Review – Split/Second

Split/Second is the latest racing game from BlackRock Studios, the team behind PURE. It is, essentially, a super-powered version of Mario Kart in which drivers race around in a city rigged with explosives.

As a driver, you are a contestant on Split Second, a reality TV show in which the studio behind the show builds a huge, destructible city and then task drivers with racing through its streets. Drivers gain “power plays” through drifting, drafting and jumping, all of which add points to a meter. When the meter reaches 1/3 full or 2/3 full, drivers can trigger a power play, which is a rigged explosion to take out enemies. If they are patient and wait until the meter is completely full, they will be able to trigger a larger power play that can change the entire race course by bringing buildings, bridges or even airplanes, crashing down onto the course. These deadly power plays force opponents to wreck, and as a result, can vault you into the lead position.

The power plays combined with the incredible destruction that can be wreaked upon the city lead to a serious adrenaline rush. Make no doubt about it, Split/Second is an adrenaline fueled experience from beginning to end. It is one of, if not the most, thrilling racers in years.

Loved

Split/Second features numerous game modes including one in which you attempt to pass 18-wheelers loaded with explosive barrels. As you cruise along at 200 miles per hour, dodging exploding barrels, you feel as though you are in a high-stakes action movie. It is thrilling, sweat-inducing. A truly visceral, freaky experience. There are numerous moments throughout the game that offer this amount of adrenaline, from your “standard” race in which you narrowly dodge a burning bus that’s rolling across the road to a mode in which you dodge missile strikes from a helicopter.

The game tries to tell a story of sorts by providing a background in which you, as the driver, compete against other racers to win a reality TV show. The presentation of the story is slick. After each “episode” in which you compete in several races and move on a sequence screams about what you will see in the next “episode”. A cliff hanger, of sorts, that’s nearly impossible to resist. The first time you see images of massive explosions you just have to push on to the next portion of the game.

The HUD. It doesn’t sound like much, but the HUD in Split/Second is one of the aspects the development team was most proud of, and it does make a difference. There are no distractions on the screen, nothing but a small meter telling you where you stand in the race and your power play meter at the bottom of the screen. Otherwise, all you see is the sheer destruction around you, and it makes the game, interestingly enough, more immersive. By removing elements commonly found in racing HUDs, the team at Blackrock aided their attempts to make the game a visceral experience.

Hated

The difficulty level of Split/Second suddenly and without warning amps up considerably and can be incredibly frustrating. One moment you are racing along, beating everyone, the next second you are languishing in fourth or fifth place. The AI is generally great, but in the season mode it certainly ramps itself up to the point of frustration.

The cars in Split/Second aren’t licensed, they aren’t real. They look pretty and they handle beautifully, but there is a certain something to recognizing cars, or at least, having enough detail put into the cars that you feel there’s a certain history to each make and model. Winning a car felt like a joy because it would make races a bit easier, but it can’t compare to finally unlocking a Grand Prix Ferrarri in Forza Motorsport 3.

Verdict

Split/Second is an excellent, fast-paced, adrenaline-filled racer. It is a TON of fun and provided some of the most incredible, whoop-inducing moments I’ve had gaming in a long time. It is definitely worth the money for racing fans, and it diverges enough from the standard racer that even non-racing fans will enjoy this one.

8