Asphalt is a franchise that has been a staple since smartphones could handle console-quality video games, with early spin-offs even based on 2D Java games.
While Gameloft has almost always done a great job with these games, there’s only so much you can do when it’s the ninth in the series that’s coming out and the formula has already been perfected.
With Asphalt 9: Legends, they attempted to put almost everything into the game.
We have conventional races, Burnout-like knockouts, and even over-the-top things like going through rooftops.
And all of that is bundled with Gameloft’s experimental ‘TouchDrive’ controls that are supposed to be unique to this game.
So, does the gamble pay off and make Asphalt 9: Legends a worthy sequel? Let’s find out.
The gameplay of any good racing game relies a lot on how the controls feel and function.
Asphalt 9 offers three types of control schemes. One is tilting your phone and pressing on-screen buttons, the other one offers basic on-screen steering, and the last one is Gameloft’s ‘TouchDrive’ scheme that is supposed to be the biggest innovation for the game.
The tilting controls work perfectly and are the ideal way of playing the game in my view, as it has the perfect balance between control and convenience.
The next control type is the worst one, as it requires very awkward and slow gestures to drive the cars and you barely manage to handle it as well as you could in the other control schemes.
And finally, we have the TouchDrive controls, which unfortunately is just too automated for my tastes. It dumbs down the gameplay to such a degree that you could enjoy it with just one hand. The vehicle drives and steers itself with no control given to the player. You only get to decide when to drift, when to flip, and when to use the nitro.
Speaking of the gameplay itself now, Asphalt 9: Legends is a very straightforward racing game that does not try to complicate itself in any way.
The only power-up that the game has is nitro, and there are three types of it. The first type is basic, the second one is Super, and can be used by pressing the nitro button a second time when it reaches a blue spot on the bar. And the last one is a special type of boost that can be used by double-tapping when the bar is full.
You can pick up nitro on the road, which is distributed in single and 2x quantities. Nitro can also be gained by drifting a lot and pulling off cool stunts.
Drifting is pretty convenient in the game and there’s little room for error, so you will be using it very often to overtake your opponents. Double tapping the drift button makes your car spin 360, which takes out enemy drivers if they are within range. This can also be used to do aerial stunts if you time things right.
So, your job is to drive your car in a series of races where you can knock your opponents out and solo time-trial missions in which you have to complete the race on time.
The driving is simple, but the game has dynamic tracks where you often experience things like rain and objects flying around due to wind. The race tracks also include alternate paths that are over-the-top, such as the ability to crash through a building’s windows at one point.
There are ramps spread everywhere and they also make the driving wackier as you can even pull off stunts as mentioned previously. There is the possibility of crashing if you botch a ramp jump, which is both hilarious and a massive disadvantage since it slows you down. So, you need to be a bit careful when you do destructive things but it’s still all very fun.
Asphalt 9 is no Burnout, but it still has decent vehicular destruction in both dropping out of boundary and when you attack other players to knock them out of the race. That coupled with competent racing gameplay and dynamic stages make Asphalt 9 a very entertaining racing game to play.
Whether you play the single-player races or take things online to face-off against other real players, the game feels intense and has a console-like quality that will satisfy fans of the genre.
And of course, small extra things such as challenges, events, clans, and tons of real-life cars to choose from are all here too.
The only thing that Asphalt 9: Legends could do better is the fairness of multiplayer matchmaking, as you need to upgrade and unlock new cars too often to win and that often gets ruined by you getting paired with stronger opponents. However, it’s still fairly entertaining if you’re willing to sink in the time.
The graphics of Asphalt 9: Legends are excellent and some of the best that you’ll see in the mobile market.
Everything is extremely detailed, whether it’s the licensed real-world cars or the environments. Not only that but even the destruction in both the race tracks and the vehicles themselves looks amazing.
The game is gorgeous to look at and that makes it even more enjoyable than it already is, especially when you’re using super nitro and pulling off aerial stunts.
The UI is very to-the-point and feels professional, as nothing is difficult to find or confusing. The polish of the game is remarkably excellent as it manages to run very smoothly even on mediocre phones despite how visually detailed the game is.
The only minor nitpick I have is that the game’s tutorial messages cannot be skipped by tapping on the screen and you have to wait a few seconds for them to go away, even when you’re in the middle of a race.
The sound design is very good. The sound effects are all high-quality and enhance the overall experience since it’s satisfying to hear rubber burn and the destruction of components when cars collide. The game has a diverse soundtrack too, so it’s always fun to listen to as you're racing.
Asphalt 9: Legends is not a revolutionary addition to the genre, but it’s a solid and entertaining mobile game that is well worth your time and will satisfy your racing adrenaline on a smartphone.
It’s very fun to play and nothing short of a visual delight, so the few inconsistencies like in the multiplayer match-ups don’t hold it back much.