When Disney purchased Brighton-based developer Black Rock Studios I honestly thought that they would have them working on a Mario Kart-style racer featuring Mickey Mouse, Porky Pig, The Wombles and other renowned Disney characters. Fortunately not only has Disney left Black Rock alone to do what they do best – which is make ruddy good racing games – but they let them delay Split/Second to add more polish. So, well done Disney. This almost makes up for the farce that was Lady and The Tramp 2.
In most racing games itâ€™s the cars that are the stars but not here – itâ€™s all about the tracks. Or rather, the ability to blow stuff up thatâ€™s cleverly strewn around and on the tracks. Drifting around corners builds up a â€˜Power Playâ€™ bar – filling it up half way gives the chance to take out rival racers by blowing up petrol tankers, buildings and dropping explosives out of helicopters flying overhead. Fill the power bar to the brim though, which requires some proficient drifting, and you can summon airplanes to crash land, detonate power station cooling towers and derail trains. Short-cuts and events that will change the layout of the track can also be triggered, like bringing down a tower so that the race can continue on top of it.
Because the literally explosive set-pieces always appear in the same place, recognition starts setting in and youâ€™ll find yourself saving up Power Plays for certain places. For instance, one track has explosives rigged near the finishing line which is handy for nabbing the 1st position in the last few seconds. Timing plays a big part too – trigger an event too soon and it wonâ€™t even leave a mark on the opposition; do it too late and theyâ€™ll be watching those glorious explosions from their rear-view mirror.
As well as races and elimination events there are also solo against the clock detonator racers, where everything thatâ€™s rigged to blow goes off as you get near, and events where you have to avoid incoming fire from helicopters. The survival events are pretty basic in terms of track design (most are just giant ovals) but theyâ€™re quite addictive, with the idea being to avoid barrels being lobbed out of the back of heavily armoured lorries.
Three modes are available online (races, survival and elimination) with races proving the most popular currently. When entering a lobby you have to wait for the current race to end (a progression bar is shown on the screen) during which you can chat with the opposition and pick your car. Thereâ€™s usually a couple of minute wait to get into a game, unless you get lucky enter a lobby where the race has just finished. A quick tip: play through the single player mode first, as you can only race online with cars youâ€™ve unlocked. Itâ€™s possible to buy DLC that unlocks everything from the start, but why pay to unlock stuff thatâ€™s already on the disk? Thatâ€™s just cheeky.
As shiny as they may be, the cars havenâ€™t been given as much attention as the tracks on which they race. The only customisation option available is a choice of colour, so fans of Need for Speed – which had modification at its heart – may feel disappointed. In Pure, Black Rockâ€™s previous racer, vehicles could be made from scratch and tinkered with so it does seem like a step backwards. Burnout fans may also find a lack of a nitro boost displeasing although to be fair the cars in Split/Second are speedy enough without and the handling has an arcadey feel similar to Burnout.
The music in Pure was mostly licensed stuff – including Pendulum, if I recall – but here itâ€™s all original music which is pretty epic in places, ramping up a gear as the final lap commences. It fits in with the TV-style presentation nicely (Split/Second is based around a fake TV show where people race for your pleasure) and the screen is pleasingly free of clutter with your position and power bar located under the car itself on the center of the screen. Itâ€™s a phenomenally good looking game in places – the glare from the sun and the lighting effects in particular, plus the replays have motion blur and other effects to make them look rather movie-like. Another nice feature is that every achievement unlocked puts a new decal on your motor, giving you the chance to show off your accomplishments online.
Slick and stylish, Split/Second is second to none.