Split/Second Review

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It’s time to revisit one of the most unique racing games of the last generation. Find out what we thought about Split/Second in our full review!

Release DateMay 18, 2010
GenreRacing
PlatformsPS3/360/PC
DeveloperBlack Rock Studio
Price$59.99 US
ESRB RatingEveryone 10+
Players1-8 Players

 

The 360/PS3 generation was a pretty good one in terms of games in the racing/driving genre. We had games like FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage, Blur, Need For Speed, Grid, Forza, Project Gotham, Test Drive Unlimited, Sonic & Sega All-Stars, and countless more. It seemed like developers were trying different things all the time to create new experiences in what can be a pretty stale genre at times. The most ambitious of all the titles that came out during this time, in my opinion, was Split/Second from the now-defunct Black Rock Studio.

SplitSecond
An example of the episodes. Each one has 5 regular events and an elite race.

Split/Second instantly stands out because it has a bit of a story to it without actually having a story. It’s basic at best, but it really works for the type of game that we ended up getting. You’re a contestant on a reality show that is trying to survive a destructible track while also attempting to take out other drivers with various Power Plays set across each track. These are obtained by drafting behind other racers or by drifting around corners. It gives you a lot of incentive to stay with the pack of drivers as it ends up being easier to trigger those Power Play that pop-up all over the track.

There are 3 tiers of Power Plays with the first couple tiers being fairly standard explosions, pedestrian bridges falling onto the track, and excavators smacking racers off the track among other things. You can even open some shortcuts in certain situations. It’s the third tier when you fill your Power Play bar that can really change the game. These are the traps that can completely change the track and take out a group of racers at once. One of my favourite moments was blowing up a building that took out all 4 racers in front of me as I raced through the narrow path it left to victory. Another moment saw a passenger jet blow up as I was racing under it crushing me in the process. There are tons of moments like that throughout the game and you’ll never know quite what will happen next.

SplitSecond
Taking another racer out with a Power Play!

With all the action going on, it can sometimes be pretty difficult to know what’s going on, but Black Rock did a really good job providing a lot of visual cues so that you don’t run straight into a wall or anything like that. Still, it can get pretty crazy when you have 3 or 4 explosions going off in quick succession which can be pretty common when racing in a pack of people. It’s a game that holds up pretty well visually for something that came out in 2010. The lighting, in particular, looks very good and makes each environment pop, especially when those explosions are going off. I just wish there were a few more environments as, although there are a bunch of tracks, they’re based on the same 4-5 environments.

The single-player mode is structured like a TV show over a 12 episode season. Each season starts with 4 unlocked races and winning or placing in a race rewards players with credits. Credits unlock each season’s elite race and additional cars. The way this is presented allows you to play more of the types of races you like and less of the ones you don’t. There are a few different traditional games modes like Survival, Elimination, and Race. Detonator is one of my favourites where all the Power Plays are blowing up around you all race long. Air Strike and Air Revenge were another couple cool additions where you’re trying to avoid missiles and trying to take out a helicopter respectively. 

SplitSecond
The HUD doesn’t take up much space on the screen giving you the full effect of everything around you.

I really liked the minimalistic HUD that they used which I can’t recall ever seeing before. You have your Power Play bar, position, and lap number in small neon writing right behind your car and that’s it. It allows you to take everything in much better and makes it feel like you’re playing through an action movie. The music definitely puts you into that feeling as well. It’s a pretty grandiose instrumental score that wouldn’t be out of place in the latest blockbuster. The sound effects are just as impressive and had my subwoofer booming a ton during my entire playthrough. It got to be pretty fun to trigger those explosions and feel the destruction through that bass. The positional audio was amazing.

The thing that really sets Split/Second apart from other racers is that you really have to understand the track that you’re playing on to have success. You have to learn where the Power Plays are and how to try and avoid getting hit by them while triggering them at the proper time to take out as many opponents as possible. You even have to make sure you won’t hit yourself with them because you definitely can (and I have more times than I’d like to admit). It kind of fun to try to perfect your run and save your Power Play for the perfect moment or to take out everyone right before the finish line. The problem is, it can be equally as frustrating.

SplitSecond
You might end up crashing a few more times than you’d like to admit.

There aren’t many issues with Split/Second, but the major one (as is the case with a few other racing games of this era) is the relentless rubber-banding. You’ll never shake the CPU opponents no matter how well you race. In part, I think this is due to how important drafting is, but it doesn’t take away the frustration. There are races you’ll feel like you can never win no matter what you do and the ones that you do feel like a major struggle. It does take the fun factor down a little bit at times, but it’s not the end of the world either.

At one point, there was an 8-player multiplayer mode which has long since been taken down after Black Rock was closed down. It was a pretty fun game to play with friends with all the mayhem everyone caused and each race ended up being like a Detonator race. It was a really strategic game to play against other humans even more so than CPUs because everything was so unpredictable. On the bright side, you can still play 2-player split-screen, so there’s still something there for multiplayer!

ProsCons
Great presentation/lighting/visualsRubber-band AI
Perfect type of game for surround soundVery few different environments
Frantic, unpredictable action