Format(s): PS3, Xbox 360
Developer: Black Rock Studio
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
What do you get if you put Burnout, Motorstorm: Pacific Rift and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 into a creative blender? That's right, Split/ Second- an arcade-style racer intent on delivering the thrills, competition, and insane speed of the racer of the norm and injecting it with style, destruction and chaos. Much in the same style as the Burnout series before the Paradise open-world departure, Split/Second by Black Rock Studios (who made Pure) is a circuit based racing game where the key to taking the chequered flag in first place is wanton destruction of opponent's vehicles in a bid for survival of your own.
Playing off the game-show backdrop, the racer seems like the video game equivalent of Death Race, where the whole level is literally rigged to blow. From buildings falling atop speeding cars, and air planes landing within a whisker of your rear bumper, this is unlike anything really witnessed from the racing genre as yet. All this chaos is of course limited, however, and this is where the meter system is implemented. The “powerplay” meter itself is split into 3 sections, slowly filling through such driving manoeuvres as drafting an opponent, drifting, and jumping. A fill of the first part of the meter results in the ability to trigger small explosions through the track, perhaps a single car, or a few barrels on the side of the track. Nothing major- the most destructible events are saved when all three sections of the meter have been filled, levelling buildings on top of any incoming racers, felling satellite towers and more edge of your seat carnage. Certain events also occur only once in a single race, such as opening short-cuts which will alter the shape of the track.
The demo, available now on Xbox Live and PSN, takes place at an airport, where you'd do well to avoid one of many explosive set pieces. From what I've seen of the game so far, it looks absolutely brilliant, very similar to Burnout- as mentioned before. Where it improves on that particular game is the way in which the HUD is placed beneath the car's rear bumper meaning the full impact of the surrounding action can be taken in without any obstruction, which I think is a nice touch. Upon running through several races, it's refreshing to tell you that my experience was somewhat different on every play-through through the use of the game's mechanics making it possible for the track to change into one of several routes. The way in which each race progressed was also thoroughly entertaining to say the least. Whilst I enjoy racing-sims wholeheartedly, the way in which Split/Second's approach and originality sets itself apart from basic racers is great. I just hope that re-playability can still be had after extended sessions of play with the full game with only a limited number of sights to see. But with the demo anything to go by and 8-player online multi player and 2-player split screen, Black Rock should certainly deliver the first big racing hit of 2010.