8.0 Overall Score

Written by on May 25, 2010 in

Split/Second is a white-knuckle, sweaty controller, summer blockbuster racing game.  Disney Interactive and Black Rock Studios introduces a new racing game in a crowded field, but one  that offers a compelling reason to gather your friends online and off to run the tracks again and again.  The reason?  To blow sh*t up!

Split/Second follows in the familiar pattern of other racing games.  The player must complete a circuit of races to advance to the next circuit.  However, Split/Second dresses this foundational game play with a new set of curtains so to speak.  In the game, the player is a racer in a fictional reality television show called Split/Second. Each circuit is an episode of the television show, with multiple races for each episode.  On this show the player earns points based on their finishing positions in each race.  After earning enough points for each episode, the player can unlock the Elite race for the episode.  In addition players can earn new vehicles and unlock a special race for causing so many cars to crash during races.

Split/Second isn’t a racing game for gamers who love simulation racers or ones that get caught up in the minutiae of choosing the right automotive parts, body decals, and what not.  There is not an exhaustive list of vehicles, and only a limited amount of colors to paint your vehicles with. Players do get decals that are automatically applied to the cars based on various achievements earned while playing the game.

Let’s not forget about blowing stuff up.  In Split/Second, players have the ability to use the environment to take out other racers.  This ability can be triggered if the player earns enough power in the race.  The player earns this power by drifting, jumping, and avoiding being taken out by other players.  There are minor and major environmental triggers throughout the map.  Minor ones range from objects moving in driver’s paths, small explosions, or secret pathways being opened up.  That is well and good but there is a certain giddiness that arises when a major act of destruction is triggered.  When that happens things blow up real good.  Buildings explode, power plants fall, bridges collapse.  When the major destruction settles,  the race map changes and new routes must be taken.  The ability to trigger these acts of wanton destruction is helped along by a gorgeous user interface, or UI.  This UI is a small semi circle around the rear bumper of the car.  As the player earns more power the power bar fills up in this UI.  It’s a smart way of informing the player without distracting him or her from the track and other race cars and keeps the screen visually clean and fluid.

The single player campaign starts off with a gradual learning curve. Players are able to advance and earn enough credits to unlock special races to win special cars.  They’ll also be able to unlock the elite races to advance to the next episode provided they finish in the top three positions.  As the player advances in the episodes, it becomes harder to get enough credits to unlock those elite races, which means they will have to retry earlier races to get a better score or finishes to hunt down more credits. It is at this point that newer or inexperienced racing players may grow a little frustrated at a game that does not let them play through the entire game because of skill.

Each episode has different variants of racing. Some of the variants are the straight-up races to see who crosses the finish line first. Some races are a race for time against an explosion happy director. There are also some very unique races against missile launching helicopters bent on your destruction. Another game type is the elimination race. During the elimination race the car in last position as the timer runs down gets eliminated from the race until only one race car is left. One last, very fun, variant is a race to sneak past tanker trucks equipped with deadly exploding barrels. As the player races past these tankers, they build score bonuses. The player with the highest score at the end wins this type of race.

Multiplayer in Split/Second is the engine that will keep racing fans coming back to the game again and again.  Players can compete against one another in traditional racing, survival, or elimination.  Experienced racers will really enjoy the multiplayer, but those new to the genre may want to stick to private matches with friends. The online multiplayer doesn’t seem to match newer players up with each other so they are dumped into racing shark infested waters. It is a brutal learning experience, but recommended for those that love the thrill of the chase and inner delight when top players are taken out by your explosions.  Local two person multiplayer is also included in the game via horizontal split screen.  The game handles well in split screen and there is special kind of satisfaction when the competitor you take out in a fiery explosion is sharing the same couch.

Split/Second is not without its problems.  The game does contain a lot of  pop-in textures and landscapes.  Also at some moments the player can view replays of their timed explosions, but the replays are pre-rendered cut scenes that do not include the actual game play of the vehicles meeting their maker.  While they are spectacular, they do not represent the actual cars involved in the race.  Sometimes the game also does quirky things with the view.  In some matches the players find themselves looking through the frame of other cars in tight bottleneck spots of the track.

All in all Split/Second is a solid entertaining racer that delivers on a fun new way to race and does so in explosive fashion.  It is a title that, despite its minor flaws, will be a major franchise for Disney Interactive and the folks from Black Rock Studios.

A copy of Split/Second was provided to The Married Gamers for the purposes of review and evaluation.


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Author: Chris Brown View all posts by

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