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Xbox 360 Review: Split/Second

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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.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • La’Quan Brown

    You just aren’t being observant enough. This games works fine and, considering you’ve played other racing games, fits well into the racing genre. Split/Secong is a really good game, but it’s difficult at the same time.
    Getting from 8th to 1st is no easy feat, but I’ve done it more times than I can count on one hand after playing the game for only 2 hours. O.o
    You just need to pay attention to which powerplays have been used and which haven’t. Besides, if you can’t notice a giant pile of flaming debris on a tack or an over-turned, burning truck you don’t need to be playing a racing game. Also, it helps to play with your eyes open.

  • JD

    This game is awesome. Everything from the graphix to the difficulty. Racing isn’t suppose to be easy. If you want an easy racing game go play mario cart. I mean no disrespect here but this game was very challenging to me and I love racing games.

  • The rubber band AI can be annoying at times, but it’s there to keep people in front of you — where you can wreck them. I, too, have gone from 8th to 1st — sometimes in a matter of a single L2 power play — and it’s that strategy of learning where the big demolitions are, conserving power, and using them when it really matters most that keeps the game exciting and unpredictable from start to finish.

    I just got 100% of the trophies in the game, offline rank 1 and online rank 1, and I’m nowhere near done playing this gem. If you want realism and pure racing, look to Forza, Gran Turismo, or Need for Speed. Split/Second is the love-child of Burnout and Mario Kart on steroids, and I dig it, despite some minor imperfections here and there. To each his own.