What is going on? This is what I asked myself as I was competing in race at an airport and an air traffic control traffic is detonated and collapsed onto the racetrack, right in front of me while I narrowly avoid getting hit by it. Split/Second is an upcoming racing game by Black Rock Studios, the guys previously responsible for Pure. The aim of the game is simple. Finish first. But how you do this is where the game is unique.
The main feature of Split/Second is the ‘Power Play’ meter which is separated into three segments and is filled by performing various stunts, such as drifting, jumping and drafting. The meter is used to perform ‘Power Plays’ which usually consists of some over-the-top explosion that causes your opponents to crash. There are three types of power plays: 1st level, 2nd level and route changes. You can perform 1st level power plays if you only have on segment of the meter filled but the 2nd level and route changes require the entire meter to be filled. 1st level power plays consist of a minor explosion that is only used to target a single opponent. 2nd level power play are more extravagant ways to take out more opponents, for example an entire building exploding or a plane crashing into a runway. Route changing power plays are self explanatory: they change the route. The example I noted at the beginning of this post is a route changing power play. The tower comes down and blocks the previous route and redirects the race onto the nearby runway.
My immediate reaction to the controls were that they were a bit stiff. They were not as responsive as I had expected but I quickly adapted to them. The game plays very similarly to the Burnout series, most notably Burnout Paradise. Crashing is fairly easy so you have to be careful, which is a bit strange in a game that involves driving through an exploding gas station.
Split/Second is a good looking game. It’s vibrant, well detailed and stays at a solid frame rate, a feat that’s difficult to do when there’s so many explosions happening on the screen at once. The explosions are appropriately over-the-top and are presented very well, for example if you are driving near one of the many explosions, you will be thrusted away from it, the camera swerves appropriately and the game slows down time which makes surviving each and every explosion even more satisfying. The music is very fast-paced and adds to the tension of the action.
One concern I had going in was ‘Will this game be good to play over and over again?’ The answer: Yes, to a point. The route changes and the different power plays add some replay value but if you strip all that away, what you’re left with is a fairly mediocre racing game. This demo did grab my attention and I’m looking forward to trying the finished product. I’m just hoping that it won’t get too boring, too quickly which is still my concern with Split/Second.