Three Things We Learned From the Split/Second Demo

Usually when a demo breaks I try and pick out the five biggest elements that stood out, either positively or negatively. WithSplit/Second we’re knocking it down to three. Why only three instead of five? Because the demo for Split/Second is only about as long as the game’s title. With only one race, no track choices and everyone driving the same car its really difficult to get a handle on a whole lot about the game. But here is what we do know.

Don’t like the track? Blow it up.

Probably the game’s biggest hook is the ability to set off explosions all around the track during a race in an attempt to wreck and otherwise hinder your opponents. There are two “levels” to these game breaker-like abilities. You need to build up a reserve of points before you can activate them. Points are gained through drifting, drafting, passing cars, and other racing maneuvers that you pull off. The first level just cause controlled explosions at various choke points int he race, sending fire and debris in all directions. The second level ones cause drastic changes to the course, opening up new avenues, closing off others, and sometimes changing the tracks around dramatically. This does keep the racing fresh and provide a way to impact racers who jump out to a large and early lead, even if you are in the back of the pack. From my demo time it appears that there are at least two or three track lay-out changes that can be made, whether this is true for all the tracks remains to be seen. Also, one has to wonder if these changes will be drastic enough to impact seasoned veterans who might just be able to memorize the changes as well as the initial tracks.

More race, less battle.

One of the things that separates Split/Second from Blur is the focus is more on racing than it is on battling it out with weapons and power-ups. The driving itself feels a little less arcade-like and there is more of a focus on drafting, drifting through turns and finding a correct line on the race track. This isn’t Gran Turismo or Grid, so people who are adverse to simulation racers need not worry too much. However if you’re looking for an all out slug fest akin to Mario Kart, Split/Second might take some getting used to.

H.U.D. be damned.

Presentation is really at the forefront of Split/Second’s design. The developer’s aim seems to be to re-create as cinematic an experience as they can. The explosions are huge, the racing is intense and the graphical fidelity of the game is turned up to 11. Part of that includes a toning down of the traditional H.U.D. that we see with most racing games. Aside from the standard mini-map showing your relative place in the race, most everything else has been toned down or done away with entirely. Gone are the super large fonts and numberings displaying lap times and speed. Instead, all of that information has been miniaturized and placed right behind the back of your car. This is a pretty slick design idea. When you need the information, it’s right there where you’d normally be looking, but when you are trying to focus more on the race or enjoying that massive explosion that just totaled three cars, the data sort of melds and disappears into the rear of your car. It’s a minor detail to be sure, but one that I find really appealing.

Unfortunately, this is really all we can glean from Split/Second. The new survival mode trailer that was released sheds a little more light on the game, but with only three weeks before its release, we are still somewhat in the dark about tracks, cars and other possible modes to the game. Normally this wouldn’t be that bad or surprising, but with all the information and playtime given to us by Blur and its open beta, it makes the lack of information for Split/Second all the more glaring.

Tom Hoeler

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