Split/Second Review

Split/Second is an orchestra of explosions and fire, making it one of the most bombastic racing games in recent memory, but its unfair difficulty makes the experience frustrating.

Structured as a popular reality television show divided into seasons, Split/Second is a science fiction racing game. As one of the competitors, you need to participate in a series of events that involve destroying environments to prevent your opponents from reaching the goal while you try to finish in the first place. The faux reality TV format works well for a racing game, but while there are some explosive moments in Split/Second, the unfair difficulty leaves a lot to be desired.

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The incredible sense of speed and all the effects that come with it look stunning.

After completing a short tutorial that teaches you the basics, you need to apply the different mechanics that come into play as you race. By drifting, drafting and jumping you acquire energy that fills up your power bar which is divided into three levels. When a special icon appears on top of a competitor, you can activate power play and something in the environment will explode to prevent that opponent from moving on. Of course, you need to time these power plays well so that you can put rivals out of commission. But not only do you use energy to hinder your opponents’ progress, gathering energy is also useful to create shortcuts. There are two types of shortcuts, the first one consumes only one bar of power play and usually comes in the form of a secret door that opens up and the second one consumes all three bars, but destroy entire parts of the environment in some spectacular ways and reshapes the track entirely.

Split/Second shares some elements with The Running Man, The Fast and The Furious, Mission Impossible: Ghost protocol, Death Race. It’s fitting that this racing game shares so many qualities with movies, since its cinematic properties are undeniable. Racing in this game feels like an elaborate car chase after another.

As you’d expect, there are different types of events and as you complete them, they give you credits that you need to qualify for the upcoming season. Events include races, elimination, bonus and elite. Although you’ll spend most of your time racing, some of the events encourage you to dodge missiles launched by helicopters, dodge explosive barrels that fall from giant trucks and so on. Interestingly, some of the environments are clearly modeled after American cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle and some of the landmarks, such as the Los Angeles river, the Golden Gate Bridge or the Space needle area here and you can use them to destroy all of your opponents.

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Maintaining first place is remarkably difficult.

Split/Second works because the settings are terrific and they are filled with opportunities to wreak havoc, activate shortcuts and slow down your opponents. Some of the traps you trigger include obstacles trucks, planes, debris that move or fall and so on. But despite only having a few seconds to think about the play moves, you really need to think about them because some of the obstacles you trigger can hit you. Nevertheless, it’s hard to blame the game when it happens because you usually have several opportunities to use them on your opponents.

If there’s something I can complain about is the single-player campaign is its excessive difficulty. At first, I was determined to reach first place in every single event, but I soon gave up because the elusive gold medal meant spending hours trying to beat the superhuman AI racers. Some of the rivals have better cars and they know exactly when to trigger traps that will significantly slow you down which is infuriating and frustrating.

Apart from the main campaign, you can participate in an online mode. As it’s usually the case with some games that have been out for a while, some people are still playing online, but those who do, have pretty much mastered its mechanics and have unlocked the rarest cars. If you want to have a pleasant experience playing against others, though your best bet is local multiplayer via split screen.

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Seeing power plays in action is a visual treat.

This is a bombastic arcade racing game that can be intense and thrilling thanks to its unique setting, fresh mechanics, frantic gameplay and explosive races, but are many issues to overlook, such as the high difficulty, cheap artificial intelligence and short campaign. If you’re coming to Split/Second for the sheer spectacle though, this racing game won’t disappoint.