PS Vita
2.5 stars
Amazon
35.49
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Overall Grade
2.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Game Itself
2.5 Stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
1.5 Stars
The Audio: Rating the Sound
2.5 Stars
Replay Factor
3 Stars

Asphalt: Injection

Street Date:
February 14th, 2012
Reviewed by:
Chad Goodmurphy
Review Date:1
February 26th, 2012
Game Release Year:
2012
Platform:
PS Vita
Publisher:
Ubisoft
Developer:
Gameloft
ESRB Rating:
E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)

Introduction

Like a family station wagon, the Asphalt racing series has been around the track quite a few times since its inception in 2004. Beginning life as a mobile phone, N-Gage and Nintendo DS release, the franchise has since found itself on a plethora of different platforms, with a strong footing on Apple’s iOS devices. To say that Gameloft has been busy working on these games over the years would be an understatement, having released approximately eight different iterations of its boost-filled racer to date. The last one on that list happens to be Asphalt: Injection, a cumulative launch title for Sony’s PlayStation Vita handheld.

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

If one was to dissect Asphalt: Injection, they would find hints of other popular racers like Burnout, San Francisco Rush and Need For Speed within its digital recipe. At its core, the experience is that of an arcade racing game where speed is king and finesse is only of minor importance. Not surprisingly, boosting is the key to finding your digital automotive contraption on the podium at the end of each race. That is, if an unfortunate crash or annoying catch-up artificial intelligence doesn’t ruin the planned party at the checkered finish line.

From a design standpoint, this racer is about as formulaic as they come, with all of the aforementioned borrowed elements being quite noticeable. You have the worldly tracks from the Need For Speed series, with their branching shortcuts, which sometimes turn out to be lengthier than the main road. Then, there’s the crash-based elimination system from Burnout, where opposing racers try their best to slam their competition into the guardrails for a brief moment of freedom. Last, but not least, is intensely fast and arcade-style gameplay that is reminiscent of something one would have found on an arcade cabinet quite a few years ago. Needless to say, it’s not exactly the most original game on the market – a complaint that has been levied upon some of Gameloft’s other projects.


Upon booting up this release, racing fans will encounter a menu that is comprised of two different single player gameplay options. It’s a rather standard list, which includes genre stalwarts Free Race and Career. The first one happens to be pretty straightforward, allowing for a select race type to be played out on one of the game’s global tracks. It’s the second and third options that provide the brunt of the action.

While gearing up to start a new career, it’s important to take note that this is a mobile gaming franchise. As a result, one can expect a star-based scoring system. Each event provides five different gaseous light sources for players to unlock, with three reserved for placement within the actual competition. The other two will unlock once certain requirements are met, such as earning a certain amount of drift points or elimination crashes. Other times, the goal will be to limit the amount of crashes sustained.

Although that mentioned design features a rather basic formula, it works for this type of game. If the secondary challenges weren’t there, this would be a rather one-note experience without much in the way of variety. Those secondary objectives end up creating a need for thought when approaching a new event; something that aids the experience.

Jumping into the main mode, the goal is to earn enough stars in one championship to move onto the next. There are well over twenty different series to race through. Each series contains five different events of varying types. There’s the standard race type, alongside orb collection, crash limitation and opponent elimination challenges. That happens to only be the start of a rather lengthy list, which also includes cop evasion, time attack and drift point challenges. It’s tough to fault that list and its variety, although it can be said that there’s nothing innovative to be found.

At times, Asphalt: Injection is an enjoyable game with high-intensity racing action. However, this design includes an annoying side effect, which can lead to quite a bit of frustration. Mentioned previously in this review is the fact that this game includes rubber-banding artificial intelligence. What that means is your lead is never safe. Opponents will skyrocket ahead and one crash can put you at the back of the pack once again. Using well-timed boosts is important in order to succeed, but even then, it won’t create a cushion of any sorts.


From the beginning, opponents’ vehicles seemed to have the edge in the speed category. Buying new cars would help, but their ability to catch-up was evident in just about every race. Picking up three different boost power-ups to engage an overdrive mode was the best asset available, as any vehicle encountered could be taken out with one hit. Not only that - its speed boost and neat-looking neon effect could be used to go from fourth to first. You’d need a couple of those abilities to go from the back of the pack to number one, however, as other cars can create a sizeable cushion for themselves.

From the beginning, opponents’ vehicles seemed to have the edge in the speed category. Buying new cars would help, but their ability to catch-up was evident in just about every race. Picking up three different boost power-ups to engage an overdrive mode was the best asset available, as any vehicle encountered could be taken out with one hit. Not only that - its speed boost and neat-looking neon effect could be used to go from fourth to first. You’d need a couple of those abilities to go from the back of the pack to number one, however, as other cars can create a sizeable cushion for themselves.

Quite a few different control set-ups are available, including two that use the Vita’s tilt functionality to control your vehicle, as well as one that took advantage of the rear touchpad for gear shifting. While using the tilt to drive option, it was noticeable that only a small move was required to turn. As a result, mixing a high-intensity racer with such precise movements was a challenge. The driving worked out to be all right, but drifting was incredibly challenging, forcing me to switch back to the standard thumb stick movement controls in order to continue. Using the left stick to steer worked pretty well, although the game lacks precision.

Despite being a collaboration of digital automotive parts that we’ve seen perform better in other series, Asphalt: Injection isn’t a bad game. Sure, it doesn’t further the genre at all and lacks any sort of “wow” factor. However, there’s still some fun to be found here, with what is a serviceable and fast-paced speed challenge. It’s just a shame that something more wasn’t added to make this a launch title that’s worth showcasing. That’s especially true when you consider that Ubisoft is asking $30 for a game that is essentially a culmination of previously released mobile games. Heck, a lot of the iPhone releases sell for only a couple of dollars, if not less.


The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

When it comes to visual presentation, retro is the best term to use in order to describe Asphalt: Injection. This isn’t a game that was created for Sony’s new handheld and its OLED screen from the beginning. That fact is very noticeable, as the entire experience looks dated.

Taking an in-depth look at Gameloft’s employed texture work shows that this is merely a racer that has been touched up for its latest attempt at a first place finish. It doesn’t come anywhere close to taking full advantage of the device and its impressive visual capabilities, resembling a higher resolution version of an iOS game or something that the old PSP could have run. Though, it’s important to note that the experience runs well, without any major hiccups.

During gameplay, cutaways to a crash camera are used whenever the player is involved in any destructive fender benders. This is very Burnout-esque, and while it’s nice to see other racers become eliminated from the race for a brief amount of time, this mechanic can be problematic. The race continues for a bit, while the visual overlay is shown, meaning that you may assume control of a car that is about to scrape a guardrail after viewing time is over.

The cars themselves look like their real life inspiration, albeit without the amount of detail we’re used to expecting from recently released racing experiences. They look decent, along with the large amount of tracks, which are made up based on different global locations (i.e. Rio, Detroit, and Shanghai.) There’s a nice variety in that latter list, both in terms of course and visual design, although seeing the same intro video over and over again became quite dull.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Narration is used sparingly, in order to add personality to the experience, in a rather retro way. Remember the days when intense action sequences in racing games would feature a young lady making one-lined remarks? Well, that’s what we have here. It’s nothing special and doesn’t really benefit or mar the experience at all.

Considering that the Asphalt series pays homage to racers from the N64 era, it’s not surprising that a narration element is included. The only interesting part of her script comes in the form of information about each location, which is played during those aforementioned intro videos. The problem is that you will hear the same line repeatedly spoken before each race on that track. It can become incredibly annoying, even though what’s said is somewhat informative.

On top of the young lady’s whoops and hollers, Asphalt: Injection features the genre’s necessary sound effects. All of them are engine, turbo, or crash based. It’s tough to find anything to complain about, as they sound OK with decent audio levels and clarity. However, there’s nothing special to be found in the audio department as a whole, even when you take the repetitive but serviceable techno soundtrack into account. Everything works, but there’s no area where this design excels.

Replay Factor

Thanks to the addition of a star-based rating scale and trophy support, those who love to fully complete each game they play will find quite a bit of replay value within the career mode. It can be tough to get five stars in one single race, considering that drifting can slow you down too much to allow for a victory. Add that factor into a design where gold trophies are sometimes hard to achieve, and you’ll find created replay value. However, only a certain amount of stars are required to beat the game. Trophy fans will have to collect them all for a metallic reward, but not everyone will bother.

On top of the two single player game types, the main menu is also home to a competitive multiplayer option. Here, gamers can host or join Ad-Hoc or online races, comprised of up to eight individuals. This mode runs well and has the option to include artificial intelligence racers; something you’ll probably find necessary given it can take a bit to fill up half of a lobby. The unfortunate thing is that only one event type is available, and that happens to be standard races.

Final Thoughts

Even though there are quite a few negatives to be found inside of Asphalt: Injection and its dated feeling design, this isn’t a bad game. Though, with that being said, it certainly falls far from being a podium contender. What PS Vita early adopters will find is a serviceable racing game that hovers over the fulcrum of mediocrity. There is some fun to be had, but this isn’t a game that friends will be clamoring over when the device is showcased. Gameloft is well known for creating games that borrow more than they innovate and Asphalt: Injection is yet another title to add to that list.

What makes this “average-at-best” game even harder to recommend is its hefty price tag, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Asphalt: Injection is not worth that price, although a case could be made for it at a lower price point. If Ubisoft had decided to release this experience as a $10-$15 PlayStation Network download, as opposed to something retailing for double that price, it would be easier to digest. That’s not what happened, however, so I cannot easily recommend what ends up feeling like an inflated iOS port with a few sprinkles on it in an attempt to warrant the equally inflated price.

Tech Specs:

  • Location: PlayStation Store
  • Download Size: 765 MB

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1Q HD

Audio Formats

  • Stereo

Multiplayer Mode(s)

  • Online Versus
  • System Link

Motion Controls

  • Yes

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