Medium: Vita Card/Digital Download
The PS Vita’s launch supported plenty of racing action for a day one launch. Mod Nation Racers and WipEout 2048 sucked in its core fans, but there is one title that has mostly only had a showing up to this point as a phone app. It also happens to be the closest to a “real” racing game available at the Vita launch window, and not only should be noticed, but embraced by car enthusiasts on the go.
Ubisoft has brought Asphalt Injection to the PS Vita, but the less than stellar visuals may turn away some gamers from what is actually an incredibly fun and deep experience that is worth the sticker price, even if you don’t like the paint job. I’ll be the first to admit, when I played the demo at launch before I received the review code, I was less than impressed, so I urge fans to take that demo as just a showcase of handling and sense of speed. I would be lying if I said Asphalt Injection really takes advantage of the PS Vita’s capabilities, or near PS3 visuals, as the game looks closer to phone app visuals than anything. Not that it is an ugly game, but it definitely takes a step back visually if you are jumping from games like WipEout to this. While the tracks and environments like the Alps, Moscow, and so on, have all the landmarks and details accounted for, the visuals just are low resolution, grainy, and lack polish. The only real saving grace visually is the sense of speed that really kicks into gear when you use your nitro, as the game takes a slightly over the top turn, without going into the ridiculous Crusin’ USA territory.
I think that is why I forgive Asphalt so much is that is it has a throwback feel to games like Crusin’ USA in terms of game play. The controls are easy to pick up and play, each vehicle handles differently from one another so you will know when you are driving a Mustang compared to a Mini Cooper. The A.I. has that rubber band feel to it slightly, but that is only relevant to the number of shortcuts found throughout each track, and especially the number of power ups there are that will increase your nitrous. Toss in drifting also boosts nitrous as well and you can win in that final second just as cheaply as the CPU can, so it’s is all about gaining that adrenaline rush and using it at the right time. This ensures that each race comes right down to the wire nearly every time, which can be very thrilling too.
Where Asphalt Injection earns your hard earned dollars is in the amount of content available in the game. The destinations are real as are the vehicles you drive, which is a plus, so you will have the satisfaction of driving licensed cars rather than fake ones like in Ridge Racer. The single player “free race” mode has a wealth of options such as Normal Race, Elimination, Time Attack, Duels, Under Pressure, Beat ‘em all, Collector, Drift, Urban Destruction, and Cop Chase that can be all completed in one of 20 locations, provided you have them unlocked of course. There also is a full fledged 8 player online mode that can be done online or ad hoc and has a number of customization and leaderboard options there too. If that isn’t enough, there is an ungodly deep Career mode that takes place in 20 Leagues with 5 races per league. Dependent on how many stars you earn on each track you will open up more of the career, and these stars can be earned by completing certain objectives set for each course. To say that your hands will be cramped up from all the content in the game is an understatement.
Asphalt Injection even has the foresight to take advantage of some of the Vita’s gimmicks such as touch screen support for menus and view rotation, and tilt for steering, but honestly none of them feel as refined as your standard classic controls using analog to steer and shoulders for acceleration and brake. If you care to tweak the controls, there are 7 schemes to choose from that allow you to steer with motion, accelerate with sticks, etc. There is even a garage that you can look at your low res machines you’ve unlocked in a video camera style mode where you look around with the motion controls of the Vita as if you were taking video with it. It’s a shame these cars are not as gorgeous as Forza or Gran Turismo though.
All in all, if you can get your ego past the door and past the visuals of the game, which are honestly not the best this launch lineup has, you will find a lot of engine under the hood which makes the ride more enjoyable than you might expect. I urge you to at least try the demo up on PSN, and if you feel that the game offers enough game play and visual wise, then I can assure you that the depth more make makes up for the lack of polish the game’s appearance achieves.