You want a shiny car on your shiny Vita?
For fans of racing games, there are times when you want to get under the bonnet and tinker, trying to squeeze as much as you can out of a car. Then there are other times when all you want to do is race without any mucking around. The Asphalt series, Gameloft’s answer to Burnout, is about exactly that – a quick hit of arcade racing action without any thinking required.
The series has now made an appearance on most of the gaming platforms, and I consider myself a bit of a fan. For me, it was the more enjoyable racing game at the launch of the 3DS, and I have in fact just completed the Android version on my Xperia Play. Knocking out the occasional race whilst waiting in the car, Asphalt was the ideal time-waster.
But now we have the inevitable release for the launch of the Vita and, much like the game’s launch on the 3DS, it is once again “the other racing game”, facing off against the likes of Ridge Racer and WipEout 2048.
Being that Asphalt games have been around for a while, and are pretty well distributed amongst the various platforms, most gamers will know what to expect from Asphalt: Injection on the Vita. The game has more than 45 licensed vehicles to collect, and features more than 100 unique races across a collection of different leagues through which the player must progress. Realistically, it is not shy where the content is concerned. There is even a rather nice multiplayer mode.
The races are varied as well, with everything from standard lap races and one on one encounters, to cop chases and drift challenges. Players pick up cash on route, and also fill their boost meter which, once filled and activated, gives an immense burst of speed which results in the screen going all pretty colours.
Most players will not have a problem with the content and its variety, but rather with the mechanics. The game tends to be a little “sloppy”, for want of a better word. Right from the very start, the player will launch from the starting line only to watch as all of the other cars hurtle ahead at such great speed, no matter what car the player is driving. Then there is the constant “rubber-banding” where cars that have been left in the player’s dust are all of a sudden right on their bumper and harassing them.
The collision detection can also be somewhat frustrating, especially in events which require the player to take down other racers. Whilst at times the player will have to force the other cars off the road, rival cars may only need to look at the player in the wrong way to result in a crash. It is somewhat irregular.
Perhaps the thing that damages this version of Asphalt more than anything else is that it is so very similar to the Asphalt games available on other formats. I found myself racing the same tracks from the recently completed mobile version of the game, and I could repeat word for word the inane chatter of the female race commentator, much to the irritation of those around me.
Visually, the game looks good, but doesn’t feel as though it makes the most of the Vita’s power. There is no doubt that it could look better, but it doesn’t look so bad as to affect the enjoyment.
Whilst there is a standard control option, using the buttons and stick for acceleration and steering, the are of course the obligatory “gimmicky” controls that make use of the Vita tech. Tilt control is, as has been seen before on other racing games, an acquired taste, and one that I am not fond of. However, including an option to switch through gears by tapping the back panel in a similar manner to a paddle-shift gearbox was a stroke of genius and a thoroughly entertaining use of the unique Vita functions.
Another use of the Vita functions comes from the front camera taking a picture of the player and sending it to an opponent if you get taken down in a multiplayer race. Whilst this is all a good laugh, it is again just a gimmick and brings nothing to the overall game.
With two other racing games at launch (I am not counting Kart racing or RC racing), Asphalt: Injection certainly has its work cut out. Whilst the experience may be flawed, unoriginal and not quite as impressive as we would hope for Sony’s shiny new handheld, it is nonetheless an enjoyable arcade racing experience. There is an impressive amount of content in this game which will keep arcade racing fans driving for hours.