by Brandon Waldenberg
previewed on PC
Black Rock’s Second Split
Split/Second is the new racer coming from developer Black Rock, the developers of well-received racing game Pure. Published by Disney Interactive, this exciting new racing/action game is set to release in May. The game revolves around the idea of a reality TV show, forcing stunt men and racers to commit mayhem and chaos in the name of ratings. The game follows these racers through a season of destruction on numerous explosive filled stages. So far Split/Second is shaping up to give other established racers a run for their money. Black Rock looks to create a racing game like none other, going as far as to say that it is as much an action game as a racing game.
Read the Bumper
Departing from the micro-managing game play of other hardcore racers, Split/Second offers players a slimmed down and action ready racing game. The HUD becomes a part of the car, with the bumper showing your position, how much of the power meter is filled, and what lap you are on. Players can choose their cars from several classes, including muscle cars and racers. Each class of car emphasizes certain statistic over the loss of another; racers are fast but sacrifice control, while muscle cars are more of a middle ground. Early demos of the game boasted amazing control, avoiding the out of control twitch driving of an arcade racer and the ultra-realistic control of a simulation game. Cars have heft and momentum, but can still be maneuvered expertly.
The graphics of Split/Second are something to be noted as well. So far, many of the stages are set in urban areas; airports, downtown, and the harbor. All of these levels are impressive looking, rendered vibrant and alive by Black Rock’s development staff. The cars shine and shift under the sun. The stages feature numerous shortcuts and jumps, ensuring that you can play the same level numerous times and still find something new. As you fly through these landscapes, you can really feel the acceleration of the cars as vision blurs under top speed. What really steals the show though, are the explosions.
Let’s Blow Stuff Up
Split/Second boasts a game defining feature called power plays. Since this is a reality TV show, awesome races just aren’t enough to cut it, the audience needs a little more. When players take chances and drive well a meter beneath their bumper begins to fill. You can fill this by drafting behind other cars, drifting, or completing any of the amazing jumps scattered through each stage. While there are three bars on this meter, completing the first and second allows you to use blue power plays. Blue power plays mess with other players, creating explosions and debris that scatter the race track. Helicopters will wait in place to drop explosives on other players, and boats will slide across the track, knocking racers around to name a few things. An in-game camera allows you to see the havoc you wreak in slow-motion. The camera really high-lights Black Rock’s work with the explosions, showing the debris and cars flying across the track.
Now, when a player fills all three bars of the power play meter, he or she can activate red power plays. Red power plays change the stage in significant ways. These usually involve giant explosions, like a train being derailed, or an entire building being blow sky high and then falling onto the track, destroying opponents and opening up new areas to race through, completely changing the rout of the race. Tankers will be tipped over, forcing players to race across a cluttered ship deck with containers slipping all over. These power plays are going to make racing fast paced and exciting, offering numerous possibilities in every stage. Black Rock has said that some of the stages are up to eighty percent destructible, so there’s going to be a lot to explore here. One of the other cool features that work with the power plays, is the rivalry feature. In a race, if you target the same car over and over again, you create a rival. Rivals will target you with power plays as much as possible, making your life as difficult as possible.
In addition to all of this, Black Rock has announced various modes beyond just straight racing that will add more replayability. A mode called Nemesis allows players to race across a dry river bed as they are timed. The only way to acquire more time is by passing Nemesis vehicles, which sounds easy enough. However Nemesis vehicles are giant armored vehicles that toss exploding canisters at the player. Whenever you get hit, you can potentially spin out and lose time. If you get hit enough, your car can be destroyed ending the race. There are numerous multiplayer modes, and I am especially looking forward to the battle mode. Being able to truly maximize the power plays to see the ultimate carnage should be really entertaining. Extending the game play with multiplayer should make Split/Second truly awesome.
Creating a Franchise?
Split/Second is shaping up to be an amazing racing game that could be a righteous franchise. Black Rock’s racer features amazing and vibrant graphics and beautiful environments that will turn heads. Cars shine under the sun and explosions light up the race track at break neck speeds. Not only that, but the highly destructible power plays will alter these gorgeous landscapes in race changing ways. With controls that can kill, racing on these tracks will be incredibly entertaining as you decimate your opponents on your way to victory.