Split/Second Hands-On Preview
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC
Split/Second box art
System: X360, PS3, PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: Black Rock Studio 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Disney Interactive 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Q1 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Pending 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Revving up Some Fun
by Amanda L. Kondolojy

August 13, 2009 - The automotive genre of games is certainly crowded, and its easy for new IPs to fall under the radar. If the title of a game doesn't start with Gran Turismo, Forza, Burnout, or Need for Speed, chances are it goes by the wayside. However, there is one new automotive title that you should definitely be on the lookout for next year: Split/Second.

Split/Second screenshot

Split/Second is the new IP from Black Rock Studios, the folks behind last year's Pure. Although Split/Second is its own entity, calling it a "spiritual successor" to Pure wouldn't be too far off the mark. We recently got to spend some hands-on time with a pre-alpha build of Split/Second, and even though the build was definitely early, it looks quite promising.

If you haven't heard of Split/Second before, the premise is simple: you play as a driver on an action reality show where you have to perform outrageous stunts to get ahead of the competition. The game encourages you to drive dangerously by speeding, successfully completing jumps, and racking up near-misses in order to unlock special moves known as "powerplays." These powerplays trigger stunt-based events that range from a large-scale explosion to course-altering vehicle crashes.


During our hands-on time we were only able to speed around one track, which was an urban-themed dock area. This level was laid out like a freeway, with plenty of inclined banks and steep curves on the track, and there were also lots of alternate routes within the track. As we jumped in our vehicle, we got an instant feel for the controls, which have a decidedly arcade feel. The acceleration in particular was impressive, and even though my car slipped back a few places several times, the acceleration was punchy enough to carry us through our trouble spots back up to first place.

But of course, it wasn't just the acceleration that gave us the advantage. We were able to engage several of the game's powerplays during the race. The game's powerplay system will definitely be the defining aspect of the title, and let me be the first to tell you that it is awesome during play. When we started losing ground to rival cars, a little notification on our HUD let us know that we were able to trigger a powerplay soon. We then approached a steep curve with lots of shipping crates. As we engaged the powerplay, one of these crates was swiftly picked up by a crane and then smashed into one side of the road. The side of the road was now completely blocked, and all the other vehicles had to take an alternate route. Although this was a bit of a strategic move, you can also trigger wild explosions near rival cars in order to get rid of the competition quickly. You can also set traps for other players and or open up shortcuts for your own personal use. Although we weren't able to test these powerplays, the idea of adding a strategic element to the racing that isn't solely focused on race lines or slipstreaming will be a breath of fresh air for those who have played a lot of automotive games and crave something new.

Split/Second screenshot

Naturally, as much as we got a thrill from attacking others, it was equally fun trying to dodge attacks that were brought upon us. The vehicles controlled by the game's A.I. were ruthless in their assaults, and trying to drive around explosions, weave around moving obstacles, and jump over busted track was exciting indeed. This portion of the game almost had a Stuntman-like feel to it (minus the insane precision), and the easily-accessible arcade controls were a perfect fit for all the high-octane action. Though I consider myself an experienced automotive gamer, the controls had a pick-up-and-play feel that could extend Split/Second's appeal to more casual players.

Although the build we saw was pre-alpha, I was impressed with how far along the visuals are coming. The docks track, as well as the cars racing on it, featured a great amount of detail, and everything looked very polished. Even more impressive, however, where the explosion and blast animations, which were on par with other explosion-friendly titles such as Battlefield: Bad Company. The destruction animations that went with the explosions were also very polished, and they made each powerplay that much more exciting.

Split/Second screenshot

We don't know much about any other stages or modes for Split/Second beyond the standard race at the docks, but what we have seen so far is quite promising. With plenty of exiting stunts and solid arcade controls, Split/Second breathes some much-needed life into the automotive genre, without changing it too much. It doesn't have a high-profile brand name attached to it, but it would definitely be a shame to let Split/Second fall under your radar when it releases next year.

By Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor

Game Features:

  • Competitors in Split/Second don't just collide with other vehicles to knock them from the track -- they can also trigger explosive events that drastically alter the dynamics of the race.
  • Players must use strategy and pinpoint timing to derail opponents, tactically alter the track or create entirely new routes.

  • Screenshots / Images
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