Guest Post: Split/Second Review

[It’s been a while since we’ve had a guest post at the site, so when District 16 member and former Neptune’s Pride nemesis MrEff asked if I wanted a review for Split/Second I said yes. Mostly to find out if the game was any good. -Phil]

Ask yourself this; what would be the result if Michael Bay decided to make a racing game? The Answer: Split/Second. Made by Black Rock Studios and set as a fictional reality TV show Split/Second is an arcade racing game that allows you to blow away the competition, literally.

Unlike other arcade racers you don’t pick up weapons to use against the other racer, rather you build up ‘power plays’ that can be used to trigger events on and around the race track. The system used is simple; you draft, drift and jump to build up three bars that can be used to activate these power plays. Level one will cause cars and trucks by the side of the track to explode, helicopters hovering overhead to drop explosive barrels or will open up shortcuts to shave a couple of seconds off your time. Level two power plays are aimed to take out multiple opponents with buildings collapsing, producing larger explosions. Let your bar reach level three however and that is where the fun begins. Maxed out you can use it to activate route changers that can change the path of the track and lead to destruction on a truly epic scale. For example, one that is worthy of a mention is in the Airport Terminal race. Here you can detonate explosives placed in an aircraft control tower, leading to it collapsing and diverting you onto the runway. Come around the next lap and you have access to a level two power play that causes a huge jet plane to crash land on the very runway that you are racing down.

All of this action hurtles along at a blistering speed allowing you little time to admire the scenery, which is a shame. On the PC, with the graphics on high, the cars, track and various things that will soon be exploding or on fire all look beautiful. The frame rate never drops low either, even when everything is trying it’s hardest to wreck you. Also worth mentioning is the HUD used. Rather than filling the top of the screen like most racing games, the bare minimum of information that you need is positioned floating behind your car. This is an ingenious idea since it frees up the screen allowing you keep an eye out for any hazards that block your path.

Racing isn’t the only type of event that the game has to offer though; you get detonator, survival, air attack and air strike modes as well. Detonator has you performing a single lap against the clock as all the power plays are activated in front of you, leading to some spectacular near misses. Survival has you trying to overtake trucks flinging explosive barrels in your path. The blue ones slow you down while red ones blow you up, wrecking your car. Air attack has you racing round the track trying to avoid missiles raining down from a helicopter trying to take you out and air revenge has you deflecting those missiles back at the helicopter trying to take it down.

Even though the cars aren’t licensed models they all look fantastic and handle appropriately with the SUVs being slow but sturdy, the muscle cars wanting to drift at every opportunity and the sports cars zipping along at an incredible pace.

This isn’t to say that the game is perfect. You can only activate power plays in front of you, and many of them only if there is another car present to try and take out. It would have been nice to be able to activate them behind you too to slow down the other cars, which can be problematic due to the rubber-banding used to keep the action going. Thanks to this you can never get a good lead, there will always be another car not too far away to try and stop you from winning. On the plus side this makes for some intense races where you can’t relax until you have crossed the line, on the minus you feel cheated when you are taken out on the last corner of the last lap and denied the win you fought so hard to get. Furthermore when drifting you do lose quite a bit of speed. Considering that this is one of the main ways to fill your power play meter it seems a little odd that it slows you down, sometimes almost as much as just ploughing into the barrier and letting that guide you round the corner.

You do have access to online multiplayer and a split screen modes that allow you to take on human opponents, though they are a bit anemic. There are only three different types of event you can chose from, race, survival and elimination, which makes it feel like the multiplayer was an after thought tacked on at the end of production. However all three events still run smoothly, though you may want to wait until you have unlocked a few of the faster cars before you jump in.

Overall Split/Second is a great game. It may not be perfect but it offers something unique in a racing game and is incredible fun. If you are looking for something a bit different then I would highly recommend it.

[Find more from MrEff right here.]


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