|a game by||Black Rock Studio, and Sumo Digital|
|Platforms:||PC, Playstation 3|
|User Rating:||8.7/10 - 3 votes|
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|See also:||Download Racing Games, Games Like Blur|
There aren't many live televised events that wouldn't be improved with the addition of high explosives. Crufts, The Chelsea Flower Show and Prime Minister's Questions would all benefit from the addition of some Semtex.
Reality television is an even better fit. A well-timed H-bomb on the next series of I'm A Celebrity... would vastly improve the show, with nuclear fire fulfilling Ant and Dec's dream of being physically fused together, while a selection of Z-List celebs attempt to chew kangaroo testicles as their teeth fall out from radiation sickness.
Disney seems to agree, and so Split/Second takes Burnout-style glossy racing, adds a reality TV-inspired format, and several kilotons of fireworks. Driving talent is still important, but if you're lagging behind, you have the option of demolishing a building so that it drops on your opponents.
As gimmicks go, it's a spectacular one. Tire vast majority of the Power Plays, as they are called, are bespoke bits of scripting and simply seeing the next, more ludicrous set-piece is plenty of motivation for progressing to the next episode in Split/Seconcfs campaign. Also, no matter what anyone says, dropping an airport control tower on your friends is far more satisfying than hitting them with a rocket or a red shell to slow them down a bit. Better yet, the larger Super Power Plays not only squish other racers, but also often profoundly modify the route of the circuit, which makes revisiting locations during the season less onerous.
There are also a selection of game types which are introduced as you progress, which keep things interesting as well. The most exciting is the Dominator mode, in which you race against the clock through a series of scripted Power Plays. It's like attempting to escape the inside of Michael Bay's mind as it collapses around you - utterly unhinged. Also amusing is the Survival mode, in which you're tasked with overtaking a series of juggernauts that are shedding exploding barrels across the track. It becomes particularly chaotic in the sudden death mode, where the merest whiff of contact with a barrel turns your car inside out.
The thing is these extra modes are necessary because while Split/Second is undoubtedly spectacular and pretty, there's not a great deal of depth to be had from the Power Play mechanic. There's no reason to conserve energy for the Super Power Plays unless you're curious to see what they look like, as a standard Power Play will usually do just as good a job of eliminating a pack of racers. The route changers that aren't linked to a Super Power Play are an even bigger waste of energy, and only make sense if you are desperate to see the other section of circuit.
Even more troubling is the fact that there's very little timing to be mastered because the icon only appears when an opponent is in range of the Power Play. As a result, you'll find yourself earning power without thinking too hard about it and deploying the attacks as soon as the opportunity arises. There isn't even an option to activate defensive Power Plays, so if you're in the lead you just have to weather the storm of the other racers' ordnance.
Given that the game is far less tactical than it appears, it's a good job that the core racing is satisfying. The vehicles, which range from sleek exotics, through to chunky'muscle cars and hefty trucks, are almost all great fun to drive. The muscle cars in particular are perfect for filthy great power slides. What's more, this is one of the few modern racers that handles well on the keyboard; you could complete the game without ever reaching for an analogue controller.
Split/Second is a noisy, polished and suitably spectacular racer. While the Power Plays themselves are enormously pleasing to execute, as a mechanic it doesn't work as brilliantly as other weapon-based racers'. In spite of this, the game gives you plenty to enjoy on a superficial level, and those moments where you narrowly avoid a tumbling building or helicopter attack are worth the price of admission alone.
Download Split/Second: Velocity
For a start, it's a total rip-off. At the time of writing, it's priced at $50 and that's for a digital download version. You can't buy it in the shops, or anywhere online other than direct2drive.co.uk. These are such a bizarre decisions that it'll be surprising if even one person was tempted to purchase it. And it's not as if this game was a high-profile title that could afford to play hardball with the sales market, so by restricting where you can get it and pricing it higher than some games' special editions, Disney have effectively buried the game. And it's safe to assume any lack of sales will be blamed on piracy.
This a shame, because Split/Second is good fun, if a tad easy. It's too tempting to stick just a little behind the leaders until the final lap before dropping a plane on them and getting far enough ahead so that they can't reciprocate.
At the end of the day this is pretty much irrelevant, because until Disney brings down Split/Second's price and release it to a wider audience than just those aware of D2D, people will never see it.