Earlier this week, Gameloft announced they will bring their latest arcade racer Asphalt 8: Airborne to both Windows Phone and Windows 8. Phone owners have enjoyed its predecessor for quite some time now, but Microsoft’s tablet and PC operating system has gone without – until now.

Asphalt 7: Heat has just launched on Windows 8 and RT with full Xbox support. It includes some impressive features such as Xbox 360 controller support, glitchy Play/Pause/Resume connectivity and even cross-platform multiplayer with the Windows Phone 8 version! We’ve put the Windows 8 game through its paces in order to bring you this timely review.

One big racing game

Asphalt 7 for Windows 8 and RT

Asphalt 7’s career mode consists of 13 tiers with 12 events each; that’s a whopping 156 events for players to race through. Those events come in quite a variety, such as traditional races against five opponents, arcade races against timer, elimination races in which the last racer gets knocked out of the race, and more.

Of those race types, I found knockdown races by far the most enjoyable. In knockdowns, you’ll have to literally knock your opponents out (temporarily) by smashing them into a wall or hitting them while in Adrenaline mode (this game’s advanced form of Nitro). Knocking an AI racer into the air and cruising on for new prey just never gets old.

Depending on how well you perform in each career race, you’ll earn up to three stars. Hitting star milestones unlocks new licensed cars and upgrades for purchase in the shop. Win or lose a race, you’ll always earn money to spend.

Completing single-player or online races and performing various actions like drifting also earns you rep. Rep is basically XP, as it contributes to leveling up. Reaching certain levels unlocks new cars to buy, but your level is mainly a way for other online players to see how far you’ve gotten in the game.

As if earning stars, money, and rep didn’t provide enough goals already, Asphalt 7 also has lots of optional missions to complete in single- or multiplayer. These goals give you something extra to shoot for during a race or series of races such as knocking down a certain number of opponents or drifting for a set distance. At any given time, you’ll have three missions to work on – just like in Jetpack Joyride. This game really keeps players busy!

Cloud racer

Asphalt 7 for Windows 8 and RT

When I first downloaded and started playing Asphalt 7 on Windows 8, I figured I would need to take on the massive career mode all over again. Imagine my surprise when I signed into Xbox Live in-game and it informed me that I already had save data on the cloud. I didn’t even know it used cloud saving! Users can choose to download the existing cloud save or start with fresh data.

The cloud save restored my old career progress, level, money, and cars appeared on my Windows 8 system. Actually, the save recovered from the cloud was only on tier 11 of the campaign as opposed to my actual phone status of tier 13. But slightly old save or not, it still saved me hours and hours of time in the Windows 8 game.

The only question is: will progress from the Windows 8 game transfer back to Windows Phone as well? Unfortunately, on the phone I’ve hit that bug in which the game crashes after the title screen, so I can’t test it. The phone game is excellent but awfully buggy that way. It would be great if we could jump back and forth between both platforms at will. Until we do more testing though, it might be safer to assume the transfer is a one-way operation.

Crossing the platforms in multiplayer

Asphalt 7 for Windows 8 and RT online multiplayer

Asphalt 7 was the first Windows Phone 8 game with true real-time online multiplayer, and now we can say the same about Windows 8 as well. As far as we know, Microsoft has never provided the libraries needed for online multiplayer on phone or tablet, leaving the work completely up to developers.

As such, the phone version of Asphalt 7 used Gameloft’s online service Gameloft Live for its multiplayer instead of Xbox Live. Subsequent games like UNO & Friends have switched over to Xbox Live, but Asphalt 7 still relies on Gameloft Live. Creating a Gameloft account isn’t much work though, and most Windows Phone 8 gamers probably already have one anyway.

This version’s multiplayer performs very well, with only the occasional dropped connection to mar the experience. You can join or host a game for up to six online racers, selecting the race type, track, and tier of cars. Car upgrades can’t be toggled off by the host however, meaning high level players have a significant advantage over low level players. And sadly, this version lacks any form of chat, just like the phone game.

The real treat with Asphalt 7’s multiplayer is that both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 players can race against each other! You needn’t do anything special. Any players can join any matchmaking game, with no differentiation between platforms. The new influx of Windows 8 players should breathe new life into the phone game; and the existing phone users provide a player base for new tablet and PC gamers to race with.

Windows 8 controls

Asphalt 7 for Windows 8 and RT Xbox 360 Controls

Since Windows 8 runs on both tablets and PCs, it’s capable of supporting a variety of control options. Thankfully Asphalt 7 takes advantage of all the important ones: touch, mouse and keyboard, and Xbox 360 controller. You will need to select Control Scheme F from the Options in order to enable the control pad.

As you might expect, the controller offers the greatest degree of precision. Steering with a stick and accelerating, braking, or activating Nitro with buttons are all a snap. The controller acts as a virtual mouse pointer in the menus, which makes cup selection cumbersome in career, but otherwise it really improves an already fantastic game. It also functions as a preview of what Gameloft’s Windows Phone 8 games would be like if they worked with the MOGA Pro Controller.

Achievements

Asphalt 7 for Windows 8 and RT

Since Asphalt 7 on Windows 8 is basically a direct port of the Windows Phone 8 game but with better graphics and more control options, it also has the same Achievement list. That means that reaching level 80, earning a total of twenty million dollars, and buying all cars and upgrades will be the most time consuming Achievements.

I feared that recovering my phone save data might cause Achievement difficulties. Thankfully it didn’t! After pulling my save from the cloud, all of the Achievements I earned on Windows Phone popped in the Windows 8 game as well. What a time saver! You could potentially get 400 GamerScore by playing both versions. Not bad given the total investment of three bucks for both games.

Overall Impression

It might be late in coming, but Asphalt 7 still impresses on Windows 8. The Surface RT runs at it a low but playable frame rate (probably about the same as a Lumia 920), but on beefier Windows 8 hardware the frame rate is perfectly fluid.

With a lengthy career mode, copious amounts of cars and upgrades to buy, and actual online multiplayer, Asphalt 7 also provides a tremendous value for an amazingly low price. Cloud saves and cross-platform multiplayer are just the icing on one delicious cake of a racing game. Don’t miss it.

Warning: according to reader reports, the game crashes on the Windows 8.1 preview. If you're running 8.1, be sure to download the trial and see how it does before purchasing.

  • Asphalt 7 – Windows 8 and RT – 0.99 GB - $1.99 – Store Link
  • Asphalt 7 – Windows Phone 8 – 512 MB – Store Link (QR tag below)

Thanks to Bilal Khan for letting us know about the release!

QR: Asphalt 7 WP8