Split Second Review
When speed is not enough, blow up the track
Split Second is a racing video game developed by Black Rock Studio and published by Disney Interactive Studios. In the game, players take part in a fictional reality TV show that consists of a variety of events, each focusing on destructible environments triggered remotely by drivers. This is quite a distinctive and interesting premise, where the cars and drivers are mere pawns to the environmental destruction around them. While the idea behind the premise is promising, the game does have some issues with its execution that prevents the game from becoming a must-own title. Still, racing fans looking for some of the best thrills in any genre should give Split Second more than a quick look.
The premise of the game is an exciting one, as racers participate in a series of survival-based races over the course of a season. The career mode in the game is split into twelve episodes, each 5 races long. The player earns a certain amount of points depending on the podium finish, and after a required point amount is reached, the so-called “elite” race of the episode becomes available. Place in the top 3, and you’re off to the next episode. In the meantime, collecting certain amount of points also lands the player new cars with varying stats. The career mode in Split Second is respectably lengthy, and offers a fun gaming experience even if you do not place first in every event.
The main draw of the game is the destructible environment. As players drift and draft behind others, they earn energy towards the powerplay meter. Once the meter fills up to one of the three notches, you can execute a level 1 powerplay when your opponents are within range of danger. An icon appears above their cars, and hitting the corresponding key triggers some kind of environmental destruction. The basic level destruction ranges from helicopters dropping bombs overhead, parked cars and buses exploding and rolling onto the track, to bridges collapsing and simply general mayhem. This all looks and sounds great, and is one of the best parts of the presentation. The powerplays are not sure-things though, as other drives often have time to avoid the destruction – as does the player. Powerplays also trigger shockwaves though, so if you have managed to avoid a direct hit from the environment, you are still vulnerable for a few seconds and one wrong turn could result in a crash. The energy can also be spent to temporarily open shortcuts on the track, and up to two powerplays can be executed sequentially. As you make laps around the track, some powerplays can be repeated while others can be used only once per race. Unfortunately, the location of the destruction never changes; it only becomes a matter of which events are triggered by the drivers on each lap.
A primary attraction of the whole feature, though, has to be the level 2 powerplays. These can be executed only once per race when someone has filled their powerplay meter, and do they ever look fantastic. Huge airport terminal exploding, a plane crash landing, a huge ship sliding off across the track – these are just some of the epic examples of the level of insane destruction that is to be had at least once on every track. When someone executes a level 2 powerplay, you can’t help but take your eyes off the road and stare in amazement as things explode and collapse. In addition, another way to use your full powerplay meter is to literally change the track. These events cause the track to explode and somehow deform, presenting a different layout on a section of a track for the rest of the race. These aren’t nearly as exciting as the level 2 powerplays, but they do add a nice variety to the race itself.
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