Xbox 360
4 stars
Amazon
45.99
In Stock. Buy Now»
Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Game Itself
4 Stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
4.5 Stars
The Audio: Rating the Sound
3.5 Stars
Replay Factor
3.5 Stars

Split/Second

Street Date:
May 18th, 2010
Reviewed by:
Chad Goodmurphy
Review Date:1
September 23rd, 2011
Game Release Year:
2010
Platform:
Xbox 360
Publisher:
Disney Interactive Studios
Developer:
Black Rock Studio
ESRB Rating:
E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)

Introduction

There are two distinctly different types of racing games on the market these days: Realistic simulations like the Forza Motorsport series, and arcade racers like the Burnout franchise. Both have their devoted following of fans, who run to the local video game store every time a quality title is released. Split/Second, from Black Rock Studios, falls into the latter camp. It’s quite possibly the most outrageous and unrealistic racer released this generation, which isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, it makes for a very fun experience.

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

The folks at Black Rock decided to go an interesting route with their storyline for the arcade racer. Instead of being a select amount of events with very little reasoning behind them, the game is actually split into seasons of a reality television show. A show that takes on the most dangerous form of non-scripted entertainment. Event tiers are episodes, all taking on different themes. Though, the most important thing to know is that each progressive episode becomes even harder than its predecessor. It’s notable considering the fact that this is a hard game from the get-go.

At the starting line, Split/Second does resemble a more realistic game. That all changes once the engines purr to life and the race begins. That’s when the carnage begins, never letting up until the end of the final lap. Gnarly drifts, frenzied bumper car action and explosive, game-changing abilities make this game stand out from the pack. That is especially true in terms of its destructive prowess. Our consoles have never seen such environmental annihilation before.

The selling point here is that your amazing drifting skills become a beneficial form of attack. A three-tiered power-up meter fills up, showcasing your progress in blue and red. Blue means weak and red means powerful. All of this relates to a varied amount of dangerous disasters, which can be triggered during every race. They vary, including things such as sweeping cranes carrying cargo containers, ships ramming their dockyard and even crazier things.

When you unleash one of the more basic forms of havoc, it tends to only affect vehicles in its proximity. This does not exclude your own car, meaning that it’s important to be smart when you press the button. Just one dropped shipping crate, imploding office building floor or exploding car, can have a detrimental impact on your race. Though, the red-fuelled game-changers tend to have a much greater impact on your track-based experience.

If one of the aforementioned red-fuelled power attacks is unleashed, it completely changes the track for the rest of the race. When the ship crashes into the dock, it becomes part of the track. Your old route becomes a destroyed piece of wooden wreckage, lying in shambles beside the accident. In its place, is a chaotic pathway through the heart of the large boat.

At its core, this is what the Split/Second experience is like. The majority of your incredibly difficult races follow a similar formula, though there are various other challenges. My favourite is a points-based game mode where players must speed through oncoming rockets, fired by a hovering attack helicopter. If you slow down, then more rockets come teeming downward, making things a heck of a lot more difficult on your end. The longer you can make it without getting a certain amount of strikes, the better you’ll place.

The other notable event type is survival, where the player must use strategy and efficient driving to avoid oncoming red barrels. In true clichéd video game form, red refers to explosives. It’s you against gigantic trucks, all of which tend to like to drop their barrel-based cargo. Chained scores and multipliers become your biggest asset, with a few strikes meaning elimination. Luckily, the odd, non-explosive black barrel sequence, will drop to give you a break.

There are a couple of other event types, which make their way into the Split/Second schedule, though they’re of a much more traditional variety. Elimination races see each racer vying to be the first one to cross the finish line, with the last-placed racer being eliminated at certain intervals. Conversely, elite races drop you onto the track with a much more difficult set of competition, capping off each episode in high-flying style.

Players progress by getting certain amounts of points in each episode. Though, it’s much more difficult than it sounds. Split/Second is an incredibly hard game, meaning that you’ll crash a lot. A crash here and there won’t hurt your chances too much, though. As you can expect, things become a bit easier as you unlock better cars, though the competition will always do everything in its power to make your virtual racing career miserable. Crashes are usually the result.

What’s great about Split/Second is that it’s an incredibly fun game that knows what it is. There’s a lot of content to be found in its single player career, as well as its robust multiplayer offering, which features various race types and an addicting leveling system. Every time you’re on the track, the game is different. With the game-changing destruction calls, you’ll never know what to expect until it happens, keeping things fresh.

The vehicular controls are pretty good, though there is a bit of room for improvement. Most of the time, things interacted as I wanted them to, with very few issues ever popping up due to the game’s control schematic. Where the biggest issue lies is in the crash camera, which shows opponents crashing as a result of the player’s triggered destructors. It can be quite easy to accidentally crash as the highlight plays, becoming a frustrating element, which should have been corrected before launch. Split/Second is fast, furious and frenetic. Not to mention unique. It sets itself apart from the pack well. Hardcore racing fans will want to check this one out, although casual gamers may find it too frustrating to progress in. That is a shame, as there could have been a difficulty selection option added in. Black Rock’s previous racer, Pure, was much the same way in terms of difficulty. Its final event tiers were excruciatingly difficult to beat.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Exterior aesthetics are misleading when it comes to Split/Second. The game looks quite realistic, with incredibly shiny graphics. Colour is used well to accent the action, but most gamers will swear it’s a simulation game until the digital wheels start rolling. Once things heat up, any bit of confusion related to this matter will clear up.

The best way to describe Split/Second’s style and tone would be to liken it to a Michael Bay movie or a similar Hollywood blockbuster. Every second of gameplay is turned up to eleven or twelve, with fast and fluid gameplay action. Explosions dot the screen left, right and centre, making orange a large part of the game’s colour palette.

If there is one downside to the visuals found within Split/Second, it would be the included car animations. Though there are only so many ways to represent a car’s movement in an interactive video game, these models tend to feel a bit stiff. The cars’ movements aren’t as fluid as they could be at times, lacking a bit of precision. This translates into their animations. Of course, this isn’t a huge downside, though it’s relatively noticeable.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

When it comes to blockbuster films, the sound is as important as the visuals. The folks at Black Rock seemingly put a lot of time into crafting Split/Second’s auditory components and the result is pretty good. Its original techno soundtrack is decent, providing pulse-pounding music that fits in pretty well. Though, what you’ll hear most often are somewhat repetitive crashes, scrapes and squealing wheel sound effects. As a whole, the combined effort sounds pretty good and will make good use of your high-tech sound system. That is especially true when it comes to the game’s myriad of explosions.

Replay Factor

Every once and a while, a game comes along that stands as a showpiece. Split/Second is that type of game, delivering explosive gameplay, which demands to be shown to its owners’ friends and family. Reply value is created artificially through this. It’s a fun game to play with friends though, so that certainly is not a bad thing.

Once the career mode comes to its end, players will most-likely want to hop back into finished events. Certain ones tend to resonate more than others, delivering experiences that are hard to forget. Though, the brunt of the game’s replay value tends to come from its multiplayer modes, which become addicting when you factor in their extensive leveling system. Unfortunately, it takes a while to win against human competition because players can use the vehicles they’ve earned in single player or ones they’ve downloaded via downloadable content. Because of this, its online interactions can be somewhat unfair and unforgiving.

Final Thoughts

With their final digital release, Black Rock Studios made quite an impression. Split/Second may not be a perfect game, but it’s a very fun romp regardless. There’s a lot of fun to be found on its DVD or Blu-ray disc, providing hours of entertainment for gamers and their friends. If you’re looking for a relatively unique and outrageous racing game, then this one should be on your short list. You’ll just have to forgive its brutal difficulty and love of pile-ups.

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 720p

Audio Formats

  • Dolby Digital 5.1

Multiplayer Mode(s)

  • Online Versus

Motion Controls

  • No

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Amazon
45.99
In Stock. Buy Now»