One of the first games I ever bought for my iPhone was Asphalt 4: Elite Racing. It had pretty good user reviews and was “only” five or six bucks (my, has the App Store changed), so I gave it a download. Woah, I thought after a few races. This is several steps above Snake.

A8_MultiplayerShots_05_650Over the years the App Store has seen the rise of many other racing series, from the lite sim of the Real Racing games to the drift-tacular Reckless Racing 1 and 2 and beyond. And chugging away in the background has been Asphalt. Sure, it’s a popular enough series, but it rarely brought anything new to the table that some other series hadn’t already done and perfected.

That is, until Asphalt 8: Airborne (out now, $0.99).

From the outset the game seems ordinary enough. It has the obligatory graphics bump and a sleek new menu UI. Career mode? Check. Multiplayer? Check. Tons of cars with upgrades? Check, check, check. What Airborne brings to the table this time, however, is pure ridiculousness.

“But Asphalt games have always been a bit over the top! They are arcade racers, after all!” I hear  you say. True, but let me paint you a picture: You’re flying down the street at an absurd pace, closing in on one of the competing cars ahead. Suddenly they are flying off a ramp, and you follow. Right before going over the lip you throw your supercar sideways into a drift, spinning you like a pop shove-it at least 50 feet into the air. As you spin your backside clips the side of your opponent and everything slows down into a stylized shower of glass and metal fragments, the other car falling to the ground in pieces. Your tires finally connect to the road and you hit your nitro, leaving the scene of the crime at speeds high enough to make Einstein rethink a few things. Oh yeah, and a massive rocket was launching overhead at the same time.

asphalt-8-airborne-e1377291847589This is not a rare occurrence; in fact, these sorts of things happen in nearly every race. From the classic and elimination races to the drift challenges and new Infected mode, races are never, ever boring. Especially since almost every track has airplanes, robots, avalanches, space shuttles, and loads of other insane things to race through and/or barrel roll over. You are not playing an arcade game, you are playing an action film.

Sure, there’s some pretty atrocious rubber banding, but that just adds to the pulse-pounding intensity of each race. And sure, you might have to grind to get the right cars later on in the career, but who cares when “grinding” is this stupidly fun?

There are so many other things I’d love to mention about this game, like how simple and quick multiplayer matchmaking is, or how every event has ghosts of you or your friends you can race against, or how the game is 99 freakin’ cents, but really you only need to know one thing: Gameloft nailed it. Buy this game, now.

iFanzine verdict: The phrase “console quality” gets tossed around more and more as our iThings continue to advance, but Asphalt 8: Airborne is one of the first games I’ve ever thought really deserved it. It is absolutely bursting with tracks, cars, game modes, polish, and fun. What are you doing? Mash that buy button!