So I was playing Asphalt 8: Airborne, a fairly fun if grindy racing game, and suddenly this popped up on my screen.
Asphalt 8 meets Fall Out Boy, meant to advertise their newest album? Now that’s a crossover I wasn’t expecting to see.
Admittedly, I don’t listen to a lot of Fall Out Boy. I know a few of their songs, but I always kept confusing them with My Chemical Romance and similar “emo rock” bands that permeated the landscape in the mid-2000s. From the songs I have heard from them, they seem to be an passably entertaining rock band, and I’m surprised they’re still going in 2018.
You’re probably wondering why this crossover exists. They’re a pop-rock band that hasn’t really mentioned being big racing game fans, so it seems like an ill fit, right? Well, Vivendi, the French mega-conglomerate, owns Island Records, which is Fall Out Boy’s label; as well as Gameloft, the developer behind Asphalt 8. So while it’s not completely random like, oh say, KISS Psycho Circus, it certainly doesn’t feel like a natural crossover.
The event goes like this: You join a new racing league, the Fall Out Boy World Tour. In it, you must build enough hype to impress the staff and members of the band to win the championship and earn a brand new car, the BMW M2 “Special Edition,” which differs from the standard BMW M2 in game by having rear spoilers and a cool paint job. You’re given a whole week in real time to do this.
However, the fight will be tough as you’ll be facing stiff competition, including one from the “ultimate Fall Out Boy fan,” Adam Knowles. He’ll taunt you throughout, saying he has the best tuned-up vehicle and that you’ll never beat him. As you complete challenges and gain fans, you’ll eventually have to defeat multiple AI in head-to-head races to win the championship and the BMW M2.
So how does this work? You gain fans by completing challenges in each race. Most of them are fairly simple challenges – beat the race in the target time, get first place, knockdown more cars than your opponent – others more difficult, such as requiring you to do 6 flat spins off a ramp or drift for 4,000 yards. Successfully pull off the challenge and you’ll earn fan points and build up hype. Hype increases the amount of fan points starting at 1 times the value, to 1.5 times the value, all the way up to 3x the normal value. Every normal race is 200 points, whereas the championship racers increase drastically in value as the story progresses.
However, failure will kill fan hype, give fewer points, and end the streak. You can try again but you’ll be starting back at a 1x multiplier; or you can buy out and keep the streak at a fairly costly number of tokens, the game’s premium currency.
Oh, and you need “streaming passes” to broadcast these events (i.e.: race). You’re given three to start, a new one is given to you every 2 ½ hours if you have used one already, though you could buy extra passes with tokens if you were super-impatient.
Once you get enough hype points, you can use them to redeem goodies, including blueprints for the car, pro card upgrades, or just some extra credits to put towards upgrading the car. Yes, these are lootboxes, which might have raised the ire of some of you just now. Thankfully you don’t have to pay real money for said boxes.
As the event started, I could only buy the simple basic supplies for 200 fan points – one race will usually get you enough for that – but as the event went on, I could buy the higher tier pro and elite boxes for 500 and 1,000 points respectively. These give a more increased chance of getting blueprints for the car. One thing I started doing a couple days into the event was waiting for the 1,000 point box to unlocked, which guaranteed at least one blueprint and the chance for additional blueprints. Since I had amassed 10,000 points, I just used it all up to guarantee myself 10 blueprints and some bonus goodies, giving a slight edge.
Upgrading the car throughout the event is key, and since this is a mobile free-to-play game, it has all the trappings of needing to farm credits to make this happen. I did this by participating in races and other events within Asphalt 8, as the boxes would only give you anywhere from 1,600 to 10,500 credits, and upgrades were often in the 100,000-200,000 range. Now I did play it safe and hoarded a bunch of credits before the event started, but this event started up right as I was trying to do a different event for a Chinese New Year-themed Audi R8 e-tron, so I had to divvy up my credits between upgrading two cars for two events. Thankfully it was easier to upgrade the BMW M2 than the Audi R8 thanks to the latter having upgrades that required tokens, which was pretty gross.
The storyline is interesting but inconsequential to the whole thing. Dylan and Macy give you encouraging words, each of the band members come in to see how well you are at racing, but then there’s a twist where someone did some ~cyberhacking~ and drained Dylan’s bank account. We later find out – gasp – it was Adam, FOB’s biggest fan who did all the cybercrimes, and he’ll stop you from being the king of the tour any way he can.
Though all it takes is a good tuned car, a few boosters and beating the AI racer one last time and I promptly left Adam in the dust. I end up winning the tour and becoming part of the “Fall Out Boy” family. Dylan hints that this may “not be the last time we meet,” so I anticipate the next event being sponsored by Mike Posner, The Weeknd or even Taylor Swift!
(I had to look up who was under Island Records label. Since Vivendi owns all of Universal Media Group, which includes Island Records, the possibilities of who the next world tour band they’ll shill for this game are endless!)
It doesn’t end there. Now the goal was to repeat regular races and keep getting enough fan points, which buys more boxes, which contain blueprints for the car. Lather, rinse, repeat until the event ended. 70 blueprints wasn’t particularly difficult to obtain for me, though I could see it being difficult if the M2 is not properly upgraded, or if you’re new to the game and you have little money. Once the event was over, any leftover fan points were converted to credits.
I decided to write about this because I’m fascinated by unusual events, especially time-limited ones. Since it was for a game I play with regularity, I couldn’t resist documenting the silliness of this damn thing. I mean, I wrote about unique Mountain Dew Game Fuel flavors for 4 years, I know I’m not writing about anything serious. It’s a nice time capsule, really.
They didn’t skimp out on the Fall Out Boy stuff either. While it has their logo and likenesses of the band members, a few songs from the aforementioned MANIA album also appear throughout when in the campaign and occasionally when racing. Surprisingly not that bad, though not a fan of whatever song they thought needed a high-pitched chipmunk voice singing the chorus, though.
Now, bring on the next world tour. Hopefully with a good band this time!
This is where I get to the part about the elephant in the room: The microtransaction-filled nature of Asphalt 8. If you’re not interested, you’re welcome to click away and move on to looking at something nicer, like cute kittens. But, if you wanna hear my take and experiences with this stuff, feel free to read on.
(Some of the images are taken from the Asphalt wiki as I’m a dungus and forgot to take screenshots of certain parts of the event. Got practically all the dialogue, though!)
So throughout this journey, I mentioned microtransactions, premium currencies, lootboxes, the works. You’re probably asking “Why the fuck are you playing this?”, “Why are you endorsing this garbage?”, and most likely “Why are you killing video games?”
Well, I find Asphalt 8 kinda fun, I’m not really endorsing the game’s practices, and I don’t think I’m killing video games, at least not directly.
I got into Asphalt 8 when I upgraded from Windows 7 to 10 in 2016. I had never touched the Windows Store before and thought it would be prime fodder for future blog posts. Of which I did two: Modern Combat 5 and Overkill 3. Asphalt 8 was meant to be another one, but it didn’t come to fruition. Unless you count this post as one.
What stopped me was the game’s progression. A fair share of cars require those tokens to buy. Getting something like 6,750 tokens to buy an SSC Ultimate Aero XT can be a herculean task if you don’t buy tokens directly. Completing time-limited events can amass anywhere from 5 to 100 tokens, a daily login bonus could get me a few tokens here and there, and even doing events like the Fall Out Boy World Tour got me a few tokens to hoard.
It doesn’t help that these events would make me spend tokens in various ways, often to keep myself afloat for a car I didn’t really need to finish the career mode. At some point, I had spent $38 throughout 2016 and 2017 on token packs, giving me 600-1,100 at a time to make some headway. The last time I spent money was on an 1,100 token pack as a “rage buy” after I failed a challenge in a previous event, which was the moment where I realized I’d been suckered into this, and felt real gross afterwards.
I only got that Ultimate Aero XT thanks to a fluke: They did a sale on some cars, and the price went down to a more manageable but still ludicrous 4,200 tokens. I had amassed 6,300 tokens throughout 2017, making sure not to spend unless them I really had to. While I was happy I was able to get the white whale of the game for me and get the final Xbox achievement – for 20 Gamerscore no less – it made me think about how I got suckered into the microtransaction loop by complete accident.
It’s a shame too, as Asphalt 8 is of a dying breed, the simple track to track racing game with goofy entertaining stunts a la classic Burnout. I usually don’t get into racing games these days as a lot of them fall into the “roam around a world and do random races” routine that’s been practically standard since the PS2-era Need for Speed games. It often feels like each of these games are too similar to each other and lack a unique style and feel. Oddly, Asphalt 8 sticking to its old guard makes it feel refreshing, and I can give it credit for that. Even with all the microtransaction garbage.
I do fully agree with anyone who hates microtransactions, premium currency, even loot boxes. They’re garbage. They get people addicted to games and spending loads of real money to make progress in game. I understand companies need to make money, but there has to be a more friendly way that helps consumers that doesn’t feel greedy or make people act on impulse, being “whales” to the microtransaction system.
In the current climate, it just feels completely gross to bother with any video game that’s not a cute indie darling like, oh say, Night in the Woods. The whole backlash over EA’s microtransaction system in Star Wars Battlefront II while a bit overblown, was a case of people getting rightfully angry over shady business practices and saying enough is enough. I agree with them. While I’m not a top-hatted Youtube shoutyman who bangs the drum about this on a daily basis, I do agree that something needs to be done about this. Sadly I am just a writer and not a stockholder or businessman so I have no ideas. I don’t think anyone has the perfect idea, but “Stop doing microtransactions” is a good solution, even if that’s currently unfeasible.
As for Asphalt 8… It’s a good game, but I don’t recommend you go out of your way to play it. If you do decide to play it, go in realizing that Gameloft, like any other company, wants you to spend money on it to get a bit of an edge on the competition. It’s up to you if you want to relinquish your credit card towards them, though with the experiences above I am strongly against it. As they say, vote with your wallet.