First Impressions: Split/Second

A lot of people may never have heard of _Split/Second_, it’s hardly been marketed at all and it’s still months away from release. In general it’s pretty low down on people’s radars at the moment but if you adore the hectic and crazy action of the _Burnout_ franchise, this title should be at the top of your “I want it now” list.

In short, _Split/Second_ is a combat racing game with a twist; rather than your car having an array of weaponry, you use the environment in and around the tracks to damage, and hopefully crash out, your opponents. Once your “powerplay” meter has filled up by a certain amount, icon’s will start to appear above the opponents in front of you, indicating that an object or building nearby can be detonated to mess up the track in front of them.

The demo available at the Eurogamer Expo placed you in a non-descript muscle car and lets you battle it out against seven other drivers around an airport track. Starting off, a few buses were blowing up here and there but the game just continued to escalate. At the end of the first lap, the demo very politely informed me that pressing B would change the route; thinking that we would just turn left instead of right, I was extremely surprised when the entire road in front of me blew up, dropping me down into a car park underneath. Later on, after turning a corner, I was confronted with avoiding a crashing Boeing 747 as I hurtled down a runway; at this point I couldn’t contain my excitement and began to make slight whimpering sounds of joy, probably scaring the majority of people around me. The entire game was so ridiculous and over-the-top that it was a huge amount of fun to play; I have never played a game with so many “OMG, this is amazing!” moments in a single race.

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Considering that the game is nowhere near finished, it already looks fantastic. With debris flying all over the place, massive explosions and some great car modelling, _Split/Second_ really immerses you in all the craziness that’s going on. The HUD is also implemented in a really intuitive way, rather than having information dotted all over the screen, everything you need to know if indicated directly behind the car. Not only does this look great but it almost means you can see your race position, current lap and “powerplay” meter without having to look away from your car. Good presentation in a game like this really makes or breaks it, even if an idea is good it’s the execution that really matters and it looks like _Split/Second_ is well on the way to something great.

The only fear I have is that repetition may set in relatively quickly. I played the same track about four times and even then it was becoming apparent that the same things were happening over and over. All the destructibility is effectively based around set-pieces so they are exactly the same each time you restart the race, therefore each race on the same track plays out very much the same. As long as the developers add a wide array of different tracks and generally a good variety in the final game, hopefully this won’t be a problem.

_Split/Second_ has to be my game of the show; with known quantities such as _Mass Effect 2_ and _God of War III_, you know that they’ll be good but this game was a complete surprise. Combined with it fantastic graphics and extremely enjoyable gameplay, this could be one of the best games of next year.


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