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Split/Second Review
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After the success of their adrenaline-fuelled quad bike racer Pure, Disney Interactive Studios and Black Rock Studios are back to cause more mayhem in the racing world with their latest game Split/Second. It has been a long time since a decent arcade racer has been released with simulation driving and rally games dominating the market, so can Split/Second re-ignite one of my favourite genres and get a head-start on its main competition Blur which releases at the end of the month?

Split/Second is described by Disney as an “intense action driving game” and is set in the form of a reality television show. You are a participant in the show and must survive all of the episodes whilst aiming to achieve the ultimate goal of becoming the Split/Second Season Champion by earning the most cumulative points throughout the season.

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The feature that sets Split/Second apart from all of the other arcade racers out there and guarantees the intense racing experience described by Disney is the ability to unleash what are known as “Power Plays” on you fellow racers. Power Plays are where you trigger the environment to unleash a trap or blow up in order to block the path of your competitors and wreck their cars, allowing you to overtake with ease. Implementing drifting into your driving is essential in Split/Second due to drifting being the main source which charges the Power Play bar that is displayed around your car. Drafting, where you stay in the slip-stream of another car in order to gain speed due to no wind resistance, along with catching air in big jumps, also charge the Power Play bar.

Once a certain blue segment of the Power Play bar is full, a blue hexagonal symbol will appear by the cars ahead of you when you are able to unleash your Power Play and hopefully hinder the progress of your unfortunate competitors. Power Plays can range from anything between exploding barrels being dropped out of the sky from a helicopter filming the race for the television programme to metal poles falling off a production truck and dangerously rolling into the road and the path of an oncoming vehicle. Black Rock Studios have really been imaginative in designing these Power Plays and there are a few which will make you shout “AWESOME” at your television.

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The correct timing is vital to the success of your Power Plays. Pressing the X button and using the Power Play as soon as you receive it will likely result in the obstacle being released too soon and giving your opponent enough time to react and move out of the way. In contrast, waiting too long after receiving the Power Play often results in your opponents zooming past the upcoming obstruction before it has even arrived. You can store up to two blue standard Power Plays, with your bar then progressing into the red area which is known as a level 2 Power Play, and when full will allow you to unleash a far more devastating attack which is certain to give you an advantage in the race. These level 2, fully charged Power Plays include dramatic events such as a water tower crumbling down and landing on the truck, a construction crane swinging out of control and my personal favourite, a gigantic Jumbo Jet falling from the sky and crashing in your path. Unfortunately these red Power Plays can only be used at one specific part of the track and therefore you will have to bide your time before you can let loose the havoc.

If you have the patience to wait till your Power Play bar is fully charged and in the level 2 zone, you will be rewarded with some stunning visual effects to drool over; let alone multiple enemies being wrecked and demoted a few places in the race. While Power Plays are your best friend when you’re trailing the pack and fighting for first place, they turn into your worst enemy when you eventually reach your goal and lead the way. Just knowing that at any second a nearby barrel could explode or a construction crane fall from the sky and take you out really gets the adrenaline flowing and keeps you on edge throughout the race. If you’re lucky enough to experience a near-miss, your car will start to lose control and you’ll need to battle to keep it on the road; the loss of control will result in a loss of a few vital seconds. Opening up shortcuts is another useful feature of your Power Play bar. The tracks in Split/Second are littered with cleverly placed shortcuts which allow you shave seconds off your lap time and are key to winning the harder races. The best thing about the shortcuts is the fact they quickly close up again after you have used them, and therefore anyone following close by with the hope of taking advantage of a shortcut you triggered could be in for a nasty surprise and a car-crushing crash.

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Shortcut Time!

Another feature which separates Split/Second from other racing games is the fact that the games HUD is displayed below your cars bumper instead of in the top right and left hand corners of the screen. This firstly allows a cleaner look to the game and more screen space available which can only benefit the gamer. Secondly, having the Power Play bar, your position and what lap you’re currently on all displayed under your bumper looks great and is all easily accessible without taking your eyes off the road. Finally, there is a lack of a map in Split/Second showing the upcoming corners and therefore unless you’ve played the game multiple times and know the track well, you often won’t know where you’re going and what position on the track to partake until very near the corners. This adds intensity to the racing as you’ll often have to break into huge drifts to make a tight corner.

The handling of the cars took me a while to get used and I regularly over-steered when trying to drift, resulting in my car spinning out and facing the wrong way. The earlier cars in the game also felt quite stiff to handle and this made cornering a chore instead of an enjoyment. I found the drifting problem occurred less when better cars with higher drift ratings where used, and you can get a good angle on the drift and easily fill up the valuable Power Play bar. The stiffness also wriggled away when better cars are unlocked and available, and you can really fling these supercharged beasts around the track at a high velocity and the sense of speed in the game really picks up; again adding to the intensity of the game.

There are a total of 12 episodes to battle through in the television series with each episode consisting of 5 events and a bonus event which is unlocked if you meet certain stipulations, and therefore there are 72 events to test your nerves and driving skills. When you consider the majority of these events take a minimum of 5 minutes to complete, the single player portion of the game will require at least 6 hours of your time to “race” through. Each of the television episodes is presented in sublime style, with an announcer hyping up the event of showing the upcoming events you’ll be participating in and the carnage that could unfold.

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Split/Second has a good variety of events throughout the Season which can also be played in a quick play mode after they have been unlocked. The obvious Race has been included along with Elimination where the last placed car is knocked out until there is only one remaining. Detonator challenges you to set the fastest possible time whilst Power Plays are automatically triggered infront of you, and you are ranked position wise depending on how what time your opponents achieved. Survival mode requires you to overtake as many moving rigs as possible, and these rigs are dropping barrels with the aim of taking you out. Getting hit by a blue barrel will slow you down whereas getting hit by a red barrel will wreck you and end the event. Getting an overtake streak adds to your score multiplier, and the driver who gains the most score before getting wrecked will be awarded first place.

The final two modes bring innovative and fun ideas to the racing genre. In Air Strike, you have to drive whilst avoiding missiles fired at your car by the helicopter patrolling the skies. Red symbols indicate where the missiles will hit the floor and you have to weave through and avoid them. The longer the event lasts, the harder it becomes with more missiles being fired and the tighter the gap between the missiles. In contrast, Air Revenge allows you to get sweet pay-back on the evil helicopter by deflecting the missiles back towards it and blowing the helicopter to smithereens.

The 6 modes in Split/Second all provide (exploding) barrels of fun and have enough variety to keep the game fun for many hours. Split-screen fans will be happy to hear that you will be able to obliterate your friends on the same console in Race, Survival and Elimination modes. If you’re selfish and prefer your television to yourself, you can take on your friends and the world from the comfort of your seat via Xbox Live and the Playstation Network where the 8 player online races are even more intense than racing against the A.I. Wrecking your friend with a Power Play and then letting him know about it via the mic is great fun.

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Split/Second is a beautiful game to look at with its fantastic lighting, realistic smoke effects, gorgeous cars and most importantly a rock-solid framerate which didn’t drop once for me; even when the huge explosions and over-the-top action was occurring. Unfortunately the environments do become a bit stale after a while due to a lack of variety which is a shame. The cars in Split/Second are well designed and look either sporty or meaty depending on whether they are more speed or strength dominant, but either way, you can be assured they will have some sexy shiny textures. The cars included in the game are unfortunately completely fictional and there are clear Lamborghini and over brand rip-offs, but this didn’t detract from the overall experience for me. Split/Second’s soundtrack fits the game perfectly, with a mixture of drum and bass and heavy rock never failing to pump you up before a race or give you the motivation to push for first place.

Split/Second features a mixed difficulty achievement/trophy list. There are plenty of achievements or trophies you can unlock quickly such as “win your first bonus round” or “win your first online event” and there are plenty of achievements and trophies which will take a fair amount of time and skill to achieve, and these include “Complete every event and Season Championship race in first place” and “get an online form of 1”. The lists should certainly keep you busy and make you get the most out of Split/Second, but this could hinder the completionists among you. If you’re looking for an easy 1000 achievement points or Platinum trophy, you won’t find it here.

Split/Second is a fantastic game which brings intense and high adrenaline racing to the table through well designed Power Play moves and the games HUD being displayed under your cars bumper instead of scattered all over the screen. If you’re looking for an action-packed racer to give you those “OH MY GOD” moments, coupled with gorgeous graphics, a great soundtrack, split-screen and online racing, Split/Second should be number one on your starting grid this May. Highly recommended for racing fans and adrenaline junkies.

VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
Rating: 10.0/10 (7 votes cast)
Split/Second Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 7 ratings
  • Dilliyo

    What button do you press when a shortcut is available? All I see is an arrow

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