The Asphalt franchise seems to be on every mobile/handheld device possible, from the DSi right up to the iPad 2. Now it’s the Vita’s turn, with Asphalt Injection. On paper the game sounds great, with 52 licensed cars, 20 league cups with over 100 unique races, and online multiplayer. Unfortunately the game is marred by a number of issues that will be familiar to fans of the franchise.
The single player campaign is where you’ll be spending a lot of time. There’s an impressive amount of content here, split into ten event types that’ll have you drifting for points, collecting a set number of power-ups, smashing up rivals, escaping the cops or racing head to head with a single opponent. This is all set over twenty tracks, although these aren’t unique to the Vita.[drop2]The tracks aren’t bad, with enough twists and turns to test you, and even a few shortcuts thrown in for good measure. On the surface, it seems that car-nuts are well catered for, with a good selection ranging from fast hatchbacks right up to hyper-cars. Every car you own can be customized too, be it with some decals, tyres, ECU upgrades or even new tyres. It’s hardly Gran Turismo level stuff, but a welcome addition all the same.
Oddly enough it’s here where one of my biggest complaints with the game raises its head. No matter what you do, the stats mean absolutely nothing. My customised Dodge with a 0-60 time of 3.6 seconds will get obliterated off the line by an Audi. I’ll be bombing along a straight at 190mph and a Tesla, with a top speed of 125mph, will come flying past. It doesn’t make any sense! As someone who loves cars, this kills of any sense of progression for me. What’s the point of putting any effort into a faster car when it simply doesn’t matter?
Rubber-banding is also an issue. There have been times where I’ve had the maximum nitro boost possible, and used it through two shortcuts in a row, only to find the AI drivers right on my tail a second later, despite them taking the normal route. It works the other way around too, as I was trying to get the trophy for completing a race without hitting anyone, so I deliberately slowed right down. Next thing I know there’s an orderly procession in front of me as all the AI slowed down to 55mph (before one stopped, the swerved into me).
Shall I continue have a moan? Alright, the collision detection can be way off, making the takedown challenges annoying. Sometimes I’ve driven into an opponent at full speed and bounced off, whilst on occasions just driving past has triggered an “elimination”.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, as the game makes good use of the Vita’s features. Gameloft has gone all out to provide as many different controls methods as possible, with some surprisingly satisfying results. The “Classic” method, steering with the stick and accelerating with the buttons, will be ample for most people, and there’s even a set-up where the game takes care of the acceleration, and you steer by tilting the Vita. Unfortunately the steering is far too slow.[drop]The most interesting ones, however, use the rear touch pad as a flappy-paddle gearbox. It’s actually really good fun shifting through the gears using this method, with the Vita acting as some sort of high-tech steering wheel. It almost feels wasted on a game so focused on arcade style driving.
Outside of the single player mode is either Ad Hoc, or online multiplayer. Again, this makes use of the Vita as there is an option you can turn on so that if you’re taken down during the race, a picture will be taken of your face and sent to your opponent. Unfortunately the servers are dead at the moment, with only a list of fifteen people globally on the leaderboards, so I haven’t had a chance to test it out.
Graphically, despite the press release claiming the game to be a “next-gen visual experience”, Asphalt Injection doesn’t push the Vita to anywhere near its full potential. It’s a small step up from what we are used to on the iPad, although at least the crippling slowdown from Asphalt 3D has been dealt with. There’s also some cringe-worthy soundbites present from the female announcer, who will frequently come out with wonders such as “shake AND bake!”
- A comprehensive single player mode
- Some interesting control methods
- A good selection of cars
- Solid racing mechanics
- Visually unimpressive
- Poor collision detection
- Car stats seem to make no difference
Asphalt Injection is a solid enough game with an impressive amount of variety and good control schemes. Unfortunately what would have been a good game gets marked down for having a number of frustrating issues. What makes it worse is the fact these seem to be the same issues that get mentioned every time a new one comes out.