There are already a handful of racing games out for the new Playstation Vita system. They range from cutesy, like Mod Nation Racers or Ben 10, to the realistic, like F1, to the futuristic, like WipeOut 2048.
But only one handles street racing, and does it well.
Asphalt: Injection is an arcade racer. Arcade meaning equal parts simple and fun. Developed by Gameloft and published by Ubisoft, the Asphalt series has lived most of its life on handheld systems, and on the iOS platform specifically. Its interface and simple mechanics make it perfect for small touch screens like the iPhone and iPod Touch. What Injection is able to do with the series is push the content, and the gameplay, to new levels.
On the PS Vita, Asphalt: Injection has over six different control set-ups. It utilizes touch control (both front and back), button control, and L trigger control and several combinations of all three. It even uses the Vita’s built in six axis gyroscope for true motion steering. These are things that are left out of most iOS versions.
Each race has objectives to meet, and the player can build up and use Nitros for bursts of speed, or save them up for “adrenaline mode” which make the car into a ridiculously fast weapon. There are secret power ups, like jumps, and short cuts, and of course, money to be collected in each race. Money is used to buy new cars and gear.
Drivers are also rewarded for mad stunts like jumps, and taking out competitors. There is a police presence in the game, but getting a speeding ticket is actually encouraged.
There are over 50 cars to unlock and collect, and enough customization to make a gearhead’s heart explode. There are 20 unique tracks from all over the world, and each track has up to 10 different levels to play, for over 100 races to take part in. There are street races, time attacks, battles (force opponents off the track), and much more. It helps keep Injection from getting boring, as each race unlocks something new.
Injection also features a stout multiplayer race mode. Up to eight cars can race, both on-line and through ad hoc.
When first booting up Injection, the game’s features become evident in the sheer number of menu options. Free play, career, and garage; there is so much to do, not to mention leaderboards and upgrades. Lots of upgrades.
Graphically, Asphalt: Injection looks gorgeous. The cars’ textures are smooth, and the PS Vita’s 5″ OLED is perfect for a racing game like this. I particularly enjoy the Los Angeles track, as the race takes place at dusk, and the solar flares and shadows are consistent with real-life. Kudos to Gameloft for getting it right.
The sound is consistent for a racing game with lots of engine revving, tires squealing, and metal crunching. An announcer gives the player a little bit of info on each track, but mostly it’s the sounds of racing, and a pulsing techno soundtrack, which apparently is the racing game standard.
There are drawbacks to Injection. It’s hard to figure out which cars you own (different cars, the number is never in question), and I still haven’t figured out how to go into an upgrade without an in-game prompt. Also, the announcer’s voice gets old after awhile, and once all track shortcuts are discovered, there is no longer incentive to keep racing that track.
The LiveArea for Asphalt: Injection features the owner’s manual, a quick career overview (percentage completed, current league) and the number of cars collected and most current car that you purchased or won.
Asphalt: Injection is not a perfect game, or the best racing game on the Vita. But what it does very well is entertain. With an incredible amount of content and “things to do,” Injection has the pedigree to be the de facto racing game at the Vita’s launch.
Shop for Asphalt: Injection on PS Vita for a discounted price at Amazon.com (February 15, 2012 release date).