Asphalt: Urban GT 2

The last time I saw Gameloft's mediocre racing title Asphalt Urban GT I was trading it in for store credit so I could buy something cool. The game just bored the hell out of me, so you can imagine how delighted I was when Nokia sent me a copy of the upcoming sequel. I was pretty convinced that Asphalt Urban GT 2 was going to knock me out faster than Thanksgiving turkey, but as my muscle car screamed around hair pin turns and I outran the police and blasted through checkpoints I was all smiles. It's still not any different than a lot of other titles on the market, but I'm seriously feelin' this game, enough that I'm kind of pissed that the preview build contains too many locked features.

The reason why this game shines is because the actual gameplay feels much, much tighter than the original's does and the developers have included plenty of options. In Arcade Mode there's Single Race, Quick Race, Time Attack, Cop Chase (nab evil doers), Bandit Chase (the tables are turned), and Elimination. Pretty standard stuff, and I'm really not all that impressed with any of it. Rather, I'm more psyched over the amount of courses in this game. There are 15, not a bad number for an N-Gage title. San Francisco, Rio, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Cuba, London, Columbia Airport, Tokyo, Las Vegas, Ukraine Deadzone, Hong Kong, Baghdad (the hell!?!), and Texas Speedway round out quite an impressive list. Too bad I only have access to SF, Tokyo, Paris, and LA, but rest assured that each of these courses has been appropriately designed and therefore look somewhat like their real world counterparts. They're also quite enjoyable to drive through, not only because of the pretty (by N-Gage standards) scenery, but also because they feature plenty of long stretches of road, twists and turns, and other cool things.

I'm not exactly sure how many vehicles are in Asphalt 2. They've all been sectioned off by type, so there's Bonus Vehicles, Furious Racers, Super Sports, Roadsters, Sedans, Bikes, Muscle Cars, Tuned Rides, Hot Hatch, and 4X4 SUV.

The preview build comes with an extra type called Demo Vehicles, of which there are about 13. The list is really standard issue, as it includes a Mercedes Benz SLR, a Dodge Viper GTS-R, a Lamborghini, a 1967 Corvette Stingray, a 1969 Camaro, a Subaru Impreza WRX STI, a Mini Cooper S, a Hummer, and a few other vehicles. There's nothing particularly earth shattering about that collection, but what's really cool is the inclusion of two bikes, the Triumph Speed Triple and the Ducati 999R. Not only are they both pretty fast, but the perspective changes because the screen tilts left and right depending which way you're leaning.

I'm not surprised that the engine's solid because the first Asphalt at the very least played all right. But the sequel is a bit smoother and less glitchy. The game moves at a much smoother pace and is actually quite impressive looking on the tiny N-Gage screen. I'm having fun with this game, especially with the nitrous boosts and the police chases. At certain points during race (it appears to always happen on the final lap), a squad car will ride my ass all the way to the finish line. I've never gotten caught and I think it's impossible to be pulled over. The cops are just there to be really annoying because they'll ram you into guardrails. However, their presence is also a huge motivator. Each time I hear that siren I floor my ride and get the hell out of Dodge. Because of this, I normally finish in the top three.

Much like in Burnout Revenge, there's the cars that you're competing against and a bunch of civilians who are just going about their business. Whenever you hit one of these innocents their cars are launched into the air and travel over 100 feet in front of you, so the physics aren't exactly realistic, but that's actually a good thing. Since the game moves rather fast, hitting someone doesn't always slow the action down, and if you're playing Cop Chase, for example, the goal is to apprehend criminals by just ramming into them, whereupon which you'll earn cash for your efforts.

In addition to simple races there's also Evolution, which appears to be some sort of CARPG. You can visit a car dealer and select from a plethora of different types from 23 manufacturers including Aston Martin, Cadillac, Dodge, Infiniti, Kawasaki, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Pontiac, and Subaru, among others. Not only can you test drive these cars, but once you purchase one (or several) you can store them in a garage and customize them. It doesn't appear to be a particularly sophisticated system, but having the option of being able to change body kits and rims is a nice touch. I wish I had more to say about Evolution, but unfortunately, most of it's locked away.

Then there's Bluetooth multiplayer. Up to four people can compete in single and championship races while two can battle it out in Cop Chase. Nothing exciting here, but it's better to have than not.

I'm pretty jazzed about Asphalt's music. The soundtrack isn't any different than the myriad of other racing games on the market, but the techno and other assorted beats sound quite good coming from the N-Gage's speakers.

There's still nothing enormously exciting about this series that allows it to stand apart from the competition, but I was pleased to discover that Asphalt Urban GT 2 has turned out to be a damn fine videogame and worth owning. The N-Gage has been quiet the past few months, but it's good to see that Nokia hasn't quit. The system has seen some fine releases this year, and it appears that Gameloft is about to add to the list.