Features & News

Hands on: Split Second

November 3, 2009, Author: Andy Corrigan

Disney-owned Black Rock Studios have made a bit of a name for themselves in the racing scene, having previously worked on the MotoGP titles and more recently on dirt-bike racer PURE, which raked in many plaudits. Disney were in attendance at the Eurogamer Expo to show off their new game; Split Second, a game that at first glance looked simply like a Burnout clone.

Initially when walking past the booth, I had indeed written it off as the Burnout clone it seemed, but Joe (who must have played it 348957345734 times over the two days) insisted that I should try it, and try it I did. Was it any good? Yes, but I’m still undecided on it.

Before I played the game, the Disney rep (no… not the mouse) explained that this was a very early build, only contained one track with barely any standard features. He wasn’t kidding, as the first thing I noted that I was unable to switch view from far-cam. The second thing I noticed was that there were no HUD elements around the outside of the screen; they all sat on the rear bumper of the car, which was quite a cool effect. The race on show took place in a bustling and stunning looking airport. Early on, the handling did feel a lot like the arcade styling of Burnout; the car has a lot of drift, and the game is extremely forgiving as you bump into the other cars and scenery. So where is the big twist?

Like with Burnout, the better you do the more you fill a meter, only this doesn’t control boost. This meter, when full, allows you to trigger environmental destruction and this aspect is epic. For example I was lagging behind, hit the A button when prompted and it completely deformed the track ahead, making the road sink into an underground tunnel, throwing many of my fellow racers off course.

I was halfway around my first lap when I started thinking ‘It’s ok, but… meh, take it or leave it’. It was just about that point when a building fell on me. I don’t just mean it collapsed and ended my race cheaply; chunks of building slammed into the road, shaking the screen and creating instant obstacles as I drifted to narrowly avoid them. This looked extremely impressive, but at the time I figured it was predetermined to happen on this track all the time. That was until I watched the Splinter Cell brand manager from Ubisoft have a go. This time rather than witnessing what had just happened to me, a Jumbo Jet crashed into the road, leaving him little room to manoeuvre as he had to get through a tight gap between a wing’s twin-engines. These effects only served to hammer home just how visually impressive the game is, even in this early state.

Yeah, it looks calm… now!

You would think that having a building or a Boeing 747 dropped on top of you would instantly end your chances of winning a race, but the game seems incredibly well balanced and you are never out of it until the winner crosses the finish line. Several times I found myself well behind the pack one minute and then leading it the next, thanks to some nifty racing and a well-timed trigger event. This changeability in the field alone left me believing that this could be a great game to play online.

While I walked away eventually and undoubtedly impressed with what I had played, I still have severe doubts about long lasting appeal that this could offer. That said, the quality of Split Second was the big surprise factor of the Eurogamer Expo for me, and because of that I’ll be keeping a wary eye on the game’s continued development.