by Joseph Barron
reviewed on X360
A new kind of racing
So you think you have seen everything that racing games have to offer? You have attacked the corners of the Nordschleife and launched yourself from the roof of a Paradise City parking garage. But have you ever had to dodge a crashing jumbo jet? Split/Second from Black Rock Studios is a frantic and often insane arcade racer where making it to the chequered flag isn't your only concern. Sometimes you are lucky to make it there at all!
In Split/Second you find yourself taking part in a whole new breed of entertainment TV where professional racing drivers go pedal to the metal on purpose built race tracks designed to resemble real world locations, from international airports to massive cities. The twist to the traditional arcade racing formula is that the drivers can trigger massive explosions at key points in the courses in order to take out the opposition. It is a completely insane idea that provides some of the most thrilling racing experiences since Burnout: Paradise.
Your ability to trigger these "powerplays" is based on how stylish your driving is to entertain the TV audience. By drifting, slipstreaming and jumping you build a meter which allows you to aim powerplays at other drivers as long as they are ahead of you and in-range of whichever part of the course the powerplay will affect. Basic powerplays cause small explosions that knock opponents off course, the second level cause larger explosions or trackside objects to interfere; from cranes dropping girders, to wrecking balls swinging across the course. All of this adds massive tension and excitement to races. It is enormously satisfying to take out another racer with even the most basic powerplay, but seeing someone get wiped out by one of the larger ones is a huge thrill. The destruction certainly doesn't end there either.
By completely filling your powerplay meter you gain access to "route-changers" that cause massive damage to the track and completely change the layout. You will see bridges collapse, aircraft carriers smash through harbour walls and jumbo jets come crashing down on the track. The first time you experience moments like these they are truly breath-taking. Unfortunately, this thrill does wear off a little once you seen them a few times, but timing them perfectly to take out multiple rivals remains satisfying every time, especially online.
More skilled players are punished
Underneath all of the chaos is a very competent handling model that makes the cars feel weighty and physical. You will be driving everything from supercars to tuners and massive 4X4s in Split/Second and most of them feel pretty responsive. The game relies heavily on drifting and anyone who spent a good period of time with Burnout: Paradise should settle in pretty quickly. Unfortunately, once you unlock the faster cars the driving does become a bit of a mess. The cars which should be the best in the game actually end up understeering horrendously, so all of their incredible acceleration is totally wasted.
Breathtaking graphics and thrilling action.
Awful \'rubberband\' AI punishes more skilled racing gamers.