little more in-depth, but once you hit the tarmac you soon realise that all you really need to do to succeed is put your foot down, stay focused and steer.
Races are slick, fast and aggressive with A.I. racers giving you a good run for your money. One way you can catch up with or stay in front of your opponent is by filling up your nitro gauge by "crazy driving," or drifting, which allows you to activate hyperspeed to give your vehicle an almighty boost. Indeed, Asphalt 6 is all about boosting, braking and drifting in all the right places, and when you get it right the adrenaline pumps and gameplay flows impressively. Take-downs also play a particularly important part in the race as you jostle for position on the track and try and time your side-sweep right to send rivals careering into the barriers. Cash bonuses are also littered around the track and prove very much a reward worth going out of your way for, while the forgiving drifting mechanic feels very natural with the pad, with plenty of wide corners for practice. It is fairly easy to get out of a drift that might be heading out of control by applying your boost before you crash, but that helping hand ensures that the pace of the race is relentless.
Xperia PLAY’s processor stands up fairly well to the challenge of delivering some incredibly fast races, but some smooth frame-rates are occasionally affected by bouts of slowdown. However, it doesn't affect the entertainment value as it strikes that fine balance between challenge and accessibility very well, giving you a simple control scheme and plenty of opportunity to drift and boost, but also ensuring that A.I. battles hard for top place. Controls too are mapped well to the pad with brakes and nitro controlled via your left and right bumpers and accelerate assigned to the ‘X’ button. Indeed, gameplay has a Ridge Racer-like retro feel to it - and plays much like you're using a PSP, despite watching the action play out on a smaller screen.
And PLAY's high resolution 854 x 480 screen does play its part in creating a very decent looking game that is full of vibrant colours, Sega-blue skies and neon-lit urban environments. The tracks are incredibly varied in terms of both look and design taking you from the shimmering lights of Tokyo to the winding roads and beach views of the Bahamas. There’s also plenty of variation in the authentic car roster, which features approximately 42 cars, ranging from a MINI John Cooper to a Mercedes SLR McLaren Stirling Moss. It's a bonus having real cars in the game that you can identify with and Gameloft has done a decent job at giving them all a slightly different feel, tweaking the likes of handling, brakes and suspension.
Away from the career mode, you can jump into a quick race or dive into multiplayer, which can be played locally or online. It's a slight inconvenience that to race against opponents from around the world you need to register a Gameloft Live Account and use a secure Wi-Fi connection to play (otherwise you’ll drop out every other minute), but it proves to be worth the effort. Though we've experienced slowdown during races and seen our opponents warp across screen, when it runs smoothly six-person multiplayer races are incredibly exciting and unpredictable. It's clear there's room for improvement in multiplayer mode, which only allows you to partake in standard races, but we’ve enjoyed some thrilling races nonetheless.
Taking everything into account, it's clear that Asphalt 6: Adrenaline does in no way try and enhance and improve the genre. Instead, it sticks to what it knows best by adopting old school mechanics and the same arcade style racing that the series has been producing since 2004. In that respect it plays things very safe by not being very creative with the content. Multiplayer, and the lack of game modes, is a little disappointing too, but this is still a very addictive, well produced racer that boasts an enjoyable and rewarding career mode and slick driving mechanics that make it perfect to pick-up-and-play., Asphalt 6: Adrenaline feels very much like playing a console arcade racer of yesteryear and, as fans of retro-style games, it provides the simple thrills and spills that you'd want from the genre. Asphalt 6: Adrenaline isn't quite the finished product in terms of delivering all the game modes and performance that you'd expect from a full-priced game, but it's kept us very entertained over the past month or so and is by far the best racing game on Xperia PLAY.
-The Final Word-
A throwback to the days of fun-packed arcade racers, Adrenaline 6 isn't quite the polished product it had the potential to be, but its varied career mode and impressive mix of fast races and decent rewards makes it PLAY's most addictive racer yet.
|Platforms reviewed : Xperia-Play|