The first few races you'll experience are among some of the most exciting moments in video games. The premise is simple - you're part of a mad futuristic game-show, in which competitors race around an ever-changing track rigged to the teeth with explosives. Ambitious driving will reward you with the ability to trigger said explosives, wiping out your opponents in the process.
Split/Second's got a pretty lengthy single-player campaign, aswell as multiplayer options to sweeten the deal.
Split/Second is gorgeous, and very ambitious. The first race you take part in will blow your mind. A few highlights we wrote down in our notebook described how, "You blow up this massive tower, which falls towards you, blocking the route and forcing you to race down an aeroplane runway, which just so happens to have an aircraft crashing into it." No word of a lie, that actually happens in the first race. It's mind-blowing, bombastic and breath-taking. It also doesn't hurt that the game looks utterly stunning, running at a solid 30FPS with tracks packed to the rafters with interesting objects. Unfortunately for Split/Second, the full experience never manages to match those first few moments of elation.
Black Rock aren't messing around with Split/Second. The game looks utterly gorgeous, running at a solid frame-rate with some great art-direction bringing the whole thing to life. It looks slick and colourful. The removal of a traditional HUD gives Split/Second's environments the opportunity to stand-out, and allows you to see every explosion in all its glory.
Nothing says "classy" quite like Split/Second's surprisingly subtle menus. The game's modes are framed into little windows, and are surrounded by floating shards of glass moving in slow-motion. It's unbelievably pretty, and a fantastic juxtapose to Split/Second's outrageous gameplay.
The core to Split/Second's mechanics revolve around the idea of Power-plays. These are built up by generally driving like a maniac and taking advantage of Split/Second's (somewhat stiff) drifting mechanic. There are two tiers to the Power-play, one which will affect the course of your opponents path, the other which will totally change the track. It's kind of risk and reward: do you wait it out for the track-changing explosion that could put you in first, or take out the opponents one by one? It really is up to you.
Once you've gotten the first hour of Split/Second under your belt, you feel like you've seen everything. In all honesty, that first-hour is so bombastic, so chaotic and so exciting, nothing the game can offer from that point can live up to it. The game tries to offer different modes to mix things up: a time-trial type mode that has the environment automatically exploding around you, and an unusual sequence which has you avoiding missiles fired from a helicopter, but the races are the key ingredient here, and even they lose their luster once you've seen everything the track has to offer.
One crash is all it takes. Doesn't matter if you've been in the lead for the entire race. Doesn't matter if your opponents are a mile behind. One crash and you'll be fourth or fifth in the pack. And honestly, there's nothing more annoying than that.
The reason Split/Second's rubber-banding is so bad is because this is a game where being in first is never fun. To experience the real heart of Split/Second, you need to be behind the pack triggering explosives. You can't do that in first y'see.
The one thing we found ourselves coming to terms with whilst playing Split/Second is the fact that the game would benefit from a sequel. This is a good game, with stunning production values and a great concept, but you just get the feeling the design isn't quite right. It could do with refining, tweaking and bettering in almost every area. The replayability needs to be considered, the mechanics need to be ironed out, the alternative modes need to be reconsidered and redesigned. Like the original Burnout, there's a great game hidden inside Split/Second - it just might take a few sequels to dig it out.
Split/Second features a complete multiplayer component which we'll discuss in more detail in a future article.
Split/Second's opening hours are amongst the most exciting in video games, but once the initial novelty has passed, the formula starts to wear thin.