Asphalt Injection

Mobile Game Growing Pains

Asphalt Injection proves that it takes more than an extra coat of paint to step up to a dedicated gaming platform.
Author: Vincent Ingenito
Published: February 20, 2012
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Some games have big ambitions while others like to keep it safe and simple. Ambitious games swing for the fences and try to innovate at the risk of making critical mistakes. The safe and simple ones trade away the opportunity to really blow the lid off a genre for high polish and pitch perfect execution. The problem with Asphalt Injection is that it keeps it safe and simple, but still manages to botch a lot of the little things, as well as a few of the big ones. When these problems rear their head, the game seems shallow and frustrating. But that isn't even the real problem. The real problem is that even when Asphalt Injection manages to fire on all cylinders, it only manages to be an average grade arcade racer.

It does manage to make a good first impression, I'll give it that. The menus are slick and sharp looking, giving it a high production value aura, but the game itself never quite manages to live up to it. In-race visuals are also quite nice, with detailed car models and better daytime lighting than I'm accustomed to seeing in portable racers. Even with these juicy visual touches, the game zips along at a smooth clip and generates a solid sense of speed. While visual presentation is Asphalt Injection's strongest element, it's by no means impressive. The racing environments are bland looking and the decals you earn to put on your cars are laughably low-res. Sadly, this winds up being a microcosm of the game as a whole. It manages to be solid in some regards, but then falls apart in the details.

The racing gameplay itself is probably the worst example of this. The steering controls are decent and drifts feel intuitive and fun to pull off. If you were just doing laps without other cars on the track you would probably think Asphalt Injection to be a solid racing title. But the way races are balanced prevent it from ever being genuinely exciting or challenging.

The first thing you'll notice at the start of a race is how all the other cars are simply faster than yours, and by an order of magnitude. Even after unlocking faster cars and decking them out with engine upgrades, you'll still have to get accustomed to seeing the rest of the field blast way out in front of you, not to be seen again until half way into the first lap, even if you grab every nitro pick-up and take every shortcut. Once you do catch up to the pack, you'll need to constantly pick up and burn nitro, because without it, you will always get overtaken on straights or turns, regardless of how well you drive. This makes buying better cars and upgrading them feel like a pointless endeavor and leaves the player little incentive to learn to drive more skillfully. It also makes nitro management the only meaningful element of the gameplay.

Unfortunately, the game does a horrible job of explaining the nitro system. Aside from just grabbing pick-ups, nitro can be built up by performing a variety of actions from jumps and drifts to driving against oncoming traffic. There's also several levels of nitro activation, triggered by pressing the nitro button up to three times in succession. If you activate with a full nitro tank, you go into adrenaline mode, burning through your juice very quickly, but reaching breakneck speeds and inflicting one touch takedown against any opposing cars unlucky enough to get in your way. It really isn't a bad system, but the game never teaches it to you. Even the digital manual makes virtually no mention of it. It's a huge oversight for the only thing keeping the racing enjoyable to be poorly conveyed.
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