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Split/Second Demo Impressions (Xbox 360/PS3)

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Split/Second Xbox 360/PS3 Demo Impressions, By John-Paul Jones

Yesterday, a demo of Black Rock Studios forthcoming adrenaline fuelled racer hit the Xbox Live Marketplace, so I thought it only decent and proper that I download it and see just what all the fuss is about.

The demo itself is light on content; you are given a single track, a single car and three laps with which to tear up the track and grab first place. The first impression that I got from the demo on startup, and one that I still cannot completely shake even now, is just how similar this game looks to Criterion’s celebrated Burnout franchise. The car models look almost identical and the OTT use of lens flare and other effects further suggest that Split/Second and Burnout could in all likelihood be separated at birth. It is at the visuals however, that all comparisons between the two games end.

And they end abruptly.

Whereas Burnout has always been about twitch handling, wrecking foes and knowing when to best start hammering the nitrous to get to first place, Split/Second is all about using the environment to impede and destroy your foes or to create a shortcut for yourself to expedite your race to the finish line.

Set in a stunt movie set esque style, the player is able to use ‘Power plays’ to call helicopters to drop bombs on opposing drivers, destroy petrol stations and even demolish a whole street of buildings in order to wreck their chances at securing that coveted first place. In order to do any of these things however, you need to accumulate points on a radial meter which increments based on how well you drift around corners, dodge obstacles or ‘draft’ behind the car(s) in front. Once the meter has been filled you can access level 1 or level 2 power plays, with the level 1 power plays only perhaps demolishing a single car (See helicopter bomb example), as opposed to a level 2 power play which could wipe out two cars or more with ease (See street demolition example).

While the results of either power play are a sight to behold and are appropriately compounded by retina scorching visuals, not to mention the pace that the game keeps up, it is in their implementation that some disappointment is found. The power plays by their very nature are set piece triggers and as a result are limited by the fact that they may only be utilised at certain points on the track.

What this essentially means is that in the sizeable interim when you’re not blowing stuff up, you’re exposed to the basic driving mechanics that the game has to offer and you quickly realise that Split/Second only has the most basic fundamentals in place. There appears to be no nitrous boost (surely the first box you would tick for this sort of arcade racer), no way to wreck an enemy car without the use of power plays, very little non/existent physics when you hit objects and car handling, based on the car in the demo, can be described at best as extremely heavy and at worst, described as trying to corner an M1 Tank.

Even with such shortcomings however, it is impossible to not allow a giddy smile creep across your face as you scream across an airstrip, narrowly dodging a crashing Passanger Jet and using your power play to open up a short cut through a packed aircraft hangar as an opponent detonates buildings on the other side.

When it works, it works well; the Fast & Furious graphical style and music reinforce the adrenaline fuelled stunt racer theme with aplomb, but like the action packed films that it so desperately wants to emulate and pay homage to, there really isn’t too much going on underneath the surface.

Split/Second is due out on May 21st for 360 & PS3.

Written by bitsnark

April 28, 2010 at 2:35 pm

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