Hands On: Split/Second

1267764807_spiltsecond1.jpgEarlier today, Disney Interactive and Black Rock Studio, the creators of Pure, came to town with a playable build of their upcoming arcade racer, Split/Second, and long story short, any inkling that it might be the one to finally knock Burnout off of it’s throne has more or less been confirmed in my mind. If you were a diehard fan of part 3, who also sorta enjoyed part 4, but not as much as part 3, and was thoroughly bored to death by part 5 (Burnout Paradise), no matter how much stupid junk the devs threw in your face, like I was, then get ready for Christmas this summer.

But to be honest, the comparison to Burnout might not be entirely fair, since Split/Second is its own beast, one that brings a host of new concepts to the table, which might seem hard to swallow considering that it does feel like every single inch of territory possible in the genre of arcade racing has long been explored. The basic concept is this: in the future, there’s this super popular reality show called Split/Second, in which racers whip-up whatever havoc required to reach the finish line first. As you drive, you build up a power meter, up to three, and each triggers events that cause calamity for your opponents (as well as yourself if you’re not careful). This is mostly achieved by drifting, though smaller actions like skillful maneuvering and jumping contributes as well. Anyhow, when the time is right, icons will appear over the cars ahead of you, prompting you to hit the switch and make a building to blow up, or a helicopter to finally drop that dump truck that it’s been carrying while hovering this entire time, stuff like that. All of which might propel you from last to first. Though once again, if you’re in the wrong spot at the wrong time, a trick can backfire. The kind of ride your have is also a factor; if you’re too close to a sonic boom, the shockwave will mean problems for your fast, but very light vehicle.

At the end of each lap, if you have all three power meters filled, you can unleashed a super attack, which causes so much damage that a good portion of the track is physically changed (due to some large building plummeting and taking out much of the asphalt, as well as the competition). It actually reminds me of the severely underrated Stuntman Ignition, but whereas that game also had stuff blowing up left and right, but which you had zero control over, this time it’s you (along with everyone else) igniting the explosions. The developers wanted to make the ultimate hybrid of action game and racing title, and the results are spectacular.

Liked it needs to be pointed out, but Split/Second is no sim; every vehicle is clearly inspired by some real world manufacturer, and each locale looks like a real place, but it’s all fictional. Cars show damage, but it doesn’t affect performance one bit, though if one gets in the midst of a heavy explosion, it will re-spawn looking spic and span brand new. It was explained to me that in every step of the developmental process, whenever a question came up, the answer was “what would be the classic arcade racer’s answer be?” Despite being so different, the producer I spoke quite fondly of the game and the genre’s roots; everyone played the hell out of an arcade Daytona USA set-up that was conveniently near their office, mostly to examine how a game that is close to 20 years old could still provide such an exhilarating experience.

Another nice and unique touch is the lack of HUD, with all the info one needed expressed on the car itself:

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The position is on the left, the score in the middle, and lap number on the right. The bottom part is the aforementioned power meters. BTW, the visuals as a whole are simply beautiful; everything explodes nice and pretty like. Though… and I know folks are gonna pitch a fit upon hearing this… it all goes at 30 frames per second. Sorry 60 fps fanboys, but again, this is not a serious sim. The track designs are also fantastic; there’s tons of stuff going on, and various alternate routes, but your never lost, despite the lack of a map (which is pretty useless in any driving game). Unlike, say, Burnout Paraside, in which the number of routes available in any given race was overwhelming in the end, to the point that it killed every race, here everything is nice and simply and most importantly clear. Pretty much the only thing that I wish was brought over was turbo boost; the cars in Split/Second didn’t seem as fast as I had hoped. They’re certainly not slow by any stretch of the imagination, just not all the way to ten I had hope, just stuck at nine. Perhaps others rides might alleviate this.

What else? Let’s talk multiplayer; up to eight folks can duke it out online, two via splitscreen local. Apparently, if everyone online hits all their buttons just right, maximizing their power ups, regardless of whomever wins in the end, the entire city will resemble a big pile of rubble, which I dunno, sounds pretty much like the awesomest thing ever!

There’s numerous other modes that have been yet to revealed, but as soon as anything develops, I’ll try to be the first to report it.

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