Split/Second does not work. It should, with a menagerie of exploding buildings, toppling towers, and crashing freighter jets smashing cars during the course of a race. It is a seemingly fail-proof concept until it enters into execution and completely crumbles.
Notably, Split/Second is too slow. With this lavish reality TV show presentation, Black Rock Studios wants you take the time to appreciate what they’ve done. They should. Everything that happens is spectacular, at least in terms of looks. In terms of speed, the game offers little. All of the visual tricks, including motion blur, distorting wind sheer, and blown out contrasts, do not add up to speed. With a freighter jet falling onto the track, it should become twitch gaming, and instead, simply becomes a matter of pushing the analog stick left to dodge… with time to spare.
Oddly, the game forces the player to drive aggressively. Absurdly redundant, frustrating rubber band AI makes every race a challenge for the wrong reasons. One single mistake can push you out of first for good, mainly because the AI says so.
Obviously, the most fun Split/Second can provide is the thrill of watching a tanker truck explode, blasting your opponents off the track. When you are in the lead, you can’t do that. In fact, the game makes winning boring. The majority of the action will occur just behind you, robbing the player of the beautifully crafted visuals. You can’t set traps, or make anything go boom when in the lead, taking away the game’s core.
What if you are behind though? Split/Second fails here as well. You earn the ability to blow things up via three simple methods: Drafting, drifting, and jumping. These actions fill a power play meter, which when filled up, allows the player to unleash some destruction, assuming the opponent is in front of a pre-determined area.
That creates an issue. What if you saved up a level two power play for the final lap, only to turn the corner and find that the last available spot was blown up prior? You have no recourse, and unless you see it happen (or notice the wreckage in a previous lap), you have no idea if that specific power play has been utilized. That still leaves you with some level one power plays, and you can only hope those are still available as well.
Split/Second does have one notable game mode, a time attack of sorts where each power play will go off during the rush, showering the player in debris, fire, and jaw-dropping destruction. With the sense of speed, or lack thereof, you can take it all in without worrying about missed opportunities, used power plays, or that infuriating AI. This is the only mode that seems to work, even with the lack of speed, as it was intended. You can see the concept come alive, which can sadly not be said for the rest of Split/Second.
Split/Second is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Violence. This game can also be found on: PC, PS3.