The hot trend right now in big name apps from top publishers like EA and Gameloft is freemium. The games are free, but the content is not. For casual gamers that want a nice diversion, it's a wonderful thing -- allowing you to try out otherwise grade-A games for free -- while hardcore gamers who want to unlock everything a game has to offer are often left between a rock and a very expensive hard place. Asphalt 7 Heat manages to toe the line between freemium micro transactions and solid game design as well as any racer currently out there. With sleek menus, a huge range of tracks, and a wide-open game design, it is inviting and accessible, even if you decide to keep your wallet tucked away.
There are two types of racers on the App Store -- the realistic simulator and the arcade speed-a-thon. Asphalt 7 Heat is very much the latter. Like most app store racers, your car accelerates on its own and you control when to hit the nitro and when to break. Turning is done by tilting your phone or tablet, and there are power-ups on the track that you can snag for more speed, cash, and points. Cash accrues as you race -- both by winning races and by picking it up off the track. Of course, it doesn't accrue nearly as fast as you will want to purchase upgrades and new cars, but if you have patience or don't play too much, the curve isn't too punishing. You can easily play this game without spending a dime and enjoy it.
Multiplayer requires a Gameloft account, which you can either log in to or create quickly from the menu. Alternately you can play locally against other players toting phones or iPads via Bluetooth. Be warned, though, your battery will die fast if you use this option. Overall, Asphalt 7 Heat is one of the best arcade racers on the App Store today -- one that anyone can enjoy, whether you prefer your games complete or are happy to pay for the small upgrades.