By Roberto Nieves
Split/Second is a racing game in which the stage is destructible, no turn is safe, and where races are decided in a Split/Second. This game is extremely intense, and you’ll be winning or losing races by the skin of your teeth. Split/Second is one of the most addictive and intense racing games I have played, and this is coming from someone that has previously played racers such as Mario Kart, Crash Team Racing, Disney’s magical Racing Tour, Gran Turismo 3, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit II, Need for Speed: Underground and Need for Speed Shift.
This game was created by Black Rock Studios and Disney Interactive Studios, which together brought the fun Pure to the Xbox 360 and PS3. Yes, Disney has its hand in arcade racers that involve destruction of great magnitude. This isn’t anything new. They were also involved in 2008’s Turok with Propaganda Games Studios, an awesome game by the way. Regardless, this game is amazing!
Split/Second takes place on a fictional Reality TV show where you play during an entire season of this show, which is comprised of large and deeply destructible sets. The point of this game is to race fast and survive. Every square foot of the course you’re racing on is destructible and dangers lurks at every corner, literally. At any moment, an explosion can throw you off, a flying object can knock you into a wall, or the destruction of the environment itself can alter the course itself.
This occurs through use of power plays. Below your vehicle is a power play gauge divided into three segments. To accumulate power, you must drift, draft, jump, and avoid close calls from other power plays, which your opponents can deploy as well. When you see a blue icon over a vehicle and at least one segment of your gauge is filled, that’s when you can trigger a purple. These level one power plays involve simple, yet spectacular explosions, which range from dropping an explosive barrel from a chopper to blowing up a truck, a bridge, or toppling a building.
If you build the gauge all the way to red, you trigger a power play level 2. These power plays are the most powerful. They can trigger events that significantly alter the race course and take you to new areas of the race course. They can also cause a monumental amount of destruction! In one instance, I was in 8th place and triggered a level 2 power play. A large tower fell and wiped out my competition, and I throttled into 1st place. In addition, now I was racing on a new part of the course by jumping over rooftops and triggering roof explosion power plays. Things like freight trains, earth movers (which are those super giant CAT trucks), and giant cruise liners can be used to not only annihilate your opposition but open a new course to get in the lead. Each of these power plays will make your jaw drop and/or put a smile on your face. At times, you won’t believe you just triggered a wrecking ball swing, a bridge explosion, or to have taxi cabs fly across the track as flaming fireballs. It is unbelievable what can be done. And the power plays have plenty of depth so you won’t ever be bored, especially when you unlock new shortcuts in the course through level 2 power plays.
One example includes a level rarely used in most games: Airports. CGR’s Mark loves flamethrowers, but I love airports. I think that any level that revolves around an airport in any game is at the top of my most awesome list. They have this fast and spacey architectural design so when there’s a car chase or fast sequence of any kind, it gets my adrenaline flowing. In one match, I witnessed the air traffic control tower collapse. Then I triggered an earthquake that revealed an underground garage, where the A.I., and I decided to use the parked cars as deadly weapons and obstacles. That’s why I always park in the special parking spots. Not economy. It’s always good to pay extra. Toward the end of my race, I triggered a jetliner to crash itself into the runway and destroy all the challenge cars in front of me, which pushed me right up to 2nd.
This sounds complicated and requires a ton of player input right? Well, surprisingly, the controls couldn’t be better for this game. They are extremely accurate, swift, and easy to use. You can pick this game up without even looking at the booklet, and the quick tutorial runs down the basics of the game in less than ten minutes.
The other events in the season include elimination, survival and chopper attack. Elimination is what it sounds like. Players must fight for first place as each opponent is picked off in the race. Survival involves a lapped, small course in which several giant 18-wheeler deploy explosive barrels. You earn points by passing the trucks and avoiding getting blown up.
In chopper attack, the Split/Second chopper will fire missiles at you, and it’s up to you to dodge each wave. In later “episodes,” you’ll be able to deflect the missiles and destroy that chopper.
Great game play is the shining star, but it would be mulled if the presentation were crippling. Surprisingly, the presentation is incredible and top-notch.
Disney always has had the spirit of the show and you can actually feel that here. No, I don’t mean pixie dust, magic, and the Jonas Bros. (Okay, I guess they’re all the same thing). I mean this assimilation of music, camera work, sound, and visuals that form a dynamic trek into a world of action and thrills. In addition, the ways the episodes present themselves do make it feel like a show on ABC or ESPN. Each episode starts with a rocking commentator and an awesome montage of clips. When the season finishes, it once again has a rocking commentator and awesome clips, and the bottom shows the game credits and your in-game stats.
The visuals and overall atmosphere are another example. Disney owns several film companies that have produced some of the most well known action films in pop culture. The companies included are Jerry Bruckheimer pictures and Touchstone Pictures, under The Buena Vista Film Company umbrella (owned by the mouse also.) Some of the most notable films include Enemy of the State, Conair, Armageddon, The Rock, Bad Company, Déjà vu and Gone in 60 Seconds. You can tell that the developers took great inspiration from the car chase sequences in these films, but the game holds its own originality. In addition, they have drawn inspiration from their own parks. Disney’s Hollywood Studios has an action stunt show called “LIGHT, MOTORS, ACTION!” It’s an action stunt show that uses live explosions and car sequences.
Anyway, the courses, structures, and music all become unique experiences. When you’re racing, you can’t help but feel the intensity and know that every second literally counts. This is mostly felt in the elite races where the game’s main theme triumphantly scores during the course of the race in which you’re up against the very best racers.
On a technical note, Split/Second runs nearly flawlessly. I have not noticed any freezes, lag, or tech hiccups during play. I guess this explains why Split/Second came and conquered 3GB off my PS3 hard drive. The visuals and frame rate are excellent, and the sound is incredible. The music is great. There is a tad wrinkle with one or two tunes, but they fit the game great. The main theme is amazing, and it’s been looping in my head constantly.
I can’t really find any faults with this game. If anything, it’s just what could have been added. By the end of the single-player, you will have already gone through all the courses and their alternate layouts. However, instead of running stale, the courses are all fun and each power play becomes strategic after a while. You memorize the opponent’s position, the timing and the effects. Likewise, when it’s used on you, you will shout, “It’s a trap!” The A.I. can snag first place from you, but it’s ultimately finely balanced.
The online might be where some wrinkles show. You have the events minus chopper attack. It’s great and more challenging facing human challengers, as they know where the power plays are and what they do. What’s frustrating is the rank up system and building power plays. You start at rank 99 and work your way to 1. Instead of going up one by one no matter your place, you’re only rewarded for reaching the top spots. If you hit anything below 4thplace, you’ll actually lose your rank. In other words, you could be at level 85 but losing will put you at level 90. This can be frustrating and has you rely on survival and elimination roads. Building power plays online is slightly slower, which makes strategically using power plays all the more challenging. Ultimately, online is well done, but its shortcomings do show. However, the development team has pledged DLC in the future.
Split/Second – the game is as awesome as it sounds. It had a lot of anticipation prior to its release and has delivered on all fronts. It feels like a great breakthrough and revolutionary. It captures that essence of the Hollywood car sequence in epic ways and puts you, the gamer, right into the thick of the action. At the end of the day though, this game is like a foreign, illegal, yet highly addictive substance that you’ll repeatedly come back to because it is so much fun! If you’re looking for a racer that breaks the mold and is tremendously fun, this game is the choice for you. You will make that choice in a SPLIT/SECOND!!!!
5/5 stars or 9/10 or A
-Roberto "Robnivz" Nieves