Xbox split-second-hands-on

Published on April 19th, 2010 | by prime

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Split Second – Hands On

There aren’t too many racers which involve Boeing 747s crash landing onto a track or buildings spontaneously collapsing onto fellow competitors, but just like Black Rock Studio’s first title Pure, Split/Second is unlike anything else you’ve probably played before.

Centered around a bizarre reality TV show concept, gamers will be burning rubber on several custom-made environments (or sets) which are packed with elaborate set pieces, shortcuts and numerous traps.

Much like Burnout, the power-up dynamic all depends on the nitro-esque meter placed conveniently underneath your car. In order to activate the big power ups you’ll need to drift, collide with other cars, grind, overtake and basically drive like a maniac. It’s a tactic which many arcade gamers will be familiar with, but the strategy is all about when and where you use these dramatic race changers.

For example, do you elect to use it during the opening lap on that suspiciously suspended shipping container over the track, or would it be better to save it for the penultimate corner where it can do the most damage? Obviously these decisions are made while racing ridiculously fast four-wheeled motor demons, which always give the impression that you’re running right on the edge.

The racing itself feels like a chaotic feverish dream, with AI drivers constantly hustling for position, as well an over-the-top American commentator throwing his two cents in whenever the action gets pyro-tastic.

The track can change multiple times during a race, so every race, and even lap, should be different from the last

At this point it would probably be a good idea to explain that ‘race changers’ statement. Split/Second is more than just one big explosive gimmick. Every set-piece is governed by charges set beside appropriately placed objects on the track, so most of the time there’s plenty of debris, and sometimes entire track sections are cut-off for the rest of the race, leaving players to seek out alternative routes.

You see, Black Rock Studios didn’t just want to set out to make a straightforward racer. The track layout can change multiple times during a race, so in theory, every race _and even every lap) should be different from the last. It’s an ambitious design philosophy to be sure, but from what we’ve seen from the Docks and Downtown areas, it’s coming to fruition nicely. Each destination has multiple track layouts, and we’ve been told there are still more areas to be revealed shortly.

The same kind of dynamic, evolving experience has been applied to the damage model as well, with many developers inside the studio boasting that it will be the most advanced to be found in any game. Cars deform based on the angle and intensity of collisions, with body parts crumbling, and shifting as you would expect – they can even split in two!

Skillful drivers will of course be able to avoid some of the smaller trackside events – such as falling bombs, fuel drums and debris – but the aim is to try and keep the frontrunners shuffling as much as possible. It doesn’t quite stray into the blue shell territory, however.

Despite Split/Second winning multiple awards during the past two E3 shoes, there still seems to be a lot more to learn about this ambitious and potentially revolutionary racer.

Disney Interactive want players to be wowed as close to the release date as possible, and from the most recent build we’ve seen, even the most skeptical are sure to be impressed.

The core gameplay is already stellar, with fantastic visuals and a stirring soundtrack of appropriately rocky tunes.

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