The arcade racer is something we all grew up with. It is a game that does not necessarily worry about realism. Instead, it frees up the controls, focuses on the fun, and lets your friends join in. Disney’s Split Second, developed by Black Rock Studios, speeds this genre back into the living room and does so with a bang. Split Second not only resurrects the spirit of the arcade racer, but also adds many new elements that are sure to delight all racing game fans.
Split Second revolves around a television show that is a mixture of fast cars and Iron Chef. Each contestant must survive a series of challenges and race a team of elite drivers for a chance to appear on the next episode. This episodic structure establishes clear goals while slowly introducing new and explosively dangerous tracks. Awarded by the show’s host, “power plays” are maneuvers or stunts that help the drivers to score points, but also help to boost the show’s ratings.
Admittedly, the premise of Split Second is pretty slim, but it does give reason for some astonishing set-piece moments, like the exploding bridges that topple down onto the track, planes that crash amidst a stream of speeding cars and nuclear silos that tumbling down like towers of Jenga. It also gives a unique presentation to the full package, with intro movie to each new episode it does give reason to continue along with a sense of accomplishment.
With all the talk of the single player, it must not be overlooked this is a multiplayer game first and foremost. The racing with friends is fast and intense. You will find yourself barley blinking to avoid the next hazard that may come from any direction. With a game with so many chances to take lead and take lead away from someone else there is always the chance it will happen to you. With a nice selection of modes including race, elimination, to survival with a truck that drops explosive barrels as you and your friend’s race around them. Another “survival” mode has players racing around a track as an attack helicopter shoots rockets at the player, as the power play gauge increases you can then use it to strike back at the helicopter eventually destroying it.
The graphics are stunning and the frame rate is silky smooth. Even with a large amount of drivers and explosions there is rarely even a hiccup to the frame rate. The track detail is stunning from the way tractors move as an event is triggers to the way buildings will interact with the landscape as they come crashing down. The HUD of the game only displays what is necessary, there is no speedometer or gauges or even a map, but what you are provided with all you need to take on the competition. Overall the visual presentation is well-polished and suited to the experience, and promises to keep you immersed throughout the game.
The sound design in Split Second fit the Action movie aesthetic, large explosions, revving cars and the sound of buildings crumbling comes blasting though the speakers with clarity and impact. The sound track also fits very well the feel of the race with tunes that could have been ripped from the biggest blockbusters of the summer. These anthems do get tiring after a while of the same one but this is a minor complaint to an otherwise fantastic audio track.
The track selection is one area that could be improved. Each track has a number of events that can be triggers and a few big events that change the layout of the track. With the selection of tracks there are and being as some are variations on the same track some of the races will feel repetitive especially if you do them in long sessions. This being said, the track number is sufficient for a good burst of fun. It should leave you with a lot of variety as each track comes equipped with the multiple routes and shortcuts.
The car selection in the game is good, if you have ever played any of the burnout series of games the way cars are unlocked and the look they have is very similar. As the game progresses and you earn points new cars will be unlocked for use. Each car has a specialty, be it strength drifting of overall performance. All the cars are concept-imagined and are non-licensed, yet many have a look that is strikingly realistic. The only issue with this system is with each new car you get the opponents seem to match your car-style. Because of this it is hard to notice the real progression with car abilities.
The computer controlled AI is good and gives a solid sense of challenge that adapts to your play, not to mention the ability to take revenge against fellow drivers. This challenge can be strict at times especially for new players to arcade racing games but with a little practice the challenge is not insurmountable.
All in all Split Second is a game that brings the arcade racer back to the living room. It has solid gameplay and a stunning visual style. With a great online community this game will be one people will be playing for a while to come and with the ability for split screen, late night game parties may make a comeback. This is a game any fan of the genre should go out and pick up, you will not be disappointed.