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Asphalt 7: Heat Review: Exterior Upgrade, But Not Much New Under The Hood

Did you like Gameloft’s Asphalt 5? How about Asphalt 6: Adrenaline? If so, then I guarantee that you’ll find a lot to like about Asphalt 7: Heat, the newest iteration of the game. I know you’ll like it, because much of it is exactly the same.

Asphalt 7 actually poses a hard question for a reviewer like me. With this game, the Asphalt series is becoming like the venerable Madden series: it gets an annual refresh, but improvements and changes are incremental. Asphalt 7 is still very much Asphalt 6, which was very much Asphalt 5. How do you review a game like that? The Asphalt series is arguably the best arcade street racing game on iOS (but not the best racing game period — that would be Real Racing 2). But this game offers almost nothing new to the franchise.

Everything that was good about Asphalt 6 is still good here. It’s fast-paced, contains plenty of cars and levels and customization options, and features the same racing modes (standard race, knockout challenge, elimination challenge, etc.). As you race, you still pick up on-track power-ups; when your nitrous oxide is fully charged you still go into violet-neon Adrenaline mode; and you can still knock out other cars with groovy slo-mo crash sequences. The controls still default to tilt steering (a bit too sensitive, I like to turn mine down), but still feature on-screen steering and — my favorite — tap-steering. The music is still tolerable, the sound effects still incidental, and the style all neons and glows and cool colors.

The graphics are actually a step up from Asphalt 6, at least on high end devices. I was struck by how good the game looked on my iPhone 4S, and can only imagine it looking better on the new iPad. But to Gameloft’s credit, the game also looked and ran just fine on my iPad 1. Gameloft is really good at making universal apps that scale between older and newer devices.

One thing that has changed is the price: it’s only 99 cents. Heck, Asphalt 6 is still selling for $4.99! But that’s because Gameloft, who has experimented with freemium models in the past year, has decided to instead make this game a low-cost buy-in with lots of IAP to sell you. You’re constantly being given the chance to spend in-game winnings on sponsorship and upgrades and other things, and of course there’s an incentive to buy additional currency with real cash. It’s not a ridiculously hard sell, however, and it’s pretty easy to just play the game to earn cash.

There’s also a heavy social networking component built into Asphalt 7, of the “Share your victory with your Facebook friends to earn free stuff!” variety. This is annoying, and to me utterly pointless. But at least it’s a new feature in a game that’s otherwise lacking it.

So, to sum up: Asphalt 7 is really nothing new. It’s Asphalt 6 with a new polish, a cheaper price tag, and a heavy social networking component baked in. That still makes it one of the best racing games in the App Store. And at it’s low price of 99 cents, it’s hard not to recommend it for anyone who has an iPhone 4S or a new iPad, even for players who already have Asphalt 6. Still, buyer beware: while you’re getting a nice new paint job, you’re buying the same engine under the hood.

Our score: 4 out of 5

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