Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review: Split/Second

Genre: Racing
Players: 1-2(local), 2-8 (Online)
Rating: E10+ (Violence)
Price: $5.99-$19.99

My dad has been a gear head for as long as I can remember.  When I was three years old, I'd help him with oil changes on the cars.  Back when I was in high school, we'd race in Gran Turismo 2 on the PS1 whenever we'd get the chance.  We'd play Burnout when I was in college.  After the Burnout Paradise came and went from my radar screen, I was left looking for something to fill that void.  Hello, Split/Second!  What sort of crazy madness can you show me today?  Evidently, quite a bit.

Split/Second is a racing game that centers around a fictional game show.  The races feature all the white-knuckle action one would expect out of the Burnout series, and throws competitors into the mix for good measure.  What could go wrong?

The first thing I noticed when I played Split/Second was how minimalist the Heads-Up Display looked.  There's no gauges or other junk in the way, which lets you take in the level of detail Black Rock put into this game.  The other thing I noticed was how simple this game is to play.  RT/R2 for accelerator, LT/L2 for brake/reverse, steer with the left analog stick, and fire power plays with A/X and B/Circle.  It's a very user-friendly setup, and it goes a long way for this game.

The standard race mode pits you against seven "rivals,"each out of the blood of everyone else.  As you drift, draft, and jump past your opponents, you build up "power," which appears in a meter right behind your car.  You can use this power to trigger "power plays," which can wreck your opponents up against the wall, open temporary shortcuts, or change the course of the track entirely with a "route changer power play."

If that name sounds exaggerated, that's because the route changers are as over the top as their name.  At the airport terminal, for example, the control tower falls down onto the track, diverting the racers onto the runway, right as a passenger jet comes crashing down on them.  Watching it happen right in front of you is insane.  There's no other way to put it.  See for yourself in the video.

Detonator races use a "beat the clock" formula to force you to become a better racer.  You're on your own on the track, you have a specific car to use, and the power plays are triggered right in front of you.  I was really surprised by how much thought and practice had to go into setting up the race line correctly.  Detail like that is usually reserved for "authentic" racing simulations like Gran Turismo or Forza, not a game like this...

That's just two of the race modes.  Survival involves passing semi trucks while they drop exploding propane tanks out the back!  That's a challenging mode, but still a very entertaining one.  Eliminator plays like the standard race, but the person in last gets the boot at the end of a set period of time.  Then there's Air Strike.  You've got a helicopter shooting missiles at you, and you have to dodge them.

Rack up that high score while you can, it only gets tougher with Air Revenge.  Instead of the points that you earn Air Strike, you gain power to jam the targeting system and deflect the missiles back at the chopper.  Your goal, as well it should be, is to take down the helicopter as quick as possible.  It's a tough game mode, but still highly entertaining.

Split/Second's campaign may focus on the show, but it's the primary way to get extra cars and tracks for multiplayer.  And multiplayer is where the fun really begins.  Up to eight players duke it out online across any of the race modes.  I liked the fact that the people playing Split/Second were civil all the way through, even when faced with being stuck in last place.  In the games I've played online, nobody shouted lewd comments through the headsets, everyone was there for a good time, and I even made some friends in the process.

For the families that can't do the online thing, there's also a two player split screen mode available.  All the tracks and cars unlocked in the single player campaign are available for you and a friend to go at it.  This is the mode my dad and I play together.  It's nice, because the game's controls are insanely simple, yet there's a sizable amount of nuance to driving your car.

Black Rock Studios thinks you'll like this game so much, they'll let you try out the online mode before you even buy it.  Go check out the game demos section on Xbox Live or PSN.  Go on, I'll wait.  Are you back? Good!  Did you download the multiplayer demo? Awesome!  When all 1.2 GB of game data fully download, give that bad boy a whirl.  It gives you a small taste of the awesome that is Split/Second multiplayer.  I actually keep the demo on my 360, permanently, just so I can show friends what it's like and race against them.  It is made of win, so much win.

All in all, Split/Second is an action-packed game that really gets the adrenaline pumping.  Given its price point, you have no excuse NOT to pick this game up and try it out.  Did I mention it's a Disney Game? Seriously, go buy it already!

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