Split/Second Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows
Genre High adrenaline racer
Score 8.5  Clock score of 8.5
Buy from Amazon

In all my years, I’ve never been much of a racing game fan. Quite honestly, the idea of doing the same thing over and over feels tedious to me. While some games, like Need for Speed Underground and Gran Turismo have offered vehicle customization to try and keep things fresh, they still seem to fall into a slump of painful repetition.

But Black Rock Studios, the creators of Pure, have strived to come up to a solution to this plague, and that is massive destruction and a game premise unique from any other racing game I’ve ever laid my eyes on. This solution is called Split/Second.

The premise of the game is that you’re a stunt driver in a reality television series called Split/Second, that has these stunt drivers racing against each other in cities manufactured by the television show. While stunts, in themselves, are not entirely new, the massive chaos is extremely refreshing.

We’ve all played Mario Kart, and we’ve shot koopa shells at our enemies and laughed as they were rendered motionless while we passed them into first place, and it’s relatively satisfying to a point, but this is different.

But where Mario Kart is set to stun, Split/Second is set to kill. From gas station explosions and helicopters dropping explosive barrels to air planes crashing on the raceway, this game delivers a completely original adrenaline rush that delivers over and over again.

You’re in control of these beautiful disasters with power plays, which are your weapons in this dog-eat-dog racing world. The way to activate them is to accumulate energy. You can accomplish this by drifting around corners, drafting behind your opponents, and jumping with your vehicle. You also receive a bonus amount of energy by passing opponents while drifting, jumping past opponents and dodging power plays set off in your path.

Gameplay: The gameplay is fantastic, with only a few drawbacks. The racing element is solid and you feel like you’re in control most of the time. That’s one of the issues is that it’s only most of the time. The hardest part of the game is retaining control when going around a corner while still trying to be fast enough to hold your place in line, and as you start earning faster vehicles, this element of the game becomes decidedly more difficult.

While that is not such a big deal in itself, the computer seems less afflicted. My mouth would drop, and then curse words would fly every time I was four seconds ahead of everyone on a straight away just to be passed by three racers when going around a corner.

Though that’s certainly a draw back, because of the power plays, this really balances out. The computers are able to unleash their own havoc but they seem to be far more hindered by their effects than I was while racing. A power play almost always yielded at least one wreck, where as I would typically drive past and come out virtually unscathed, with only my speed being hindered.

The controls are simple enough, the right trigger is the accelerator and the left trigger is the break. The A button does a level one power play, which is usually just a good way to wreck the competition with things like exploding parked cars and bussed to giant cranes whipping around, destroying anything in its path. The B buttons activates your level two power play, which is generally route altering and an extreme feast to the eyes, and also usually ends up with a few casualties on the side.

Split Second big WreckThe season mode is great, allowing you to earn new vehicles, but also discover new tracks and new game modes. My personal favorite game mode is Survival, which is where you’re racing against endless 18-wheelers that leave explosive barrels in their wake. There’s also another one I quite enjoy called Air Strike, where you race around the city while a helicopter is in front of you shooting missiles at you.

But there are game modes I care for least, the main one being Detonator, where you race against the clock to make a lap as quickly as possible. I just really don’t care for it, and it’s far more demanding than any of the other modes of gameplay.

I also played the multi-player where my wife and I played against each other for hours and hours on end. It’s very similar to single player, but it’s still great fun and entirely addictive on its own.

But there is one complaint, just one, that I find makes Split/Second a little bit more like its competitors: the difficulty. The game is relatively good at balancing the difficulty with where you are in the game, however, I found my skills topping out and having races become impossible to finish in first, and sometimes the top three.

Now, I understand that there is an amount of gratification when beating a race or a boss, but it hardly outweighs the amount of frustration I had when it felt like the computer was barely phased by the elements of the game that gave me such a hard time. Again, the cornering is incredibly difficult, and it seems quite easy for the computer to surpass you easily when going around curves. This is something that has significantly hurt my racing game experience in the past. Most games I would give up, but fortunately Split/Second delivers something that is so much fun, that even this deterrent can’t keep me from picking up my controller and trying again.

Split Second Trigger DraftThe game also has a few glitches, the most notable that I saw was when I respawned in mid-air, flipping. While absolutely hilarious at the time, I can see where that happening during a difficult race could be a huge problem.

This game is also not typical to other racing games. You do not see a speedometer or lap times or a map or anything like that. It’s you, your power play bar, and that’s basically it. Only in other game modes are you displayed anything else, and even then it’s generally a score and a time clock and while I like this part about the game, I can see where Gran Turismo and Need for Speed fans might dislike this kind of gameplay.

A lot of my friends that play racing games play it because of their vehicle customization. They like to upgrade their vehicles with parts and then race them. I personally always found that sort of mind numbing because you just won races to get the parts, and you always just choose to upgrade the part because the upgrade is, of course, better, but this is not the goal of Split/Second. Split/Second is not about seeing who has the better car. It’s not even necessarily who can go the fastest. It’s main goal is to give you extreme excitement, and generally everything else falls in line.

Graphics and Sound: The graphics in this game are astounding. The vehicles and environments by themselves look great, but the explosions set it over the top. They’re all executed incredibly well. I loved seeing the screen come to life with mayhem, it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.

Split Second Docks CollapseYou can hit the Y button while racing to enable what the game calls “bumper cam” where you can drive first person. It did seem to make things harder, but it also made everything look incredible and a lot more exhilarating. There’s not much else to be said; the game looks fantastic and even believable, and every power play is a work of art.

The sound is immersive and solid. There’s not a lot to comment here as far as the sound effects. Explosions sound like explosions, crashes sound like crashing, but it’s still perfect.

However, there’s a lot to say about the music. The music is fast, breakbeat style music that really keeps pace with the racing environment. I found myself really enjoying the whole experience while playing for the first few hours, but after that, it started being a little repetitive and I noticed, as well as my wife, that it sticks in your head easily. I myself occasionally found myself experiencing the Tetris effect on occasion.

The music is fitting, but I wish there were more tracks to be had in the game. For something so elaborate, I would have expected more music.

Story: I’m going to feel a bit like Greg on this one, but there really isn’t one. You’re a stunt driving trying to make your claim to fame. That’s really all there is. However, I will say that the premise is superior to any other racing game I’ve played. That doesn't mean there's a story, but it's better than nothing compared to the amount of racing games that just tell you to race. While I would give this a ten, games like Need for Speed have included talking to people, allowing them to set the bar for stories in racing games.

Fun Factor: The unique power plays, original game modes and fun race tracks, all the way down to the plain old fun sense of going way too fast is all here, and while the difficulty can be hurtful, it rarely stopped me from playing, and I would usually pick up the controller after five to ten minutes of cooling off.

My favorite part, though, was playing the game with my wife and just laughing as we crashed the computer and ourselves as well as simply crashing on accident. The single-player feels a lot more personal, because you desperately want to beat the computer so bad, but when racing against each other, it was just fun. Occasionally I’d get irritated if I just continued getting smashed, but it took at lot longer than the single player and it is a whole lot more fun.


Gameplay: 8.5/10

Graphics and Sound: 9/10

Fun Factor: 9/10

Overall: 8.5

The Bottom Line: This game is fun. No, it’s not perfect, but from a guy that’s not the biggest fan of racing games, but has played a lot of them, it’s a big deal that this game delivers this much fun. I can see most racing game fans enjoying this game to its full extent, but some of the customization lovers and plain racetrack lovers might find something missing from Split/Second’s ensemble.