Developer: Black Rock Studios
by: Loren Halek
Split/Second from is an interesting game that surely does something different than the rest of the arcade racers out there, but it is also a very thin game in regards to tracks and visual aids given to the player.
The story is interesting in that you are a driver on a reality television show called Split/Second. The season is split into 12 episodes with six (6) events in each episode. The types of events fall into these six (6) categories:
- Race: be the first one across the finish line to win
- Eliminator: last vehicle eliminated after 60 seconds and then every 20 seconds, be the last one standing
- Detonator: run a supplied vehicle through the course the fastest with explosions and general Powerplays happening throughout your run
- Air Strike: helicopters shoot missiles at you, dodge them and score the highest amount of points to win
- Survival: you need to pass trucks dropping explosive barrels at you, get the most points and win
- Air Revenge: blow up the helicopter by using Powerplays to deflect missiles back, take it down the fastest to win
Split/Second’s biggest claim to fame would be the Powerplays. As you drive along you can drift, draft, jump or have close calls with the AI trying to unleash a powerplay on you. Each one will increase bar below your fender, split into three. The first two levels are blue and the last one is red. At any point you will see a powerplay marker come up on a car ahead of you. You simply hit the A button (360 here) and if you time it right the environmental effect (it also is used to open up shortcuts) will take out one or more cars ahead of you. If you happen to have the red bar also full you can press the B button to do an advanced powerplay which comes up rarely as a red tinged marker above the cars. Along with this there is usually one point, usually near the lap marker, where you can change the course by hitting the B button if your red bar is full. It will change the course totally and anyone ahead of you will usually succumb to the explosion and put you in first place no matter where you are in the line. In many ways there is a decent bit of strategy involved in this game with holding onto powerplays and thinking about when to unleash them on your opponents.
The powerplay is an interesting mechanic which makes it all the more disappointing when you start to realize that the tracks repeat themselves quite a bit through the episodes. Yes, there may be different paths to take in each event like the Burnout games of old, but when I’m going through the same trail for over 80% of the track it does get a bit stale. Another problem with the game is although the visual aids are minimal (your position, lap number and the powerplay meter is all that is shown), it would have helped to have some speed indicator so you know whether you’re at full speed or still have a bit to go. This becomes very important later in the game where the cars you’ve unlocked may not be able to easily stack up against your opponents and you’ll have to rely more on the powerplays than your driving prowess. Roughly in the middle of the game you find yourself outclassed, but towards the end if you’ve gotten enough credits you get some really nice rides.
In many ways Split/Second reminds me of the Burnout games of old, right down to the rubberband AI. Yes, there were many times where I felt I left the cars in the dust and the HUD would indicate I was 4+ seconds ahead, but sure enough one or multiple cars would often overtake me even when I drive perfectly and then you are depending on the powerplays again, something you can’t increase much when you are leading the race because drafting is no longer available to you.
This isn’t to say Split/Second is a bad game. It does something different and does it well, I just wish Black Rock Studios would have worked more on either making the world open or having more variety in the overall tracks. The online gameplay is nothing to write home about either, although once you unlock enough cars and all the tracks and game types it can be quite fun. Just don’t jump online right away because you will get smoked since there is no parity with the cars.