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Asphalt: Injection Review


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On 03/18/2012 at 12:00 PM by Vic Roman

Twice the fun for thirty times the price.
RECOMMENDATION:

There are a lot of good Vita launch titles, but this isn’t one of them. If you really want to race on your Vita, I’d recommend looking at Wipeout 2048 instead.

Gameloft is infamous for borrowing heavily from other popular franchises. Asphalt: Injection is no exception; it steals from other arcade racers like Need For Speed and Burnout. While some familiarity can be a good thing, there is little good in Asphalt: Injection.

There is no doubt that Asphalt: Injection is better than the iOS version; everything from the visuals, track selection, gameplay modes, and controls have been improved. Still, in every way that matters, it comes up way short in the fun department.

Let’s start with the racing itself. This is an arcade racer and realism isn’t the goal, but its more forgiving physics aren’t up to snuff either. There is very little impact detection when you run into walls and other cars, so you get no sense of weight at all in your car. The steering and handling is very touchy and no matter what car you use, the steering feels nearly identical. You can turn left and right easily on a dime in all 20+ cars; the only aspect that actually feels different between each car is the top speed and acceleration. It’s tough to find a favorite car when the only viable choice is to pick the fastest one.

While easily steering through each track, your top speed along with boost pickups are the keys to victory. You can pick up boost icons, which fill up your boost meter. You can also fill up the meter by driving dangerously. You can use your boost meter at any time, but if you wait for it to fill then you can enter “Adrenaline” mode which launches you at ultra fast speeds (that don’t actually feel very fast) so you can blow in front of the opposition. The boost icons are spread all over every course and are extremely easy to pick up. It seems like your opponents don’t even try to fill their boost, so you have a full advantage that makes the game far too easy.

The racing also suffers from noticeable rubber banding AI. If I drove too slow it wasn’t tough to catch up. Staying in the lead is easy, but once I got into first there was always one racer not far behind me. It really makes the experience feel artificial – like you’re in The Truman Show and every other racer is adjusting to your actions.

There are 15 tracks to go through, but all of them are straightforward, generic, and way too easy. Roads are always very wide, so you have no need for careful steering and navigating. You can half pay attention and still succeed. Every track tries to vary things up with “hidden” shortcuts that are impossible to miss. These shortcuts are not only easily visible, but they even show up on your mini-map, so it’s no surprise when you come across one. There’s no challenge to access shortcuts, so you will easily make use of each one and ensure a top spot in the race. None of the tracks are visually interesting either, which isn’t helped at all by the low-detail graphics.

The presentation as a whole leaves a lot to be desired. The graphics are amongst the worst in the Vita’s launch lineup. The Vita is capable of truly impressive visuals, but Asphalt: Injection still just looks like an iOS game. The game isn’t hard on the eyes by any means, but it should look a lot better than it does.

The same goes for the audio. Cars don’t sound very powerful, crashes nearly sound like nothing, and the announcer is annoying… so so annoying. There is a female announcer who makes quick remarks and one-liners as you race. Her voice is distracting and always has sort of a sarcastic tone – like the voice actress just wanted to get out of the recording sessions as quick as possible. Her voice persuaded me to turn down the volume every time I loaded up Asphalt: Injection.

One area where the game almost hits the mark is through a variety of different racing modes. There are ten to choose from, but dig deeper than the surface and you’ll quickly learn that all of them feel nearly identical, none of them are very enjoyable, and they're all just lifted from other games.

Besides the basic races, there is “Elimination” where racers get kicked out of the race one at a time based on a time limit. There is also “Beat ‘em All” where you have to get “knockdowns” by hitting cars off the road – a direct copy of Burnout’s “takedowns”. Another derivative mode is “Cop Chase”, which is a self-explanatory carbon copy of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit’s police chases. These modes all have the potential to be enjoyable, but the game’s poor track designs and simplistic racing sucks the fun out of them.

One last fault is the broken online mode. You can go online and race against 7 other players in basic races. The menus are easy to navigate and loading times are not an issue, but matchmaking is a huge chore. It took me over 5 minutes on average to join a race. One time it took over 10 minutes to find players to race against. There were still some hitches once I started a race as well; despite the low quality graphics, I still had a little bit of lag which is pretty unacceptable in a game that doesn’t push the hardware’s limits by any means.

Beyond basic matchmaking issues, there’s no way to follow a friend’s progression through the game and compare yourself directly with peers. Instead, you can just access basic leaderboards and see global stats. It would have been great to be able to interact with friends, see race times, and try to one-up each other – much like Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit and SSX’s online interactions.

There’s a lot of bad to say about Asphalt: Injection, but it gets one thing right that most games get wrong: the motion controls. As I said before, Asphalt got its start on mobile platforms where motion steering is the default control set. It’s no surprise that Gameloft made an easy transition to the Vita’s motion control scheme. While I still prefer the traditional layout, this game’s steering works very well and is a worthy alternative control scheme that some people would definitely enjoy.

You can go on your iPhone right now and buy a mobile version of Asphalt for $0.99 or you can buy a Vita version that is twice as good, but costs $29.99. Being twice as good but costing 30 times as much makes this one a hard sell.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

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