Split/Second: Velocity Review
Game: Split/Second: Velocity
Developer: Black Rock Studios
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Available on: PS3, Xbox 360 and PC (reviewed on Xbox 360)
Towards the back end of last year we had a glut of “AAA” racers in the form of Dirt 2, Need For Speed: Shift and Forza 3, all three games were released within a few weeks of each other making it hard for budget gamers to make a choice. This year the racing pile up has come early with the PS3/PSP exclusive ModNation Racer clashing with the cross platform titles, Blur and Split/Second Velocity. All three racers have been released over the past few weeks offering up another tough choice for fans of the racing genre.
The first time I laid eyes on Split/Second was at the Eurogamer Expo 2009, the hype surrounding the game was non-existent making the few consoles set-up to play the game empty most of the time. The first play through at the Expo was surprisingly good, the game had a familiar Burnout feel but with unique adrenaline filled gameplay never seen before in a racer. Split/Second’s over the top environmental explosions, short cut mechanics and unique heads up display put the game firmly on my radar. Whilst the demo was fun and left a good impression, I had doubts about the final product and wondered how it would turn out. Well the wait is over, hit the jump and check out the full review.
GAMEPLAY: Split/Second is not your standard racer, it does not take place on a standard race track and certainly does not play by “the rules”. Split/Second is a TV show, race tracks are huge outdoor TV sets and everything (including your car) is rigged to blow.
Split/Second is an adrenaline filled, fast paced racer that prefers audacious slides around corners rather than cautious breaking. The truly unique gameplay comes from the power-plays which are dotted around the tracks. These power-plays vary from a crumbling building to exploding cars, with the level two power-plays changing the track routes completely with over the top seismic events. Drivers can trigger power-plays at various points through out races with each track containing a couple of level 2 plays. Players earn fill up their power-play meter by sliding around corners, drafting behind opponents and avoiding opponents power-plays. Power earnt fills a meter which has a total of 3 slots and is nicely placed under the bumper of the car to ensure eyes are always on the road.
Split/Second is not a racer that can be won with driving skill alone, power-plays must be timed well, short-cuts should be navigated and opponents “moves” should be anticipated. Knowledge tends to be power, knowing which power-play is coming up is key to success, there’s no point wasting power on just one exploding car when the next corner holds a bigger explosion to take down a greater number of opponents.
There are a total of 6 game modes for players to burst through, the standard race mode is the bread and butter of any race game. Elimination, similar to the race mode, with cars in last place periodically blowing up until only 1 remains. Air Strike and Air Revenge pit car against helicopter with missiles raining down on the track, players just need to avoid explosions in Air Strike whilst they will need to build up the power bar in Air Revenge to deflect missiles back at the helicopter. Detonator events are an improved version of the classic “time attack” mode, players will need to get the best lap time possible whilst avoiding almost every power-play possible. Survival rounds pits players against trucks dropping a confetti of explosive barrels with an emphasis on overtaking multiple trucks. There are no bad modes but best mode has to be the detonator, driving through multiple explosions one after the other is exhilarating and a good way to learn some of the tracks.
The main feature is the Season mode which has a total of 12 episodes with each episode containing a preview clip before and after to push things along. Each episode has 6 events, there are 4 standard events with a variety of modes, 1 bonus event and the all important Elite race where players must place in the top 3 to progress to the next show.
The AI opponents are all named with distinctive names such as Vixen, names pop up above cars during a race and are displayed on the season leader board. The naming process does well to create an identity for opponents whilst creating a good sense of rivalry through out the season. Unfortunately, naming is where it ends, with no faces to match or biographies to give a better sense of character to opponents. Player progression is dealt with by awarding credits for placing well in races which in-turn unlocks new cars, cars are constantly being unlocked and with each one better than its predecessor early models are hardly revisited. There is no ability to customise or improve cars but earnt achievements will show up as decals all over the players car.
GRAPHICS: If I could describe the graphics in one word it would be “Burnout“, the graphical style is very much similar to that of the boost filled EA racer. There are no official cars featured in the game, instead every car just looks like a vibrant concept model of various vehicles in the real world. The lighting effects are used well throughout the game bouncing off car rooftops with day and night modes giving a different feel. The decals add a nice touch showing off some of the achievements earned so far in the game, the race number displayed on cars during online play is determined by rank with players starting at 99 with a goal to reach 1. It’s unfortunate that decals can not be customised and placed on the cars by players, a change of colour is all players can do to make each car their own.
SOUND: The audio in Split/Second is good, sometimes going unnoticed, but never out of place. The cars sound like “proper” cars, every rev of an engine or slide around the corner sounds as “real” as you would want it to. Power-plays sound fantastic, the explosive sounds really make it feel the walls around you are crumbling down.
LONGEVITY: This is where Split/Second stumbles a little, with the season mode only spanning 12 episodes and no second season insight, the game can be over in around 8-15 hours of gameplay. Adding to the longevity problems is the fact that there are only 11 unique race tracks which makes the back end of the season feel somewhat recycled. This all leaves little hunger to replay the game but don’t lose hope, the online mode whilst short on features is present and works pretty well, the match-ups tend to be competitive with matchmaking based on player rank.
VERDICT: Split/Second can be compared to other racers but there is nothing truly like it, the power plays are fantastic, the racing is solid and the concept is unique. This is a game for players of all skill and even doubters of the genre. The game can be a little short but online adds some much needed longevity. Whatever you do make sure you play this game, rent or buy, you will not be disappointed.