I had a funny feeling about this game when it was first announced. It looked like something that could be fantastic; it also looked a hell of a lot like a cheap Burnout clone. I said that I would reserve judgment. The demo came out and I played it several times. I personally love driving games but even I admit that they can be a bit tedious and repetitive. Games like Burnout paradise have done everything they can to keep that tedium to a minimum. This demo did not. The saving grace there was that it was a demo and as we all know a demo may not represent the finished product. Finally I got to play the game and I am going to be honest: Split/Second is a real mixed bag. You have some absolutely fantastic race moments and then you have some unbalanced gameplay and graphical problems that make you want to scream. Even with this review, I say try it and judge for yourself.

STORY

Yes, I have a story section for a driving game. Split/Second seems to be the creation of someone who decided to Play Burnout Revenge while watching the movie Death Race and dropping acid all at the same time. Apparently somebody with insane amounts of money decided to make this reality show called (surprise) Split/Second. An entire city was created for the show. Nobody lives in it and nobody would want to. You’d be safer in the California limo scene of 2012 than anywhere in this city. So your character has passed the auditions to be the newest driver on this show and your goal is to climb the ranks to the top this season, episode by episode. Each episode of Split/Second has events: usually two regular races, a test run of a new vehicle against the clock, Elimination races (which blow up the losers), an elite race against what I like to call “the rubber band crew” and special events. Oh these events are special alright. One is called Survival. Imagine you are racing at top speed down a track while Optimus Prime is throwing explosive barrels at you from the back of his trailer – that  is pretty much Survival. There’s Air Strike, where you race on a track while a military chopper targets you with sidewinder missiles. And if you get tired of that, there is Air Revenge where you can mess up said chopper’s targeting system to make the missiles blowup the chopper. Are we high enough yet? If not, well then read on. in any of the events that involve other named drivers, you have power plays. Power plays are events triggered by the drivers that are designed to essentially kill your opponents. It says that you “wrecked so-and-so” on the screen but those are just kind words like the way Pokémon “faint” at the end of battles. The game is devoid of any representation of a driver in the vehicles and that’s the only way it got an E rating. The concept is ridiculous, but I will forgive a bit because it makes for generally good racing. SCORE: 7/10

GRAPHICS/CAMERA

The artists deserve serious credit for this game because the car designs and the backgrounds are just beautiful. It’s a shame that polish doesn’t always hold up during gameplay. Technical issues abound in this game from clipping to weird hit detection to cars rolling over or going through each other. No matter how you or the other drivers crash, there is only one model for a destroyed car and it always looks the same. There were moments where I wondered if I was really playing a 2010 release. This game was clearly shooting for Burnout Paradise’s title as top arcade racer but it is technically inferior to Burnout Revenge, originally a last-gen title. For the most part the camera works but there are key moments where it just seems to hate you. If you pass right under something the camera can get stuck on that object which can really mess you up. The lighting occasionally provides for some annoyance as there are areas where you cannot tell whether what is in front of you is an obstacle or open road and that usually equals a crash. For the most part things go very smoothly but when there’s a hitch it turns into a tear your hair out and toss your controller moment more than once in the game. If there is a sequel this must be addressed.. Being able to toss a super dump truck at your opponents is awesome; having no idea where to safely pass said vehicle so it doesn’t smear you across the track is not. SCORE: 8/10

MUSIC/SOUND EFFECTS/VOICE ACTING

Sadly, this is the one part of the game that seems phoned in. The car sounds are there and they are more than decent, but nothing is remarkable. It is very convenient that the surround effects let you know in advance if someone is about to pass you because that will happen very often. Even the big explosions are lackluster because they are often followed by the slowdown sound effect when a power play wrecks your opponents. The music is all instrumental and all forgettable. It will start to annoy you if you are a completist and try for gold on all events because the Detonator  events require you to be near perfect. The announcer is probably the best thing you will hear in the game and you only hear him at the start and end of each episode. This game is not going to be one of your “glad I got that surround sound system” moments. SCORE: 5/10

GAMEPLAY

Split/Second gives the player a wonderful sense of speed but you always feel like you need more. I half understand why this direction was chosen but it was taken a bit too far. In a race, it does not matter how well you perform or how far ahead of your opponent you are, you are going to hear that sound of someone coming up from behind that is about to pass you. That can be really annoying because you have almost no way to attack when you are the leader. The one offense you have in that position would be to activate a shortcut and have it crash down on the followers but just like the cops, that is never around when you need it. Drifting is a huge part of this game as it is one of your main ways to power up your power play ability yet unlike most games where it is a way to maintain or even increase your speed on a turn, it slows you down. The acceleration in many of the cars is terrible and the ones that have really good acceleration are not terribly fast. Everything in the game is set to leave you in last place and it is up to you to fight your way to the front. That would be all well and good if not for the horrible rubber banding in the game. I have had races where I am four to six seconds ahead and suddenly two cars or more pass me while i am at top speed. Of course that does not work the other way around. If you are in second place and the screen says you are six seconds away from first, unless you can activate a shortcut that the leader misses, you will never get the gold in that race. No matter how much punishment you inflict on the AI cars, they are right there behind you. Check the videos of me playing the game for a better idea of what I mean. The first is me just getting trashed repeatedly and it displays the glitches i mentioned. The sewer race I showed has me literally destroying the competition and I just barely get first. You have to play online just to get any kind of sense of balance. The game is not difficult because it is challenging or requires any special degree of skill; it is difficult because it is simply unfair due to balance issues. SCORE: 7/10

REPLAY VALUE/TROPHY & ACHIEVEMENT HUNTING

Fortunately with a racing game, you can squeeze replay value out of it as long as there are people to play with. This one should have an active community for a good while because the outrageous power plays will attract people to it. The achievements/trophies are all attainable and it is only the Detonator related ones and the 100% completion that will give you some headache. Everything else is either trial and error or patience as you rack up the necessary numbers. Anyone that plays through the entire season and plays online should be able to accomplish everything and just doing that will add plenty of replay to the game. SCORE: 9/10

OVERALL

Split/Second had the potential to really give Burnout Paradise a run for its money. In truth it is too linear to ever have knocked BP from its top spot. The game reminds me a lot of Burnout Revenge because of the way there are not that many locales but they interlink to form different tracks. The power play system, while ridiculous, was a brilliant idea for adding action and uncertainty to the game. When you are leading the pack you’ll drive through certain areas praying that nothing blows up in your face. I would love to see a sequel to this game that fixes the problems of this one. If they went the Burnout Paradise route and made an open city and have it laden with all kinds of surprises that could make for an incredible game. Hopefully Disney Interactive can pull it off. OVERALL SCORE 7.2/10