Genre: Other Developer: BlackRock Studios Publisher: Disney Interactive Games Classification: M Release Date: 23rd Jun 2010 Platforms:XBOX360
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If there's one thing I can say about Black Rock Studio, it's that these guys know their way around a track. Bursting on the scene with the criminally underrated ATV racer Pure, they put the SSX back into racing. With so much competition, and most developers leaning towards more of a simulation styled affair, Black Rock threw the rulebook out the window and added an explosive element to the genre...and that’s a
gross understatement. A better description might be that Split Second: Velocity is high octane done the Michael Bay way, fuelled by gasoline, a couple of hundred thousand tonnes of C4, thermite and napalm, all ignited by a rocket launcher. Here’s the gist.
Part Burnout (before the franchise went down the toilet) and part The Running Man, Split Second: Velocity puts you in the hot seat, as a street racer in an episodic televised program, where the entire track is rigged to blow. Called “powerplays”, each is triggered by drivers after tailgating, drifting and grabbing air-time to fill up the meter, conveniently located underneath your car. As you fang it across each track, depending on how full the meter is, you’ll be prompted onscreen to unleash a powerplay.
Some are as simple as a semi-trailer exploding or hovering choppers dropping fuel drums, others fling cars from side to side, and a few involve rockslides or containers thrown across the entire track. Be warned though, popping a power play is not a guaranteed takedown, and if your timing’s out, you could well be the unintended recipient... and these are just the beginning.
Filling the meter out to the max brings about route changers, which can be a quick shortcut to gain the upper hand, but more likely, a fireball charged change to the entire racetrack, with devastating effects. Whether it’s a collapsing communications tower, downed aircraft, radar dish, elevated highway, or even train track, the end result is usually the same, a whole bunch of charcoaled imports and smouldering wreckage as you clear a path and head to the finish line.
It’s genius. It should be nominated for a Grammy, an Emmy, a Nobel Peace Prize, a Pulitzer... it’s a game changer, and bless your hearts Black Rock for coming up with it. It’s just a pity the car handling isn’t quite as on the money as track design and explosive content.
All the juiced up burners have a definite sense of weight to them, which I’m fine with, not every racer needs to be arcade styled and unrealistic, but even the higher end models have what I’d call 'a fat arse'. The game encourages you to drift to build up your powerplay meter, but the response is very much a hit and miss affair, regardless of the class of racer you’ve chosen. Initially, most handle like bricks, with little or no quick steer ability (as to be expected), but levelling up doesn’t provide as much relief as I was expecting. Drifting hard into corners results in either massive under or oversteer. I found myself careening either straight into a curve, or almost hitting a 180, with a lot of fiddling to get the cornering perfected. I get the concept, and I’m more than up for a challenge, but I felt it was artificially lengthening certain races and modes.
Most regular events you can win with a well placed powerplay in the final lap, or by using other vehicles as blockers in the brilliantly envisioned Survival mode, where a convoy of Big Rigs spew forth two types of barrel; blue to slow you down or red which explode on impact, as you face wave after wave, against the clock, and gain more time by overtaking each semi. Other modes such as Detonator (like fastest lap where the CPU triggers explosions which you need to avoid), Eliminator (the car in last place as the timer goes off explodes) or Air Attack and Air Revenge, where you dodge or redirect waves of incoming missiles from a menacing Apache, required a tad more finesse and manoeuvrability.
I also had issues with collision detection during races and explosions during Air Attack/Revenge. At times, I would just clear a pylon, or be mid near perfect drift, only to end up crashed in a heap, screaming “what the?” exacerbated, or at others be well clear of an exploding missile, only to have my car detonate in a crumpled mass as I shook my head in disbelief. Just to be clear, Split Second is an adrenaline filled ride with a lot to love - and I had a hell of a time playing through it, but there were some fundamental mechanics that could have used a little more fleshing out to elevate this title from the ranks of “great” to “must have”.
Those of you wanting to test your skills online better make sure they've finished the single player mode or bought one of the 'unlock every car in the damn game' DLC packs available, or you’re going to get smoked. Most online players have done one or the other, and for the casual gamer, unless you enjoy finishing every event dead last, forty odd seconds behind the pack, you ain’t gonna get much out of it, other than frustration and a new found affinity for swearing constantly.
Far from perfect, with a slightly unfair multi-player component for the cash or time impaired, Split Second is still tremendously fun and addictive. By tweaking tried and tested game modes and giving you more bang for your buck, it brings a whole new twist to the genre, and bodes very well for the eventual sequel.