Imagine my surprise, when I discovered that the current Asphalt game, Asphalt: Injection is the seventh iteration in a series developed by Gameloft and published by Ubisoft. I honestly had no idea. Apparently, I’ve been sailing on Mare Ignorantia, like an embryonic Luddite. If you’ve also never played an Asphalt game before: the games are evidently a fixture on iOS, Android and other mobile devices. Chances are if you owned one of those horrid N-gage phones, or had an unusual desire to play an arcade racer on your mobile phone, you might have played an Asphalt game.
While the game’s tagline “Frantic races in the palm of your hands” may illicit childish squawking from the peanut gallery (Yes, it’s funny), the current version of Asphalt is actually a decent portable racer.
It comes packed with heaps of content and features (that Asphalt fanatics will instantly recognise). The various race modes are present, and Injection even features +45 unlockable cars. And, these are not just a random selection of fictional cars, we’re talking about fully licensed vehicles ranging from a sporty Mini Cooper hatch to a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. In addition, the game also features 20 different race circuits hosted in 15 international cities. And yes, Cape Town features like the glorious beacon of light that it is. However, sadly our glorious mountain isn’t given as much prominence as it should, and deep down I have to hide my disappointment that we couldn’t race around (and even through) Table Mountain.
Injection features a single player career, multiplayer and even a freeride mode. The lengthy career mode features an array of different race types. These vary from the usual (i.e. merely racing around the track), to evading police, and even destruction-derby-type vehicular mayhem. After, every race your performance is rated on a 5-star meter. A podium finish will net you between 1 & 3 stars, and an additional 2 stars are awarded, provided you’ve successfully completed a number of pre-set challenges. In addition, unlockable cars and race progression are tied to a set number of stars, so it helps to revisit past circuits, and take advantage of the multitude of hidden short-cuts, you might find on a given map circuit.
Where the wheels do come off is the poor car handling. The game is apparently set in a mysterious parallel universe where the laws of physics handed in their resignation, and left for greener pastures. Injection throws in the obligatory nitro boost button, but oddly, there’s also a drift button. While, drifting generally occurs naturally in other games (the subtle interplay between braking and taking a corner), Injection‘s take on it feels awkward and clumsy. If you want to drift around a corner, you have to press the drift button, rather than merely sliding your car after pulling the handbrake. It also doesn’t help that hit-detection is iffy, because if you do hit a railing, there is some element of randomness to whether or not you’ll merely bounce off or wreck your vehicle. Also, there are times after being launched off a ramp, where you hit an invisible wall in the sky. Such oddities put a blight on an otherwise decent little game.
For the first few races, nitro boosting is the only way to ensure a respectable spot on the podium. There are three different ways to fill your nitro bar. You can either collect boost tokens on the race map, ram your opponents into walls (or into oncoming traffic) or use the drift button (who needs corners?). In addition, there are other items to collect during races. These include money tokens, which are added to your winnings. Incidentally, winnings are important since you can use them to buy unlocked cars. Injection also features the possibility of customizing your ride. The options are limited, however it covers all the basics, from colour-changes, adding decals, to even buying engine and race upgrades.
Petrolheads may be delighted that unlocked cars can be viewed in a first-person garage, which allows for the Vita’s touchscreen features. You can swoon over your cars, and even rub your grubby little fingers all along their lengths. Hey stop judging me, it’s only creepy if you don’t do it. Additionally, Injection also makes good use of the Vita’s LiveArea screen. LiveArea informs everyone in your vicinity, what you’ve unlocked and even how far you’ve progressed in the game. It’s a nice touch, and it certainly helps when challenging your neighbourhood to a quick race.
The sad truth is that Asphalt: Injection doesn’t put its best foot forward. It requires a fair share of patience and emotional investment. If you can forgive the twitchy and awkward controls, Injection will reward you with one of the most exciting racers on the Vita. The various racing modes are sufficiently different to maintain interest, however the awkward controls may leave some to discard the game, prematurely.
Design and Presentation 6/10
While, it’s not going to win awards for presentation, Asphalt: Injection does makes adequate use of the Vita’s functionalities. The graphics are decent, however Injection isn’t the prettiest title on the Vita.
For a portable racer, Asphalt: Injection comes packed to the brim with content. There are at least 45 fully-licensed cars to unlock, and a host of different race modes to experience in nearly 200 races. The addition of a stable netcode means online and adhoc multiplayer allow you to squeeze as much juice from this delicious fruit as possible. Injection allows replayability galore, and aside from a few quirkiness, remains a fun experience.
There is no question that Asphalt: Injection is like that quirky kid at school, who exudes self-confidence even though he just submitted a can of dirt as his science project. You’re not entirely sure if he’s pulling everyone’s leg, or even blissfully unaware but something tells you a great comedic genius hides in his oddly-shaped noggin. Asphalt: Injection will either win you over in its clumsy curiousness or you’ll discard the game into huge bonfire of bile. While, it may be a decent arcade racer, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
Last Updated: April 11, 2012