Game Review: Split/Second (PS3/XBox360)
It's a little late, but getting a good comparison with it's nearest competitors was important, and there was some competition. It took a while to get to this review, but I assure you, the game has been thoroughly played.
Split/Second was released during a flurry of Arcade and Kart racing titles (most notably ModNation Racers and Blur), and while I was looking forward to it, empirical observation leads me to believe that it was nearly lost in the shuffle. ModNation Racers had an arsenal of Sony marketers behind it, and Blur had those creepy television ads.
Despite being under-marketed, the local game rental joint has S/S sitting at the top spot on the 'Frequent Renters' rack.
Essentially, S/S is an Arcade racer with a few kart trimmings, and a fairly cool gimmick.
Yes, I said gimmick.
Up to 8 players online, 2 players split screen, and AI to fill in the holes during single player action, Split/Second casts you as a rookie driver on a television show that has real races on fictional tracks that explode.
The conceit: to make the show more interesting to viewers, drivers can build a power meter, and use that power to alter the track… hopefully ruining a rival's day.
Tracks aren't as varied as I'd like, and although there are about a dozen, much of the time it feels like a 'new' track is made of recycled sections from previous outings.
Effects, or Power Plays that you can trigger range from minor explosions that push cars into the opposite wall, to dropping smokestacks and dams on the competition. One of the coolest? Crashing a jetliner on the track.
Sadly, once you've seen the 'big event' on every track, you're left wanting more, and once you've figured out the path to safely get by a triggered event, and you've picked up a few high-end cars, races become almost painfully easy.
Fortunately, S/S has a few more tricks up it's sleeve, namely a few extra modes of play.
Devastator mode has you racing around the track by yourself, in what is essentially a hot lap competition, while Survivor has you passing large trucks while they drop exploding barrels in your path.
There are also the stand Eliminator races, and events that have you dodging missiles from a helicopter (and sometimes lobbing them back), but despite all that… it's all a little limited.
More immediate, and glaring, are the AI drivers.
You'll never get away from them. In case you've never heard the term, it's called 'rubberbanding'. What that means is the developers give the computer controlled drivers a boost to make the game more challenging.
Any time you start pulling away from the competition (in single player) they get a little faster.
There is ALWAYS someone in your rear view mirror.
Playing online can mitigate that, but it's still a heavy handed way to tweak gameplay in a single player scenario.
Bottom line: the game looks great, sounds amazing, and controls are tight. It's all a lot of fun for about 5 hours. Maybe 8 hours if you get into online multiplayer.
The jaw-dropping Power Plays lose their luster, and what you're left with is a game that could have been fun a lot longer if there had been more variety.
Should you play Split/Second? Absolutely! For sheer spectacle, it's something you won't want to pass up.
Should you pay $60 for a copy of the game? I can't recommend that.
Even hardcore Trophy/Achievement hunters will get everything they want out of this game in an evening or two.
Even though the experience is worth it, there's just not enough to justify a full purchase.
The price has started to drop, so check Amazon frequently. If you can get a deal, it's cool.. it's just not $60 cool.