Encouraging deviant behaviour 'Split/Second' races onto the consoles for a dose of good old fashioned blow em’ up racing. With our pedal pressed to the steel, we will see if 'Split/Second' has enough powder to cause a big bang, or are we looking at an overpriced dud? Let the fireworks begin...
Being a pure arcade racer, 'Split/Second' doesn't need much of a set up. The premise is simple, a racing game disguised as a reality television show. Think ‘Death Race’ the film, and then take away all the drama, the guns, and ‘Jason Statham’... and you will be left with a good idea of what 'Split/Second' represents. The goal is obvious, be the first one across the finish line becoming a season champion. Figuring that the viewing public needs a little more than a simple oval track race, 'Splint/Second' provides a vicious circuit of cutthroat racing, the no holds barred type... to the eXtreme.
A New Way to destroy
The main twist in 'Split/Second' that differentiates itself from other arcade racers is not its reality TV approach; it is the level of destruction caused by blowing up everything around you-- including the whole damn track! Instead of using a direct approach like a vehicle overloaded with weapons, 'Split/Second' uses the environment as the catalyst for destruction. By taking away weapons, 'Split/Second' pulls away from the crowd with a more original and dynamic feel to its devastation. To become the champion in this world you will need more than an itchy trigger finger, you will need sharp driving skills with the ability to throw caution to the wind.
Triggering the destruction in 'Split/Second' happens when you press a button in coalition with a flashing icon. These “hotspots” are littered around the track giving you the chance to wreck your opponents during the race. The hotspots include everything from small to big acts of destruction. For an example it can simple explosions like dropping explosive oil cans from hovering helicopters, to destroying entire sections of road from a crumbling skyscraper. It's pretty impressive, which makes 'Split/Second' the perfect example of how to do explosions in a next-generation game. Causing havoc, dropping buildings and creating whole new roads is only the tip of the iceberg. 'Split/Second' also has "big" devastating attacks, including a crashing jumbo jet landing on an airstrip towards oncoming traffic. It is epic, and must be seen to appreciate.
If you are like me, you probably wonder if the "hotspots" can become too predictable, considering you will see the same ones over-and-over-- and the answer is yes, and no. During frantic races, the "hotspots" can surprise you, even if you know exactly where they are. In the heat of the battle you don't always have time to keep track of all the action on screen. These cars aren't putting by, they are flying! This is when 'Spit/Second' is at its best, during chaos. On the other side, yes, "hotspots" can be predictable and depending on the race less effective. This takes a little gas out of the engine, however, like any racing game, they more you play it, the more you will learn, and avoid trouble spots and sneaking through shortcuts becomes second nature. Online with a group of experienced players are a good way to learn, and a fun way to experience 'Split/Second.' As you probably already know, human racers are way better than bot controlled A.I.
Before you can trigger these events, you have to earn them. This is done by building up your special boost meter—called a “powerplay” meter in the game. Boost is earned by drifting, drafting other cars, near misses, and other erratic driving behaviour. While you earn boost a meter will be filled at the bottom of the screen. It lights up blue for the lower level abilities and red for the big whoppers, which also corresponds with the icon colour for your hotspots. It might sound a little confusing; however, it is the exact opposite. Any gamer, at any level can pick up this game and have fun. You might not always be winning, but as long as the crash count keeps rising, a smile will be proudly edged on your face.
Made for Multiplayer
For multiplayer you have an online portion along with a split screen option. Online you jump into private and public lobbies and race against other people around the world. The level of your car is displayed beside your name along with your opponents. --You'll know who is winning each session, they guy with the most credits with the best car-- Online you can only race with the cars you unlocked during the normal "season" making for some unbalanced races. Until you run through the single player portion of the game you might be lagging behind online. An option to turn this on and off would have been nice, especially if you want to balance a race towards skill and not horsepower. Playing the underdog can be fun, but winning is better.
Big Time Damage
Something I haven't touched too much on is the scale in 'Split/Second.' For a racing game, this one is huge. Maybe you could tell from the jumbo jet crash, but you will be racing in wide-open spaces over a several different surfaces, challenges, and obstacles. 'Split/Second' is littered with more junk on a track than you have ever seen... and that is a good thing! Almost every corner can have a hazard, so you really have to stay on alert, and the landscapes are filled with a lot of detail. To really see Split/Second's beauty you have to sit back and hand the controller of to someone else. This way you have some free time to take in the modern architecture in 'Split/Second.'
The stages in 'Split/Second' are broken down to 12 different "episodes," (one is blank) with multiple races in each one. Ranking in the podium will reward you with the most credits, which are used to unlock new vehicles and races. At the end of each episode, you can pick which one you want to progress to next, which is a nice touch. Counting a whopping 72 races, you will be busy for this one for a while. 'Split/Second' also includes some original modes to fool around with when you are not racing in a standard or elimination race.
One of the more interesting stages in 'Split/Second' are the alternative levels called 'Survival' and 'Air Attack.' In 'Survival' you have to pass transport trucks loaded with exploding barrels while they are being hurled at you and numerous drone racers. Another funky addition is 'Air Attack' which mandates you dodge oncoming missiles from helicopters while maintaining your speed-- slowing down or pausing will not allow for any points. The goal, like 'Survival,' is to clear several stages within each mode. Both modes don’t overshadow the basics, but they are a commendable diversion.
No Rewind Necessary
'Split/Second' has some challenging moments, but nothing that a few retries can’t hurt. I am glad ‘Black Rock’ stayed away from the “rewind” button that several other racers are starting to fancy. Rewinding works, but its nice to rely on skill once and a while. Unfortunate, ‘Black Rock’ did employee rubber band A.I., which is annoying for any serious racing fan. From a pure arcade-racing standpoint, this is fine. However, I think most of us have outgrown being cheaply exploited because of one little mistake. One thing is for sure, 'Split/Second' makes you work at being perfect, and that’s not a bad thing if you are planning to head online.
Visual Pop, with a Little Not
The vehicles themselves are custom jobs created by ‘Black Rock’ with a slight touch of originality, but overall copies of real-world cars. There isn't too much detailed poured into these suckers, aside from a major coating of gloss, which left me a little surprised. Compared to their last effort in 'Pure,’ 'Split/Second' feels a underwhelming when it comes to vehicle detail. ‘Pure’ might have been visually stronger in most areas, however nothing can match the big explosions and dust filled streets in 'Split/Second.' The explosions pop and look great on a big television. The level design also deserves a nod with some thoughtful paths unravelling through some clever landscapes. You can tell ‘Black Rock’ had a good sit down when figuring out the weary passages to send the player on.
Achievements, Trophies, Decals, Oh My!
One extra touch added into the mix is how 'Split/Second' incorporates trophies/achievements. Winning an achievement will also correspond with a decal for your ride. Decals cannot be selected and will be permently added to your ride. This badge of honour of sorts is pretty cool and a good way to show off your talents when online. Interesting enough there is even a 'Split/Second' decal for "winning a race even by less than a second." The other achievements are fairly easy, giving a good sense of progression throughout the game.
‘Split/Second’ falls somewhere between that “big bang” and “small dud” I pondered in the beginning of this review. In one hand, ‘Split/Second’ is a solid arcade racer with a substantial feature to separate it from the crowd. In the other, ‘Split/Second’ feels like a one-tricky pony. One that becomes very familiar after a few hours of play. This balancing act continues with some outstanding adrenaline filled moments, and others filled with annoying A.I. and predicable power plays. I’m not sure if ‘Black Rock’ totally nailed their vision, as 'Spit/Second' ends up short in the end. Depending on your love for arcade racers, ‘Split/Second’ will most likely run out of gas before the end of a weekend, making this one a recommended rental.
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 05.26.10