Every new IP that releases within the racing genre boasts new - sometimes genre-defying concepts - that either make or break the title (or should that be brake...). Split/Second: Velocity from Black Rock Studio and Disney Interactive Studios is one of the latest titles to arise from this genre, bringing with it a hyper-competitive reality television show that sees players interact with their environment.
Split/Second: Velocity is very similar to the early Burnout titles in terms of gameplay, though rather than shunting opponents – forcing them to crash, players build up a ‘Power Play’ bar by drifting, drafting and overtaking their opponents which, when detonated, causes elements of the environment to fall onto the track and create an extra obstacle for their opponents to overcome. Such elements include landslides, helicopters dropping explosives, garbage trucks, a ship and many more. There are two levels of Power Play, one and two, with level two being obtained by fully filling the Power Play meter. Level one is for detonating small-scale portions of the environment and for activating the game’s shortcuts whereas level two is for detonating large-scale elements of the environment that alter the track’s route.
On first playing the title, the explosions and the environment’s role in the game is something spectacular. The sight of the Power Plays in action accompanied by the sound effects created is a great example of how Split/Second uses modern day technology to produce a cinema-like experience in a video game. Whereas this level of amazement wears off as players embark further into things, the graphics and audio remain to the same standard throughout.
The game’s single player experience is portrayed in the style of a television programme. The voiceover and television style introduction to the game’s episodes and tracks is a presentation method yet to be seen on video games and Split/Second pulls it off very well. Further adding to this experience is how the season consists of episodes – each of which contains five events and a bonus round.
The game consists of four different types of events. These are Race – in which players go up against seven cars in an attempt to reach the finish line first, Survival – where players have to pass a truck with explosive barrels falling off the back (blue barrels making players skid whilst red barrels wreck the player’s car), Airstrike – in which players have to avoid being hit by missiles fired at the player from a helicopter and finally Detonator – where players race against the clock whilst avoiding all the track’s power plays. As ever, players are likely to favour certain events over others though, on the whole, the events have been well designed.
Depending on where the player finishes the event during the season mode, they are rewarded with credits, used by the players to unlock new vehicles and race events. Unlocking these new vehicles is crucial in later events where improved car statistics can make the difference between first and second place. Split/Second features a substantial amount of cars that are graded based on their speed, drift ability, acceleration and strength. Whilst there are no licensed names to speak of, the cars on offer have been well modelled and designed.
Each of the game’s event types has been well implemented, providing players with sufficient amount of variety throughout a fairly extensive campaign. With each episode taking approximately half an hour to complete and Split/Second featuring a total of twelve episodes, the game certainly doesn’t lack in longevity with the title also featuring extensive multiplayer.
The multiplayer for Split/Second is available in both split-screen and online multiplayer, where players can take on human opponents. Racing against human opponents creates a tenser, more frantic experience that is replicated and improves on the single player experience.
Split-screen is available for up to two players which, whilst it’s good to have the option, the 'keeping player on the edge of their seats adventure' isn’t as dramatic because of the sudden drop in numbers. Nevertheless, it’s a different case for the game’s online multiplayer.
Playing over Xbox Live, Split/Second supports up to eight players, featuring an impressive lobby system, consisting of different lobbies for the game’s competitive events. When players join a particular lobby, a vote takes place in which players can opt for one of two tracks before players ready up and the game starts. This system is ideal for a game within this genre, allowing gamers to jump into a race within minutes of selecting Xbox Live play.
Split/Second uses ‘online form’ as its ranking system. Depending on where players place in the race, they will earn or lose points for their online form. With players starting at 99, getting down to an online form of 1 may sound like a tedious, time-consuming challenge; however, players can race down the levels quite quickly. Nevertheless, the ranking system has been well-thought out and is yet another of the game’s brilliant features.
The overall Split/Second package is not complete without mentioning some of the game’s smaller details. Little things such as the decals on the player’s vehicles which represent the achievements the player has unlocked and the well-designed menu screen ensures everything about the title is to a high standard.
Overall, Split/Second: Velocity is a fantastic arcade racing title. The unique, well-implemented ‘Power Play’ is just one of the game’s many great features. Whilst it does have some serious competition from Blur, it is certainly one for racing fans to consider.
David Wriglesworth is a Northern lad with a passion for gaming, who graduated from the University of Lincoln with a BA (Hons) Journalism degree. If you can drag him away from the consoles, you can probably find him Tweeting or watching Coronation Street.