Split Second: Velocity - PS3 Review
|1/6/2010||THQ||Disney||Black Rock Studios||1-2||2-8|
I've been a fan of the action racing genre for a long time now and so it was with great anticipation that I waited to play Split Second; a game developed by Black Rock Studios, who brought the excellent and underrated Pure to the PS3 last year. This is a game where speed and explosions are the order of the day – if that sounds like your cup of tea you're not going to be disappointed by Split Second one bit.
|Watch out for the car up ahead!|
The story, which takes a back seat throughout the game, is that you're a competitor on a reality TV show competing against your rivals for victory in a variety of explosive racing events. That's pretty much it; if it weren't for the little cutscene with accompanying cheesy voiceover at the beginning and end of each level you wouldn't even notice the story at all. Which is fine – we're here to race high-horse powered vehicles at breakneck speed – that's all the story we need, right?
There game is broken down into twelve levels or episodes as they are called here. Each episode features four events that are immediately playable, as well as a bonus event and an Elite race that have to be unlocked. Unlocking each episode's bonus event is generally a matter of wrecking a certain number of rivals throughout the episode, the exact number of which can be checked in between races. For every event barring the Elite race you are awarded credits based on your finishing position, and these credits are used to unlock new cars and the Elite races. Elite races are separate to the other events, comprising a cup unto themselves that spans all twelve episodes, pitting you against the cream of the Split Second crop. Winning the Elite race cup is the ultimate goal of all Split Second competitors, and will finish the game should you achieve it.
What separates Split Second from the other action racing games out there is the use of power plays. Power is built up during an event by drafting (racing close behind other racers), jumping, or drifting. You'll gain most of your power via drifting, which you'll be doing at almost every corner in the game. Drifting is easy to pull off too, with a slight tap on the brakes more than enough to send most cars into a drift. In some of the faster, more responsive cars you won't even need to tap the break; turning sharply will be enough. Once you've filled the first notch on your power bar you're free to trigger a level one power play anytime you see the power play icon above of one of your rivals. Power plays all involve destruction of the track, or the obstacles therein, to wreck your rivals. These can be as simple as exploding nearby cars or trucks into the path of your rival, or bringing down a bridge or building to smash into them.
|Split Second: Veolicity looks impressive.|
Level one power plays are entertaining, but for maximum destruction you're going to need to fully charge your power bar in order to trigger the more devastating level two power plays. Some examples of level two power plays are; calling a jet down onto the race track, breaking the supports of a boat out of water, sending it careening across the track, and my personal favourite where you call in a helicopter, with a massive construction truck attached via chains, to destroy a tunnel just up ahead. Level two power plays look awesome, and you're given the option to replay them with a press of the L1 trigger. As with all power plays, you have to be careful with the timing lest you wreck yourself as well as your rivals. Power plays can also be used to unlock shortcuts, some of which will save you only a few seconds, whilst others will destroy entire sections of track, wrecking anyone unlucky enough to be on that section, whilst opening up a new pathway back at the trigger point. These major shortcuts can be a key to victory, especially in the Elite races where knowledge of the track is often more of a key to victory then speed.
There are seven different event types to try; races and Elite races, both of which need no explanation. In Elimination the car in last position each time the timer reaches zero is eliminated in a blaze of glory. Detonator is a fast-lap event where power plays trigger automatically as you approach them. In Survival your task is to overtake as many big-rigs tossing out explosive barrels as you can before the timer runs out. Passing three increases your points multiplier, whilst wrecking yourself resets the multiplier back zero. In Air Strike a helicopter locks missiles onto your vehicle; you must avoid them for as long as possible with three lives. Like Survival, passing through three air strikes unscathed will increase your multiplier, whilst crashing will reset it to zero. And finally there's Air Revenge which is a modified version of Air Strike with the twist being that you can now rebound the missiles into the helicopter once your power bar is charged. Bringing the helicopter down as fast as you can is the name of the game here.
|Split Second on PS3 from Black Rock Studios.|
Multiplayer fans will be pleased to hear that there is support for both split-screen and online racing. Split-screen racing with a friend is a lot of fun, and there is no slowdown or other graphical glitches in sight. Online racing is a breeze to set up, as you are automatically placed in the next available game after signing in and as soon as there are enough racers ready to compete, the event will get underway. I didn't notice any lag when playing online which is pretty important in a high speed racer.
I had a lot of fun with Split Second, but there are a few issues worth pointing out. The first of which is something you'll start to lament about half-way through the game, and that is that there aren't more applications for power in the game. It would be awesome if you were able to use your saved up power as a nitro boost like you can in Burnout because once you fall behind, particularly in the multiplayer modes, it can be very difficult to catch up. Furthermore if you're leading you can't trigger power plays, if you're among heavy traffic it's difficult to trigger power plays without wrecking yourself as well, and if you're too far behind you can't use power plays at all because you can't see your rivals. In every one of these situations you'd gladly take advantage of the risk/reward potential a nitro boost would offer.
|Time for the Power Play!|
Also, there's not enough argy-bargy for my liking when the races are tight. It's extremely difficult to cause other racers to crash by ramming them, even when your vehicle has a distinct size advantage. A GTA or Burnout inspired nudge to the rear-side of your rivals does not send them into a spin; all it does is slow you down. Another issue I had is that there is no speedo in the game. This is not that big a deal really, but there are times, particularly in Detonator events, where it would be handy to know just how much a long drift or a scrape into a wall slows you down. Engine sounds do give a rough guide, but it would be much easier and more intuitive if you could simply look at your speedometer.
Some of the game modes, particularly the early Air Strike, Air Revenge and Survival races on tight tracks, rely more on luck than skill. As you hurtle around the course, it is impossible to see where the missiles are going to land, or where the truck is throwing its explosive cargo so there is no way to plan a path through the destruction. This is alleviated somewhat later in the game when the tracks for these events are much more open, but for the most part these events are more frustrating than enjoyable. And finally, there is no hint of rivalry between competitors. Even really old games like Road Rash had comments from your rivals between races, but there is nothing of the sort in Split Second. Given you race against the same people in every Elite race rivalries would have been easy to incorporate, and would have added a little extra spice to the races.
The visuals look great, and are clearly the highlight of the game. Given the nature of power plays there is always a lot going on on-screen, but the game never misses a beat. Some of the power plays are a sight to behold and are sure to elicit many admiring "oohs" and "ahhs" the first time you see them. The cars aren't licensed but what Black Rock have come up with look very sleek and sexy indeed. The way they fall to pieces when wrecked is a bit unbelievable, but this is a minor thing. Lighting is used to good effect too; the sun can be a real impediment when you're driving towards it you'll be forced to contend with the glare, whilst racing at night will strain even the best eye-sight. Tunnels are dark and claustrophobic, making you appreciate the light when you burst free of the tunnels confines.
|Split Second is an impressive racing game.|
The racetracks all look great, each with their own distinct look and feel. The sheer amount of scenery makes them that much more believable; the city courses abound in tall buildings, parked cars and cafe dining areas, the cliffs of the canyon track are enough to induce vertigo, whilst the river below flows along peacefully, and the airport terminal features planes and hangars aplenty.
The beat-heavy music in Split Second will remind you of just all the action movies you've seen. For example there was one track that reminded me of James Bond movies, whilst another put me in mind of the car chase scenes in Ronin. It's all very good, though for the most part you won't notice it too much. The sound effects are solid; engines are not as beefy as you might like, but the rumbling explosions from triggered power plays nearly make up for it. The rest of the effects are pretty much as you'd expect; all good, but nothing that will knock your socks off.
|Taking 1st place in Split Second.|
Split Second: Velocity is a frenetic action racing game that features some of the biggest explosions and craziest, best-looking track destruction going around. Each event will tax your reflexes and cunning, and for every race where you pull off an especially well-timed power play on your rivals, there will be two where your rivals wreck you with the finish line in sight. It can be frustrating, but it's also addictive stuff and the number of times you'll say to yourself "just one more go" testament to the fun you're having. There are some issues, but none of them will stop you from enjoying Split Second all the way to the end. You may not play much longer than that, but this game is a lot of fun while it lasts and another fine effort from Black Rock Studios.
Review By: Mike Allison
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|GRAPHICS||A clear high-point of the game. Environments are busy, light is well used throughout and the destruction caused by power plays is a sight to behold. Cars look cool too.||88%|
|SOUND||Rocking tunes that will certainly get you in the mood for racing, particularly in the Elite races where increases the tension as the finish line approaches. Explosions sound meaty, and the rest is decent enough.||82%|
|GAMEPLAY||Fast and furious racing action, with a healthy dose of destruction thrown into the mix. A couple of event types are frustrating, but aside from that this game is a lot of fun all the way to the end.||84%|
|VALUE||You will play this non-stop to the end, but by then you'll wish there was more than just the one way to use your power. Split-screen and online will add to the fun for a while.||82%|
|OVERALL||Split Second: Velocity is a barrel of fun in both single and multiplayer modes and will surely get the adrenaline pumping. It doesn't have the longevity of a game like Burnout or MotorStorm, but it's a whole lot of fun while it lasts.||84%|