PS Vita Review – Asphalt Injection

Gameloft is well known for its Asphalt series, which has graced other handheld gaming devices like the DS and the iOS platform in the past. With the release of the PS Vita, the developer has now brought the series to the new handheld, but can a mobile game compete on a console-like handheld?

Asphalt: Injection is a true arcade racing game – if you’re looking for a Gran Turismo style of racing sim, look elsewhere. Asphalt focuses more on high speed, fast action races in which nitrous requires thoughtful management and drifting requires little skill. Track memorization is the key to the fastest laps, and shortcuts abound.

The controls vary depending on your preferences. You can go old school and use the dual analog sticks for throttle (R) and steering (L) or you can try out the Vita as a steering wheel. Rotating the handheld steers your car and that takes some getting used to. For those that want complete control, along with a manual transmission, the back touch pad of the Vita acts like paddle shifters on your steering wheel and the throttle can be controlled by tilting your Vita forward and back. That is a great feature that is nicely executed, albeit hard to control at first.

Drifting feels quite a bit like an old Ridge Racer game, where you turn the wheel, tap the brake, and then steer into the drift. Most tracks require very little braking, other than for drifting, so expect fast lap times. Drifting, jumping, destroying public property, and taking out other cars all add to your nitrous tank. If you fill your nitrous tank completely, you are given a super boost. This boost will allow you to take out your opponents by just brushing them aside, and you enjoy a brief moment of virtual invincibility.

With 10 different races types and 100 total events, career mode’s great variety keeps Asphalt: Injection from becoming monotonous. Your basic Normal race pits you against a variety of other racers. Time Attack will have you racing the clock from checkpoint to checkpoint. In Elimination, the last place car is eliminated each time the clock runs out. There’s also a ‘Beat’em All’ race, where you’ll have to keep taking out the other cars in order to win.

Each race event has a five star reward attached to it. The first three stars are awarded for how well you finish the race, and the last two stars are awarded for reaching stated objectives. Objectives range from drifting for a certain number of points to taking out a certain number of opponents. As you earn stars, more items, tracks, and cars are unlocked. For completionists out there, earning all of those stars can be a tricky proposition, as the objectives get harder and harder as you progress through the lengthy career.

Tracks are set in fifteen different locations around the world. With a total of twenty tracks, five of which are tracks retooled. Your choice of scenery never gets old. From Los Angeles to Tokyo, and many places in between, there’s enough to keep you busy for a while. There’s snow, dirt, ice, mud, and even changing weather. The graphics are a little disappointing and aren’t as good as other PS Vita titles. The game isn’t hard on the eyes, but at the same time it doesn’t look like its using the full potential of the system.

Gameloft went all out when it came to its stable of cars. With 45 licensed cars from manufacturers like Audi, Ferrari, Ford, Lamborghini, Pagani and Bugatti, there’s something for just about every car lover around. You’ll have to start out with a Mini Cooper and work your way up to the bad boys. As you earn cash and more stars, upgrades for your cars become available. Cars all handle similarly, and there’s really not that much of a difference between your basic Mini Cooper and your top of the line Ferrari, other than acceleration and top speed. Where the Pagani Huayra should feel more nimble and sporty in handling than the Mini, it actually feels almost the same, sans the higher speed and acceleration. This is clearly an arcade game and if you know your cars well, you may find this a disappointing aspect. All of the cars are pretty poorly detailed when compared to far more hi-res games like WipEout and Uncharted. There’s no visible car damage to be seen, either.

Multiplayer gives you two types of races, ad-hoc and online head-to-head racing. Both modes allow you to select from any of the tracks in the library, regardless of whether they’ve been unlocked. There’s only one type of multiplayer race though, and that’s a little disappointing. With all of the modes in career mode to choose from, I’m not sure why they didn’t allow these other modes to be played online. A Beat’em All race would be fun online.

Asphalt: Injection, in spite of its flaws, is a fun arcade style racer. The price is $10 lower than most launch PS Vita titles, which is what it should be. While it does seem that Gameloft might have rushed the title a little to hit the PS Vita launch, it’s still a well designed game with plenty of content to keep you busy for quite a while.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ 100 Career Events will keep you busy for some time

+ 45 Fully Licensed cars give something for everyone

– Only head-to-head racing available online, with several other modes left out

– Graphics could be much better

6 out of 10