Inside Pulse 12

Review: Split/Second (360)

Split/Second
Developer: Black Rock
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Genre: Arcade Racer
05/18/10

Story/Modes

Split/Second is the name of a fictional Reality Television show. You begin the game by auditioning to enter the contest and make the final roster of contestants who will put everything on the line to compete and win the prize of champion. That right there is about the extent of the official story you will find in the game, and so I will tell you about some of the various gameplay modes you will find should you choose to purchase and power up.

There is a championship consisting of 12 “Episodes”, and each episode contains 5 races, including one bonus race that can be unlocked by achieving objectives in that episode. There is also a quick play option where you can race on any track you have unlocked so far in championship mode, and you can also do split screen races.

Graphics

The developers at Black Rock know how to make the 360 sing, I’ll give them that. This game looks fabulous, and they really had to, if you think about what it was they were trying to achieve. Explosions all over the place, race tracks which can be modified by the players almost at will, and all of it running at a fairly smooth frame rate.

Some of the cars, I won’t lie, seem to resemble many of those found in some of the various Burnout games which have come out in the past few years. This isn’t the only resemblance to Burnout I noticed, but I’ll address that later. They aren’t carbon copies, and the developers did add their own flourishes to the designs, like adding emblems for your achievements to the paint job of whatever car you’re driving, and letting you know your season standing by using the number on the side of your car.

The tracks get reused quite a bit in Split/Second. The courses themselves are changed, but locations are limited to a few specific “sets” if you like. You will also find that some of the landmarks get reused as well, which can be confusing when you are expecting to see a Nuclear power plant around the bend but wind up seeing something else and crashing while your brain tries to contemplate what happened.

Sound

In the course of finishing this game for review it quickly became apparent that while the graphics were outstanding, the music was not. It became so bad I had to reach for a USB key and went about playing the game with the 360’s custom soundtrack option enabled. I feel for anyone who decides to play this on the PS3, where that option does not exist.

Anyway, the rest of the audio is good. The cars sound great, and the voice over actors, when we hear them that is, sound like they’ve done this kind of thing before.

Some of the things you see on screen don’t get all the attention they deserve. I recall driving on one of the desert tracks and barely avoiding a boulder as it fell down onto the roadway. I could hear the roar of the engine, the explosion that caused the rockslide still ringing as well, but the rock itself made hardly any noise at all beyond its initial rumble of movement, which just seemed weird.

Control/Gameplay

The big attraction of Split/Second is the use of “Powerplays”, which are events that the racers can trigger when they acquire enough energy. Doing things like jumping off ramps, power sliding and evading other player’s Powerplays can earn you this energy. Powerplay events range from small things like a helicopter hovering over the track and dropping explosives in targeted car’s path to the more extreme toppling city towers or demolishing dams. Some of these events need an energy meter of only one third full, while others require full energy bars to complete.

There are five other kinds of races found in Split/Second. These include Survival, where you must avoid bombs dropped from the backs of a number of tractor-trailers, and Airstrike, where you must avoid missiles fired at you from an attack helicopter. Later on the game allows you to retaliate against the attack helicopter in Airstrike Revenge races, but I found them to be less enjoyable than the basic Airstrike races. Lastly there is the Destruction game type, where you are tasked with taking a predetermined car and doing a speed run around a course while every single Powerplay is remotely detonated. These races are against the clock of course, and the better the car, the more difficult it is to win the time trial. It does not take long before you realize that even a single crash is likely to take you out of the running for winning the event.

Of the alternate race types, the Survival races were the most interesting. Passing consecutive trucks without crashing will result in a combo chain which will increase your score dramatically, but some courses seem to be ill-suited to this kind of racing, and so they become more frustrating. Had there been more Airstrike races I would have chosen that as my preferred mission type, but sadly there were only a few before the game type evolved into the Airstrike Revenge races.

Replayability

This is a game which will suffer from its novelty more than it will benefit from it. The game relies too much on destroying things along the course, and this means that after playing the game enough things become predictable. Stay to this side of the course on this part of the track, avoid that big boat over there, save up enough energy to change the course here, those kinds of things.

Online it’s even worse, as you have people who know the courses and those who don’t. Obviously this should encourage those who don’t know them to keep playing, but all it really does is encourage people to move on to a game they feel might be more forgiving and less predictable.

Split/Second offers a number of ways to connect with other people and play. Firstly it offers split screen play for you and your friend to play side by side on the couch. Next there is Xbox Live Party play, where you and a group of friends can get together and race as a group. Then there is, of course, the option to race against random people online. Don’t be surprised if it takes some time to get connected to a game, however. I found it occasionally took more than a minute to find any other players at all, and it takes 3 at least to start a race.

Balance

Split/Second does a good job of following the guidebook when it comes to balancing. Increase the difficulty of the races and award drivers new cars to conquer the more difficult tracks. Some tracks require stronger cars capable of sustaining more damage and some tracks require more finesse. As I mentioned before, there are time trial races which force you to race a lap in a particular car, and should you finish first you will be awarded that car. Can’t complete a track? Come back later when you’ve earned a better car to defeat it soundly.

Against the computer, the Powerplays make for wonderful equalizers, but you do have to be within visual range of your AI opponents when they are in range of the Powerplay opportunity themselves for you to detonate them, so keep that in mind.

Originality

I found the Reality TV show angle to be really unique, and they played it up really well, having little “Next Week on an all new exciting Split/Second!” vignettes play at the end of every episode. The Powerplays were an interesting idea too, but the farther into the game you get, the less enjoyable they become.

The game absolutely screams spiritual successor to Burnout Revenge, which is strange since there was an actual sequel to that called Burnout Paradise, but since that game went in such a different direction I’m more than willing to let it slide.

Addictiveness

In short bursts this game is highly addicting, but the more you play it the less enamored by its flashy exterior you’ll be.

Appeal

If you are looking for an arcade racing game in the tradition of San Francisco Rush and Burnout Revenge, or if you just like the idea of racing around watching as a city gets destroyed around you as if you were in a scene from the movie “2012”, this would be the game for you.

Miscellaneous

The whole presentation of the game is enjoyable to look at. Perhaps it’s because Disney published the game, but the menu screens, pre- and post-episode vignettes and every other bit of video found in the game are really well made.

The Scores:
Story/Modes: GOOD
Graphics: CLASSIC
Sound: ABOVE AVERAGE
Control/Gameplay: GOOD
Replayability: ABOVE AVERAGE
Balance: GOOD
Originality: GOOD
Addictiveness: ABOVE AVERAGE
Appeal: GOOD
Miscellaneous: GOOD
Final Score: GOOD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary:

An enjoyable experience, but be prepared for the game to start losing your interest the longer you play it.