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DSiWare: Asphalt 4: Elite Racing Review Package Art

DSiWare: Asphalt 4: Elite Racing Review

Retail to download. Thatís the transition that DSiWare offers, and publisher/developer Gameloft nails the opportunity with Asphalt 4: Elite Racing. As a franchise that began as a launch title for Nintendo DS, Asphalt finds new relevance and life as a downloadable game with smooth visuals and enjoyable racing.

The 3D graphics engine really pops for a downloadable DS title, with a frame rate that never stutters. The car models sport accurate representation, with soft curves for the RUF RGT and sharper angles for the Enzo Ferrari. The courses also consist of the same level of detail, as cars fly by the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe while racing through Paris. Even more impressive is the amount of action filling the screen at the same time, as seven other cars jet around the track while a helicopter hovers above. Finally, effects round out the experience, as the sun glistens off the screen, snow particles fill the New York course and skid marks follow drifting automobiles.

Almost as lush as the visuals, the career mode for Asphalt 4 consists of a variety of tracks, racing modes and RPG Lite elements. The modes alter each race a tad, though the main mechanics focus on the use of nitros, drifting and knocking out opponents. Itís quick and very arcade-like, which makes it perfect to pick up and play for minutes at a time. The only downside relates to knocking out competitors, which adds an aggressive side to the game, but unfortunately jarringly switches the camera view and leaves a car in an unfavorable position.

The RPG characteristics of the title mix in well with the arcade racing. Each race won gives players some cash, which ups the level of the garage and allows for new rides to be purchased. It is slightly unsatisfying how funds seem to be thrown out in abundance, taking away a grander sense of accomplishment. Once acquired, though, 20-plus automobiles slowly become unlocked, which can then be tweaked and tuned to perfection from a variety of parts -- like tires, engine and modifiers. Itís not overly complex, but at the same time, includes some depth for those more obsessive about their cars.

But cars are not the only option for speedsters. A few motorcycles also make an appearance, but their impact is miniscule. The two-wheeled rides fail to drift well, ignoring a crucial element of the game. Instead of spending time on the crotch-rockets, the developers possibly could have been better served by focusing on multiplayer.

Thatís because multiplayer is a major weakness for Asphalt 4, with Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection races nonexistent. Even worse, multiplayer requires each user to purchase the game, negating the opportunity to play with DS owners through download play. Sadly, with the additional lack of leaderboards, Gameloft demonstrates a near perfect trifecta of missed opportunity.

The music also fails to elevate above the norm, but at least the sound effects serve their role. Car tires screech with authenticity around sharp turns, while nitro punches the engine into overdrive with a roar.

These few negatives do not bring Asphalt 4 to a halt, though. The franchise successfully drifts onto DSiWare because of visuals that burst off the screen with speed and color and downright enjoyable arcade-racing action. The few hitches, such as a lack of a robust online mode, do not ruin the experience. Instead, it just stops the title a tad short from reaching the upper echelon of DSiWare experiences.

final score 7.8/10

Staff Avatar Evan Campbell
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"Real men don't fight ó they sing!"

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