Asphalt: Injection Review
For the most part, I don’t have a problem with mindless arcade racers. Done correctly, they can be an invigorating feast for the senses; titles like Split/Second and nail’d have grabbed my attention and rooted me to my seat. But Asphalt: Injection just doesn’t cut it; the production feels weak and light, and it really doesn’t push the PlayStation Vita hardware at all. It can be fun for brief stretches and I love the cars and some of the locations, but it’s still pretty “meh.”
The graphics aren’t bad and the track design really is good. Some of the backdrops are attractive, as Gameloft attempted to spice them up with various effects, ranging from snow to paragliders. But the special effects are hardly special, as knockouts (this game’s version of Burnout’s takedowns) are pretty bland, and the blue-screen adrenaline rush feature is also stark and lacks richness. Furthermore, there's a perceived graininess that really shouldn’t be in any Vita game, as far as I’m concerned. Not after I've seen what this device can do.
The sound is okay, but there’s an annoying female announcer that says corny things as you race, and it doesn’t help that she’s insanely repetitive. The soundtrack is decent but it never manages to bring the action to another immersion level, and much like the visual effects, the audio effects fall a little flat. There just isn’t enough spice, enough panache, enough flavor. Other sounds, like the roar of engines and the metal-on-metal impact of a collision, are only average.
If you didn’t already know, Asphalt can be had for $0.99 on iOS, while this Vita incarnation is $29.99. Therefore, one would assume there’s a hefty difference between the two, and although the Vita version definitely looks better, there’s not enough here to warrant a $30 price tag. There are a few cool additions, though— For instance, you can tilt the entire unit to steer, and the rear touch pad can be used to shift, like the paddle shifter in a sports car. Both features work well and enhance the experience…a little.
In a lot of ways, Injection is like Burnout. Or rather, it aspires to be like the award-winning arcade racer; Asphalt just doesn’t have the requisite flair. The sense of speed isn’t right and neither is the drift mechanic, which is just plain unrealistic to the point of being irritating. It’s a sticky drift; easy to control but mostly useless, as the only reason you really need to drift is to increase your nitrous meter. Basically, this whole game comes down to speed; hitting your race lines has little to do with success.
And that would be just fine if everything had been ramped up a few more notches. In other words, this game needed a much higher production value the whole way ‘round; racing aficionados and new Vita owners deserve that much. There are a bunch of great cars, though, ranging from BMWs to Ferraris, and you don’t have to worry about hitting the occasional wall or bumping an opponent; wipeouts sorta can’t happen. You can, however, crash into traffic, and the avoidance of which offers a minor challenge.
As I mentioned above, the track design is pretty cool, as there are plenty of shortcuts (that aren’t tough to see) and the diverse race environments typically give you something new to look at, provided you’re willing to take your eyes off the road. The only problem is that while the design is pretty good, too many of the shortcuts don’t really help much, and I think more could’ve been done with each race location. I mean, even with the variety of locales, things start to feel a little stale and repetitive after a while.
You know, that isn’t necessarily due to a lack of content. There are over 100 races available and there are different types, too, including standard race and elimination. You can also unlock new cars and upgrades – both mechanical and cosmetic – for your favorite rides, so when I say this game feels light, I’m not really referring to the content. I’m referring more to the overall feel of the gameplay, which just boils down to stomping the gas and continually hitting the nitrous. You can knock out other racers, which is kinda fun, but…it just lacks "oomph."
You just get tired of it too fast. There’s a nifty Garage feature that lets you wander around your multi-million-dollar garage (even if there isn’t much in it) in a first-person view. But you can’t do anything. You can only look. If you want to change the look of your cars or install a mechanical update, you have to do so elsewhere. And again, the gameplay is just a touch too simplistic, the physics are mucho ridiculous, especially in regards to the drifting, and everything starts to blend together.
Asphalt: Injection is one of those games you really want to like. It’s a game you think you can enjoy for brief stretches; for instance, when you whip out the Vita on a bus or a train, and you just want to relax with a simple yet white-knuckle racing experience. But it never comes to that sparkling, satisfying fruition we would expect. The whole thing feels flat, uninspired, and utterly unimpressive. There are plenty of titles available for the Vita right now, and there are other racers, too. If you want a great one, try Wipeout 2048. Now that’s how you do this.
The Good: Lots of cool cars, and plenty of races. Vita-specific features work well. Decent control. Some interesting track design and locales.
The Bad: Visuals are grainy and unrefined. Both graphical and audio effects are bland and boring. Drifting feels off, and it’s pointless from a racing standpoint. Only speed is rewarded. Feels weak overall.
The Ugly: “I’m going how fast…? …wow, shouldn’t this look way cooler than it does?”
3/2/2012 Ben Dutka