Split/Second
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2010-07-04 Xbox 360 Racing E10 (Everyone 10+) Disney Interactive / Black Rock Studio

An action racing game similar to PURE (and by the same development studio), Split/Second was one of the games that had me curious at E3 2009. Not just because it was already looking fantastic with such an early build, but also because it was just like someone had decided to make Death Race: The Video Game.

In Split/Second you race through a series of tracks rigged with explosives that you can detonate straight from you vehicle. The game is all about racing fast, blowing stuff up and screwing over your competitors.

As far as the story goes, you are a participant in a TV reality show where everyone races through huge sets (airport, pier, power plant) which are rigged for destruction, and each race is an episode of the show.

As you race, jump and drift, you build up your Power Play meter in order to activate events such as crashing a plane or demolishing a building. Power Play icons on the track will light up when you're ready to use them.

Power Plays will create obstacles, open alternative routes, but most importantly, give you a chance to eliminate your opponents. It's not just about knocking other cars off the race track, but using power plays strategically in order to win. You don't want to be too close when you activate them, or you may blow yourself up too. And being last isn't always a bad thing, since you can take out a few competitors at once with a single Power Play, and just zoom by past them!

The higher the level of your Power Play, the more impressive the scene will be. For example, activating a level 1 Power Play may cause a crane to come falling down or lower a raised bridge, while a level 2 will collapse a good portion of the track. Dodging a crashing plane, outrunning a crumbling building, steering away from a ship crashing into the dock, driving blind through clouds of falling debris from exploding structures, these stunts aren't short of impressive.

The HUD is quite unobtrusive. Being placed on the back bumper of your car, all the relevant information you need to know is right there, eliminating the need of looking at other places in the screen: you can see your place in the race, lap number, time left, power play meter, without shifting your attention.

There are a few other game modes to fool around with. Survivor Mode has you racing round a track passing trucks that are dropping explosive barrels - the more you pass, the more points you get. In Air Revenge Mode you dodge a helicopter's missiles long enough to activate a Power Play that will deflect them back. While these modes don't offer the same explosive kind of action, they are still an interesting and challenging distraction from the rest of the "reality show" episodes.

You can also take your competitive spirit online to race against other players through Xbox Live (up to 8 participants per race) in Elimination, Survival or just regular races, and you can go head-to-head locally against a friend in vertical split-screen mode.

On the negative side, there is very little customization. You will unlock new vehicles with improved stats, but unfortunately they aren't customizable. You will also obtain decals for each achievement you get, which are automatically displayed on your vehicle (regardless of the vehicle you choose, the decals will always be showing), but you can't choose their placement.

As far as mechanics, they seem a bit unpredictable sometimes; you may slightly scratch another car, and go crashing into a vehicle reset (fortunately they happen pretty fast and don't break the pace much), while sometimes you will hit something head-on and it will only slightly change your course.

Taking away the Power Play feature, Split/Second could be just another racer. While it does rely solely on this mechanic to become unique, that's not really a bad thing, since it's what sets it apart from other racers. And while it may not be the kind of racer that you will keep going back to, Split/Second is an explosively fun thrilling experience that is definitely worth playing through at least once.

Special thanks to Laura Bryce and Disney Interactive for providing a copy of this title.

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