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Split/Second (PlayStation 3) artwork

Split/Second (PlayStation 3) review


"Split/Second is what I would call a beautiful tragedy. It starts out memorable, and initially blew me awayóas I imagine it did with so many others. With its tight controls, a wide array of vehicles and expansive, twisting tracks, it has a lot of things hard-core racing fans seek. It didnít make the mistake most do of simply mirroring aspects from popular franchises without adding anything new that will entice loyal followers to jump ship. "



Split/Second is what I would call a beautiful tragedy. It starts out memorable, and initially blew me away--as I imagine it did with so many others. With its tight controls, a wide array of vehicles and expansive, twisting tracks, it has a lot of things hard-core racing fans seek. It didnít make the mistake most do of simply mirroring aspects from popular franchises without adding anything new that will entice loyal followers to jump ship.

Split/Second sets itself apart within the first few moments. It thrusts you into chaos and introduces the one thing that makes it unlike anything Iíve ever played before: Power Plays--a momentary, unexpected twist in the environment that will level any driver in its path. Sometimes the change is simple, be it a garbage truck backing up and blocking the road or an unmanned crane sweeping out to lash a vehicle. Other times theyíre massive, catastrophic events--gas stations exploding, huge satellites descending and crashing upon unsuspecting drivers, looming helicopters spitting out bombs or entire bridges crumbling and their girders hammering onto the road. Theyíre not unlimited, however, and itís there Split/Second incorporates aspects of a classic racing game. Drifting, drafting and jumping normally would garner you points, or a slim advantage. Here they add to a three-tiered meter. Once a bar is filled, the Power Play becomes available. If you manage to load all three, you can unleash an almost apocalyptic attack that--with timing and a little bit of luck--will destroy every car in front of you. For later races, it becomes almost crucial for victory.

But as much as itís a blessing, the destruction can also be a curse, and the seemingly normal racing modes present in other games develop into sheer anarchy. Time trials become war zones--every volatile element triggers without a prompt, forcing you to dodge the fragments of an exploding boulder or rush under the plummeting nose of an airplane that threatens to pancake your car. Drift challenges turn deadly. No longer is your goal simply trying to stay on the road, Split/Second asks you to do so while youíre dodging missiles fired from a chopper, or avoiding explosive barrels being dumped from a semi. As the game progresses, the challenge grows, the explosions get bigger and the danger more dominating.

Having so many options saves the racing from growing stagnant. The same, however, canít be said for Split/Secondís overall structure, and unfortunately thatís where it inspired within me a sense of disappointment. Giving gamers the ability to modify their own cars and tune them immerses the player, and makes them feel like theyíre part of the experience. Split/Second is devoid of the option completely. Boosting your stats isnít a matter of adding a turbo engine or reducing your weight--itís picking a different vehicle, whether you like it or not. Any decals you earn are automatically placed on your car, and the game chooses where they go. Paint jobs are limited to a bland pre-rendered palate and the ability to change them from matte, iridescent or candy is missing entirely.

Though Split/Second has an over-all premise--that of a popular racing television show and you being the star--the game does little to actually develop it, or give insight to your character or some of the rivals. It simply goes from one episode to the next. That combined with the absence of a free-roam option makes the game unflinchingly linear, and missing the depth that some of the larger franchises boast.

Which is a shame. Split/Second is fast, intelligent and incredibly unique. When it comes to actually racing, itís on par--or even above--a lot of the games Iíve encountered, but its lack of anything beyond that turns it into a ďwhat ifĒ game. What if the developers had taken more time with the other aspects, given the gamer more control, or opted to implement some kind of customization mode? I probably would have played the next big thing. Unfortunately now all I can do is wait for a sequel and hope that Black Rock listens to the critics and the fans.

They got so close the first time.

Rating: 7/10

True's avatar
Community review by True (July 01, 2010)

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zippdementia posted July 01, 2010:

Ouch, a racing game that doesn't let you mod cars. Unless you're the maudlin Mario Kart franchise or the oddly puzzle-based Trackmania series, that doesn't bode well.

Still sounds like a fun game, though, from the way you describe the scripted events. That's a cool idea for a racing game and, no, I don't think it's been done before except in a derivative fashion by ExciteTruck.

Some technicalities. These lines I think need work here:

"It didnít make the mistake most do of simply mirroring aspects from popular franchises, all the while failing to add anything new that will entice loyal followers to jump ship."

That's a pretty awkward line. The "all the while" is confusing. I can't tell if you're saying that Split Second fails to add anything new or if it doesn't make the mistake of not adding anything new. Depending on which you're trying to say, I could make some suggestions as how to better word it.

"Split/Second does so within the first few seconds, thrusts you into chaos and introduces the one thing that makes it unlike anything Iíve ever played before: Power Plays--a momentary, unexpected twist in the environment that will level any driver in its path."

If you look, you never define what "does so" is referring to. I assume you mean it adds something new in within the first few seconds.

Thrusts doesn't agree, tense-wise, with does so. Should be thrusting. Same with introduces = introducing.

The colon makes this a rather long sentence and could read better if cut down and broken into two sentences.
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True posted July 01, 2010:

Better?
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honestgamer posted July 02, 2010:

I actually dislike customization in racing games and do everything I possibly can to avoid dipping into it. I'm not big on customizing my car in real life, either. Talk about a fantastic waste of time! So it sounds like Split/Second will be perfect for me, since it doesn't suck my time with pointless features that are supposed to immerse me but only manage to annoy me every time I encounter them. Win-win-WIN!
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zippdementia posted July 02, 2010:

Better, but I would still change this line:

It didnít make the mistake most do of simply mirroring aspects from popular franchises without adding anything new that will entice loyal followers to jump ship.

It's confusing to say that something is good by pointing out what they don't do, at least within a single sentence. I think this would read better if it were similar to the following, but in your style:

"The game takes the best aspects of the popular franchises and mixes them with some very enticing new elements."
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Ben posted July 12, 2010:

Split/Second was a game that I was semi-interested in. The biggest concern I had was whether the concept of powerplays would get tiring once you learn the best places to use them on each circuit, but you did a good job in telling me that other flaws like the lack of customisation were the real issues from your perspective.

I wouldíve liked to learn more about how powerplays can change the path of a lap. I donít think the impact of this is touched much in the review. Iíve not played the game, but it sounds like it might help to add a bit of variety to the races. Maybe thereís a bit of strategy involved too in changing the shape of the track. Or maybe Iím totally off-base, and it actually has little effect on the race. Either way, it was one of the features that had me curious in Split/Second in the first place, so I wanted to learn more about it.

Anyway, apart from that issue, I dug this review a lot and liked everything else about it. The races themselves sound super fun, so I might pick it up if I can find it super-cheap.

(By the way, I read somewhere that the reality TV concept was introduced after the developer was told the massive destruction needed to be justified in a way that wouldnít generate controversy.)

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