Asphalt 8: Airborne review: High-flying arcade racing done right

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The Good Asphalt 8: Airborne delivers on the fast-paced, high-flying action that makes arcade racing games fun. There are tons of cars to unlock, and fun tracks to explore.

The Bad The main menu screen is confusing and needs to be clearer for newcomers to the game. Car upgrades get expensive too quickly, nudging you toward in-app purchases.

The Bottom Line Asphalt 8: Airborne is probably the best arcade racing game I've seen yet, with tons of light-hearted racing fun, but you'll have to fight the urge to spend your money.


8.2 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 8
  • Interface 8
  • Performance 9

Asphalt 8: Airborne (iOS|Android) is the latest sequel in Gameloft's superpopular arcade racing franchise, but this one has a new element that lets you get big air to perform tricks. The new jumping mechanic is fairly well executed and adds to the excitement, but it becomes old hat pretty quickly.

It's important to note that arcade racers like this one differ from simulations like the Real Racing franchise, so don't expect real-world physics and controls. This type of racer is meant to be much more fast-paced and entertaining than the sims, so racing purists might want to look elsewhere. With that said, Asphalt 8 is still a lot of fun.

Familiar controls
The default control system has you tilt to steer with the throttle always on, and you can touch the right side of the screen to get a nitro boost. The brakes are on the left side of the screen, and while you won't need to slow down much in this arcade racer, a tap of the brakes puts you into drift mode, which comes in handy for sharp turns and generating nitro. You also will find pickups around the track for nitro, so don't worry too much about overusing your speed boost as you race.

One thing to note about the controls is that I found the steering to be pretty unresponsive and muddy through the first couple of races. But all it took was a trip to the game settings to add more sensitivity to the steering. The game defaults to 50 out of 100, and I found that 75 was just about perfect for me. If you find the same thing, play with the settings before you give up, because it made the game much better for me.

Asphalt 8: Airborne
Speed around the track with five other cars as you try to battle your way to first place. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Cars and gameplay
Like the other games in the franchise, Asphalt 8: Airborne comes with all the bells and whistles you'd expect from an arcade racer. For starters there are 47 cars, including luxury racers like the Bugatti Veyron and the Lamborghini Veneno, each of which you'll eventually unlock as you earn money by racing. Getting the top-tier cars will definitely take some time, but like many games these days, Asphalt 8 lets you spend real cash to buy car packs if you want to get ahead quickly. Fortunately, even the beginning cars are pretty appealing, so you won't have to pay your dues racing some subcompact tin can like you do in other games if you don't want to spend the money.

There are only nine different racing locations, but you'll race each track in reverse as you progress and there are numerous routes to take on each track for plenty of variation. To mix it up further, there are a few different race types, starting with a standard race, then adding some variation with elimination, head-to-head, and an Infected game mode, where you infect other racers with a deadly virus that makes their cars explode. There are eight seasons you can race through, and each is a mix of all the different race types so you don't have to worry about doing the same old thing every time.

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