Developed by Gameloft, the famous Asphalt series has been one of our favorites; Asphalt 9: Legends being the latest fits perfectly in an environment already tenanted by SONY’s Gran Turismo and MICROSOFT’s Forza. The game has an expensive list of licensed cars, a driving model that combines the best bits of Ridge Racer and Burnout into a fun new package, and a huge selection of tracks and events you can play solo or with people online.
Unfortunately, it’s also a nightmare web of unlocks, progression bars, energy timers, random card packs, and daily tasks designed to keep giving you little hits of dopamine till you’re addicted enough to spend real money. It’s one of the most brazenly- monetized free games I’ve ever played.
Initially, it’s quite liberal with its handouts of premium Tokens. But once you’ve played the game for a few days, the free earning potential slows to a literal crawl, and time limits on play start to kick in. Only those who invest real money regularly will do well enough in the game’s many unique challenges and competitions to keep up.
Even if you do put money into the game, unlocking the best cars is a challenge because most of them come from random card packs. It’s often not enough to earn one rare card, either. Many cars require stacks of 20, 40, 60, or more cards to unlock and upgrade.
Not even the game’s clan system is free of weird addiction-encouraging progression mechanics. After you’ve played for a while, you can create your own racing team complete with a customized name and logo, and invite your friends. However, if you don’t personally play the game enough each and every day, control of your team will be transferred to a friend of yours who plays the most.
All of this really sucks because the game is a blast to play. Graphically the game is still great. The screen is bathed in particles, motion blur, dust, and weather elements the entire time you play, and the colorful lighting gives the game’s aesthetic a wonderful blend of realism and heightened arcade fun. The framerate is fully unlocked and tries to hit sixty all the time, and overall it’s the perfect example of what Gameloft can do when pushed.
If Asphalt 9 weren’t so aggressively designed to addict players into spending too much money, it’d be one of my favorite mobile racing games released in the last year. It’s great-looking and great to play but mired in monetization muck.
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