Review by ViceroyOfMC
Easily the most innovative racing game I've ever played.
Split/Second is a combat-based racing game, but not in the typical sense of shooting weapons from your vehicle. Instead, you build up Power by driving aggressively, then use that to trigger hazards in the environment known as "Power Plays" to wreck other drivers or change the track route. Surprisingly in-depth and challenging.
Overall, there's not much in terms of story, but that's to be expected from many racing games. "Split/Second" is a reality game show which has aired enough seasons to be immensely popular and has a budget to match; so much so, in fact, that the season you compete in takes place in an entirely expendable metropolis with everything rigged to detonate at your command. Your mission is to drive well enough to climb the ranks of the contestants and face the Elite: 7 professional drivers with high-power race cars and skill to back them up.
The game has 4 settings, from Low to Very High. I typically play on High or Medium, and the game looks amazing. Due to the overwhelming number of explosions in the game, there are a lot of particles and debris pieces on screen at a time, and some of the larger Power Plays (especially the Route Changers) are absolutely astounding the first time you see them. Shadow rendering and object physics run smoothly and look great, even at high speed.
The soundtrack for this game was written by Steve Emney, who co-produced the soundtracks for the first 3 Burnout games. It draws heavily on Drum & Bass, with forays into slight Dubstep themes and a great use of the Disney Symphony Orchestra. As a race goes on, you will hear the music evolve with the layout of the track, and the more of the environment you blow up, the more intense the instrumentation gets.
Detonating Power Plays is extremely satisfying, especially wrecking every other racer on the track at once. The story mode, known as the Season, is divided like a TV show: 12 "Episodes" with 5 events and a race against the Elite at the end (with an optional bonus event, unlocked after wrecking 20 racers throughout the course of the episode). As you progress, you unlock better cars, more complex tracks, and more game modes to challenge you. The AI racers start out easy but quickly take every advantage to detonate Power Plays against you, and at some points even gain the ability to trigger Route Changers. The best part about crashing is that it almost always feels like it's your fault, and not the game's. Most Power Plays have a way to be avoided, which at some points may require high skill and reaction time, but the higher-level the Power Play, the more difficult it is to dodge, and the larger the Area of Effect. The hardest aspect of the game to grasp is the drifting, as it seems that drift mechanics are completely different for every racing game. A car has a drift stat, from 1-10, meaning the higher the value is the easier it is to kick into a drift. All that's required is to simply let off the accelerator and immediately hammer it back on while turning and your car will immediately fishtail, which can be really hard to control at first, but soon enough you'll learn how to handle this at high speed to easily gain Power.
+Easy to pick up, difficult to master
+Intense and challenging
+Great dynamic soundtrack
+Explosive effects are high-definition and realistic
~30 FPS cap, if that affects you (it does not for me, as it's difficult to notice)
~DRM (if that's not your cup of tea)
-Online mode disabled after Disney killed the dev team (still running on consoles, LAN tunneling available)
-DLC not available (available on PS3/Xbox 360, adds several new cars, 2 new game modes, and 2 tracks)
Definitely pick this up if you have some money lying around. It's like driving in a loaded weapon.
Product Release: Split/Second (US, 05/18/10)
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