Tuesday, May 18, 2010
High speeds, big explosions meet in "Split/Second"
Developed by Black Rock Studio.
Published by Disney Interactive Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC and iPhone
Price: $59.99 for Xbox 360 and PS3 - $49.99 for Windows PC
I've said it once and I'll say it again - TV shows will do ANYTHING for ratings. If they aren't putting someone on stage with a mic and no talent seeing 'Ring of Fire,' it's a man who claims to be roughing it in the wild and surviving off of Mother Nature, but spends nights in a posh hotel. Hmmm ...
In this installment of Ratings Wars, we have a Disney racer that is gunning for the Burnout franchise crown. Does it succeed? Does it sputter? Stay tuned, race fans!
Developed by Black Rock Studios and published by the Mouse, I mean Disney Interactive Studios, "Split/Second" is an action racing game that puts gamers in the driver's seat of a reality television show. All of the tracks are rigged to provide dazzling explosions and mouth-dropping collisions and crashes to please the global television audience tuned in. Think "Burnout" meets "American Idol."
Up to two players can play locally (splitscreen), and eight racers can compete in online multiplayer modes.
The premise is simple - race around multiple tracks, earn points by drifting, drafting and other slick moves, and use your points to trigger explosions throughout the bomb-laden tracks. Your television show appearances go 12 episodes.
When you first play the game, you'll notice a couple helos that are hovering mere feet above you as you spin around the track. They aren't taping the action - they are on standby, ready to make the magic happen. You also audition for a spot on the fictitious show and get a chance to drive three vehicles initially. As you progress in season mode, of course, you unlock more whips and tracks to play in the quick play mode (if you want to hop in and race).
The first race is a tutorial, giving you the basics of the game. During races, you'll amass points to use Power Plays, traps that are set off during the race. If you time them just right, an obstacle can take out not just one but multiple racers. From crashing towers and planes - yes, you'll find yourself dodging a crashing 747 airliner (empty, of course) - to avoiding bombs dropped from helos overhead. It's intense and takes the crown from the "Burnout" franchise on the most ridiculous stunts that are actually fun to perform.
You have two levels of Power Plays. The blue Power Plays are level 1, but the devilish, 'You got own3d' Power Plays are the red ones, known as level 2. The level 2 plays are sweet - the crashing airliner, the exploding school bus - the towering inferno that you can see coming down and hoping you can roll past it in time.
The split-screen action is a blast too. You will race against your loved one and six other racers. All of the same rules apply.
What makes this game fun is that it's not about being the fastest on the track, but driving the smartest. You can also bump racers off-course, but surprisingly, your car doesn't take as much damage as I expected.
The graphics are good - the fast moving objects look great - the explosions and the slow-motion effects - especially from far off look smooth and slick. The lighting and car models look more polished than the "Burnout" series.
The sounds are good too - the explosions are top-notch. The soundtrack is good - excellent racing music and keeps gamers engaged.
The controls are easy to pick up. The drifting controls are very sensitive and you can find yourself sliding all over the track. If you are a fan of racing games, you shouldn't be disappointed.
As fun as this game is, the lite offering of modes may leave some customers feeling sticker shock. Sure, it's fun to play with friends or your buddies online, but "Burnout" offers several more modes to choose from for the sticker price.
Still, take "Split/Second" for a test drive and take it through its paces. Enjoy racing, huge explosions and a killer soundtrack, all for the sake of TV ratings.
The verdict: 3 (out of 4 stars) It's a fun game that mixes racing with reality television. The over-the-top explosions, the Power Plays and racing for the global audience tuning in are awesome. See you on the telly, race fans.