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Asphalt 3: Street Rules review: Asphalt 3: Street Rules

Fans of classic racing games will want to check out Asphalt 3 on N-Gage. The racing is fast paced and can be thrilling, but the repetitive level design robs it of replay value.

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
Joseph Hanlon
4 min read

With limitations in processing power and the size of the installation files, the best mobile phone games to date feel like throwbacks to the late 80's or early 90's. Asphalt 3: Street Rules for Nokia's N-Gage platform fits this description, reminding us of classics like OutRun and Need for Speed, modernised with a smattering of the testosterone-fuelled aggression and "babes" we see in films like The Fast and the Furious.

5.5

Asphalt 3: Street Rules

The Good

Fast-paced gameplay. Decent graphics and soundtrack. Some challenging game modes.

The Bad

Shallow game mechanics. Repetitive level design.

The Bottom Line

Fans of classic racing games will want to check out Asphalt 3 on N-Gage. The racing is fast paced and can be thrilling, but the repetitive level design robs it of replay value.

Presentation
Jumping into a race in Asphalt 3 is like jumping into the Delorian and travelling back in time, Back to the Future style, to the year 1989, or the year when OutRun first hit the arcades. The 3D models for the cars in Asphalt displayed their polygon make-up, where round shapes like wheels showed the corners of the numerous triangles that form them. To the game's credit, when the flags came down and we slammed on the accelerator we didn't notice these blemishes.

While racing the graphics were serviceable at best. Don't expect realistic Gran Turismo 4 graphics for the price of admission here, kids. Each of the cities in the game has some geographic identifiers, Honolulu has palm trees and Vegas has garish city lights, but overall most of the tracks look and play very similarly.

She has a wrench and she's not afraid to use it.

Steaming up each of the game's menu screens is a sexy racing babe, oozing hip-hop attitude and clad in little more than tight shorts and singlets with plunging necklines. These girls apparently add to the gameplay mechanic somehow, offering to tune your car when selected (don't expect any lube job or oil change jokes from us at this point), but they do little more than attempt to raise the pulse of teenage boys and are totally gratuitous. Shame on you Nokia!

We were surprised to hear Misirlou by Dick Dale — the song made famous as the title music in Pulp Fiction — as the main menu soundtrack. The rest of the music in-game is a mix of generic guitar rock and forgettable hip-hop beats, but having a licensed and easily recognisable song in this game does give it a more polished feel. Sound effects in the game work nicely without being intrusive or outstanding; a mix of standard revving engines and enthused voices yelling encouragements.

Gameplay
The first and most important point to make is that Asphalt 3 plays quite fast. Its simplistic 3D renders disappeared to the back of our minds as we found ourselves whizzing around the corners, our tongues poking out the side of our mouths as we lent left and right with each turn. At this pace one of the main challenges in the game becomes identifying a turn from the mess of pixels in front of the car before ploughing into a wall. This may sound like a criticism, and in a way it is, but it's also one of the reasons the game can be quite thrilling at times.

We tested the game on a Nokia N95 8GB where we found the game's controls on the phone's keypad an even greater challenge than spotting sharp turns on-screen. Switching thumb position across the keys to make the turns and fire off Nitro speed boosts is much harder than actually racing in the game. While Asphalt 3 can be played in widescreen, with the phone turned to the side, we found it much easy to control the car with the screen in standard portrait mode, giving our thumbs the best chance of finding the right keys when needed.

The races take place in one of seven possible locations: Honolulu, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Rome, St Petersburg, Mumbai and Tokyo. Each city features four games to complete, a mix of traditional races, demolition derbies, and cops and robbers style races. As you race, each of the cities feel the same and contains the same race style which becomes increasingly prevalent as you reach the game's halfway point.

The difference between each of these race styles is basically whether you choose to speed past your competitors or rear-end them when you catch them. The demolition style race, called Beat 'Em All, has you racing to crash into a pre-determined number of cars before the end of the third lap, while playing a policeman in a race will have you aiming to crash only into the race leader. These varied games styles break the monotony of simply racing and are often more challenging.

The tuning options are extensive, though none have much effect on the gameplay.

Before each race you have the opportunity to visit the garage to switch your cars and bikes for a faster model, and as you make achievements when racing you receive options to tune your machine. As you tune your car it increases the car's base stats, like top speed and acceleration, but we found that once you hit the track thereafter these changes in performance are not evident. Tuning may be an obligatory feature for any self-respecting racing game, but it adds little more than colour in Asphalt 3.

Overall
We've had fun testing Asphalt 3: Street Rules, though its shallow gameplay mechanics and repeated level design hampers its longevity somewhat. We don't want to get caught in the trap of comparing N-Gage titles too harshly against games available on the next-generation gaming consoles, after all, Asphalt 3's AU$16 price tag is a fifth of what you'd expect to pay for a PS3 or Xbox 360 title, but do be aware that this game feels much more like a game from 20 years ago than any racing game created in the last five years or so.

As is the case with all N-Gage titles, Asphalt 3 is available from Nokia's N-Gage showcase for selected N-Series handsets only, as is available to download as a free trial before you hand over your cash.