Asphalt: Injection is another launch title fighting for early PS Vita adopters’ hard earned cash.  While it may not be the greatest of launch titles, it will find a happy place in quiet a few gamers systems for weeks, or months, to come.  Developed by Gameloft and published by Ubisoft, Asphalt is another port from a 99 cent iOS game.  Gameloft ported another iOS game, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance, and will find a similar level of success among fans.

While Asphalt: Injection may be an obvious iOS port, it does benefit from the graphical powerhouse that is the PS Vita.  A:I is far from a beautiful game, but it runs smoothly and fast.  ”Fast” is a bit of a relative term here, though.  I rarely felt like I was exceeding a 80-100 mph, even if the speedometer said twice those speeds.  The racing works fine, even if it feels a little slow, and it takes full advantage of the Vita’s capabilities, if you choose to use them.  Using manual transmission enables you to use the rear panel to shift gears or you can tap the front touch screen.  You can choose to use the accelorometer to steer, but I had much more success using the left analog stick for a more precise control method.

This is as good as the game ever looks.

My biggest complaint about the game was put to the test after an online race.  The AI in A:I uses catch up “technology”.  Basically, if you are ahead, the computer controlled cars will catch you.  This can be pretty entertaining at times, as your opponents will seem to be skating on ice as they fly past you at break neck speeds, even if you are using your nitro to max out your own speed.  This can be frustrating, and it is something I hate in racing games, but I quickly came to question how much this hurts the game after I played online.

Asphalt offers ad-hoc or online multiplayer races for up to eight players.  In my very first online experience I beat my opponents by almost 30 seconds (somehow) and almost lapped the AI that filled the empty spots.  This was even less fun than the previously mentioned catch up AI.  I like to keep the races intense and while my initial impressions were hatred towards the cheating computer, that quickly went away after my online race.  By the way, the online play ran flawlessly, and I found people to race very quickly.  That being said, more racers in the future will release and be of a much higher quality, so don’t expect to find players as easily six months after the games release.

The standard controls for the game work well for a handheld, using the analog stick or d-pad for steering and the X button or right trigger for gas.  Breaks are mapped to square and left trigger and your view can be changed with triangle or the right analog stick.  Boost is only mapped to the circle button, but having two options for each input wasn’t critical to how the game played.  Playing a handheld game with multiple control options active at all times was a pleasant surprise, though, and allowed me to adjust to where I was to make it easiest to hold the system.  The one complaint is the view controls on the right analog stick.  As previously mentioned in my Hot Shots review, I have giant feet, and my hands are cursed with the same problem, so when using X for control my fat fingers would hit the stick on occasion quickly moving my view all over the place.  Frustrating, but a niggling complaint.

Imagine a female Gilbert Gottfried yelling, "You better get out of his way!", over and over.

There are 45 real cars to unlock as you win stars for races.  Each one is easily identifiable ranging from DeLoreans to Ford Focuses and Ferrarris.  You will find five paint jobs for each car, a significant number of decals, and upgrades for the engine, boost and handling of the car.  The issue is that none of the cars feel unique once they hit the track and the upgrades do not make a noticeable difference in each.  Audio is decent at best. The cars sound like go karts and an annoying announcer gives cheesy 90′s inspired play by play for each of your on track options. The music is okay for background noise, but nothing to get excited about.

There is a significant variety in race types as well.  Cop chases, elimination challenges, standard races, survival races and destruction races (where you destroy the city as you race) are all available to keep you entertained and keep things fresh as you race.  Tracks include plenty of shortcuts, but rarely did I find one that was truly shorter than the main path.  Even worse, most of these shortcuts are blatantly obvious with power ups flashing brightly at each entrance taking away from the fun of hunting down each.  A few are pretty fun, such as flying off a ramp to tear through a parking garage and then landing in the middle of a highway, but they don’t help you get ahead in an already difficult race.

It will tell you it is going fast, but it will feel too slow to even travel back to the future.

The actual races in Asphalt: Injection are a trial in boosts.  Race around a wide variety of tracks, collect nitro power ups, drift for additional nitro, boost and wreck your opponents, rinse, repeat.  While the races can be fun, I always finished my play sessions wishing I was playing Burnout.  Asphalt is a lesser clone of the Burnout series, serviceable, but obviously not an original.  Call it the cover band to Burnout’s Pink Floyd.  The destruction is less spectacular, the speeds are slower and the AI is less fair, but in the end the game works well as a portable, fun racer.

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Solid racing mechanics in bite sized chunks.
+ 45 real world cars with plenty of customization options.
+ Online works flawlessly.
+ With around 100 races, you won’t be finishing the game any time soon.
- Cheating AI looks like it is trying to start up “Race cars on ice”
- A few bugs can pop up – nothing serious or game breaking – but not as polished as it could have been.
- Decals are great on the cars, but many are low rez and stretch in odd ways over certain car bodies.

 

6 and 6.5 represent a game that doesn’t do anything spectacular or drastically fails to meet the high expectations people had for it. These scores are for games that you would only recommend to diehard fans of the series or genre, something that the average gamer wouldn’t miss very much if he/she skipped it. A game in this range has rental written all over it.

Asphalt: Injection was developed by Gameloft and published by Ubisoft for PS Vita. The game was released in North America on February 14, 2012 with an MSRP of $29.99. The copy used in this review was provided to RipTen by the publisher for the purposes of review.