Asphalt 9: Legends was released last month and in our first impressions of the racing game we had said it is one of the must-play racing games out there. Now a week and a half later, with plenty of hours under our belt, we’ve found some added positives and also some glaring kinks, both of which make Asphalt 9 the game it is.
Let’s start with the visuals. Since I’ve already spoken about how great the game is visually, I won’t bore you again with similar jargon. But after spending some time playing the game, one thing I realised was the excellent sense of speed you get in the Asphalt 9. The improvement is significant compared to its predecessor, I mean cars never felt fast enough in Asphalt 8 as they do in this entry. The new engine also has excellent lighting, with an HDR lighting effect that creates vibrant environments. Combine it with the use of screen space reflections, which reflects local geometry detail off the surface of cars, puddles and ice and you get a cohesive environment that looks realistic.
All this does make Asphalt 9 visually stunning but it still isn’t perfect. For one, it runs at a locked 30fps on both iOS and Android, which is a shame. One could argue that the game cannot hit a stable 60fps on current mobile hardware or perhaps it causes power consumption issues but that doesn’t mean that future hardware also will be incapable of the same. I mean Gameloft could have at least given an option in the settings to unlock the frame rate. For what it's worth, Asphalt 9 does run at 60fps on Windows 10 and even though that's really the only difference, it looks a lot better over there due to the frame rate.
Now let’s come to the gameplay. Earlier I had mentioned the introduction of a new control system called TouchDrive that basically allows you to drive in autopilot. Initially I found it ok as it allowed for more accessible and casual gaming, but now after spending so much time on the game, it’s become quite redundant. I mean there’s no evolution to it. All you do is swipe left or right over and over again. ‘Tap to Steer’ and ‘Tilt to Steer’ are the other two control options available and although they give you a little bit more control of the car, braking and acceleration still isn’t in your hands. Gameloft should have added a manual control option, one that lets you do all the driving.
Rest of the gameplay is pretty much similar to what I mentioned earlier. There are multiple race options and a handful of targets which, when achieved, grant you flags to unlock new events. Also a 360-degree spin mode has been added, which spins your car 360-degrees when you hit the drift button twice, and takes down any car that is close enough to touch. As for the tracks, there’s a good mix of them and all look visually impressive. But despite Gameloft’s 70-tracks claim, you’ll run out of new ones in a few days’ time. Beyond that, you’ll have various shortcuts to explore in each race track and believe me, some of them are actually worthwhile. We also spent a major share of our time competing online, which although interesting, largely depends on who owns the faster car. There is also a club feature, where you can create a club with other players online.
However getting access to newer and faster cars is a major problem in Asphalt 9. You can’t just unlock new cars by winning races. Each car has its own set of blueprints, which you win by competing in races and once you have enough blueprints of a certain type, that car gets unlocked. You can speed up this process by paying for blueprints but considering that some cars have up to dozens and dozens of blueprints and each is pretty expensive.
Also, there’s no restart function for races. One unit of fuel gets consumed, whether you finish the race or quit mid-way and after you use all units of fuel for that car (about 6 available at a time), you have to wait for the fuel to refill. This again is frustrating as you have to either use tokens or watch ads to refill the fuel. If you’re unlucky and out of tokens, you get stuck watching ads or waiting (paying real money is always an option, if you’ve got the bucks).
Another thing you should remember is that the game is always online. You can’t play it without having an internet connection and even switching momentarily to another app disrupts it. I found it to be quite annoying during my time with the game.
Summing it up, Asphalt 9: Legends is definitely a notch above its predecessor with better graphics, faster cars and immersive tracks but issues like the blueprint and refuelling system for cars set it back just that little.