Split/Second Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows
Genre Explosive racer
MtAMinutes to Action 1
Keep Playing? Yes
Buy from Amazon

I’ve been a fan of the Burnout series for years, ever since I rented Burnout 3: Takedown for the PS2, it has been my favorite racing series. Friends know that I am not a fan of realistic racers such as Gran Turismo or Forza, but would much prefer a round of destructive racing. As the Burnout series evolved with traffic checking in Burnout Revenge and an open world system in Burnout Paradise, I began to miss the classic vehicular elimination.

Enter Split/Second, an arcade racer from Black Rock Studios released earlier this year by Disney for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows. This was just the game I was looking for: lots of destruction in fast cars on skinny streets. Split/Second has an additional twist though, and that is the primary way to take out your opponents is to trigger some kind of set piece explosion.

It’s not easy to explain, but just imagine you’re on a Disney World ride that’s on rails and you can tell the animatronic pirates ahead of you to cut the head off your rival. Now replace the Disney World ride with an abandoned airstrip and Johnny Depp with... well, an airport terminal blowing up in a million pieces.

This is Split/Second, and this is its first hour. Also check out Ian's full review of the game.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)

00 - Split/Second starts right up the first time you turn it on, an announcer starts talking, sounds like I’m auditioning to be on a television show called Split/Second! Need to take this really nice looking car for a lap around the track on the set.

01 - Not too hard, the car starts drifting automatically, and giant yellow arrows told me where to go. Now I need to drift to get some power to set off the explosives. What?!

02 - Ah, you can tap brake to help initiate a drift. Now I can perform a power play against another driver.

03 - Awesome! I cue the power play and a helicopter drops something large and fiery on a car ahead of me! Slo-mo camera spin around the burning wreckage and then it’s back to filling up the meter.

Split Second Helicopter Drop

05 - With a full power play meter I manage to trigger a gigantic explosion that destroys two cars! My next objective is to... take out multiple cars at once. Dang!

06 - Ooh, I crash into the wall, not sure if I lost drift at all, doesn’t look like it.

07 - Stage complete, didn’t actually have to take out multiple guys at once, just three more total. I’ve “made the show!” One comment while it’s loading, the game seems to lack that real sense of speed, maybe it was because I was on an enclosed track but it didn’t seem that fast.

08 - All right, I’m going to start Season mode now, first time I’ve seen a menu in the game. The first episode is called “Rigged to Blow.”

09 - An ad for Split/Second starts playing (the television show, not the game, that would be awful). The season is 12 episodes and a montage of epic explosions is shown.

10 - So this episode actually appears to be six scenes, need to unlock them though as I earn credits. I have to wreck 20 cars in the first scene! There are three cars to choose from, I go with the one with the highest drift score and the level starts loading.

11 - “For bigger drifts, release the gas, then hammer it down.” That’s what the loading screen says at least, suppose I should believe it. I need to place 8th or better? I thought I had to take cars out?

Split Second Destruction

13 - Apparently drafting also fills your power play meter, I execute a few but it doesn’t seem to affect the cars ahead of me at all. Hah! Never mind! Just took out two cars from a helicopter drop!

14 - Oh, I crash myself and am sent back to 6th place. I save up my juice for a full on blast and take out the lead car, I’m in second place!

15 - Don’t get cocky! Something mysteriously takes me out, wish I could have at least seen it coming.

17 - I’m in first place now and am mainly focusing on dodging explosions and wrecks! The A.I. is aggressive.

19 - Yes! I win! I had a full power play bar just in case too, which also came in handy as I was passed near the end but I managed to come back. Oh, if I wreck 14 more drivers in this episode I’ll unlock a bonus stage. Stats tell me I had 9 power plays and knocked out 6 cars. I have 50 credits.

20 - I decide to change cars, they’re really not that much different, just a bit more strength than boost, but twice as fast (two bars instead of one!).

21 - Another race, it’s a downtown area with a lot of tight turns. Wish I had my old car!

23 - It doesn’t seem like you can take down rival cars the old Burnout way, you really need to trigger some power play.

Split Second Helicopter Airstrike

26 - Dang, only third place. Once again, I had my power play meter full but I think I was too far away to trigger it on the leaders.

27 - Back to my old car for an elimination event, though I could probably use the strength in this race. Oh well, I like the feel of that car a lot better.

28 - Oh, so in elimination the timer counts down and the last place car gets knocked out, different than just pure take downs like I imagined.

29 - I’m in first place as the first elimination occurs, not bad.

31 - Yay, I win! It seems like the key is to really know the levels and learn the timings of the explosions. For example, you might trigger a bus to explode, but if you do it too early, the driver will be able to maneuver around it.

32 - I win a car for my troubles, looking forward to checking it out. Nice, seems to have the stats of my favorite car but with better speed and acceleration.

33 - Forgot to see what the next race was... will be a surprise. Ah, another elimination race. Downtown again.

36 - I think I’ve had a three car wreck and a four car wreck so far, I’m doing awesome.

Split Second Power Play

37 - I had the opportunity to switch routes, but it required my full power play bar, okay, I’ll give it a try... WOW! A tall, needle tower just fell down and now I’m driving up its inside, this is pretty insane. I am now driving on top of some buildings, finally, this game throws a huge wrench into things!

38 - And I win again, pretty epic ending where I crashed right near the end but my counterpart must have too. I now have 180 credits and have unlocked a stage.

39 - About to take the Hanzo GT Challenge, I guess I’m forced to use that car to start with. I need to take 5th or better in a time trial, there are still explosions going off though! Oh dang, I crash, going too fast.

41 - Wow, this is crazy, the game is showing off some great scripted events. A giant airplane just crash landed on the runway in front of me and I had to drive under its wing as it skidded right at me!

42 - I end up taking second in time trial times which is respectable for me considering I crashed twice.

43 - Starting the Elite Race, not sure what this will entail, it is the final stage of the episode though. Need to finish third or higher to qualify for the next episode.

45 - Haha, I had a major wreck and triggered the instant replay to see the building (almost) collapse as I went by. Nice!

48 - This is definitely more difficult, heading into the final lap and I’m in 6th place!

Split Second Multi car Pile up

50 - One of my power plays just knocked that almost collapsed building over for good!

51 - Geez, I just barely take third place after blowing up a competitor right near the end. Guess I’m moving on to the next episode! I actually have two episodes to choose from, Splashdown or Big Rig Boom. BIG RIG BOOOOOOM!

52 - Another cutscene previewing the next episode, looks like we’ll be driving behind a semi which is dropping crap on us, sounds fun! The first stage is Airplane Graveyard.

55 - I’m able to actually blow up a shortcut and cut through the side of a mountain, pretty cool usage of power plays. Then my next power play destroys part of a bridge that’s running over our road. Wonder if I can keep working on it...?

56 - The game’s instant replays are optional and pretty cool to watch, but the last one finished and I was put in the middle of a mad drift that eventually lead to me crashing. Ouch.

57 - Just got the Bully achievement meaning I wrecked every rival in a race!

59 - Used my super power play which blew up the side of a mountain, but didn’t wreck any cars! Boo!

60 - And I win the race by less than a second and get the Split/Second achievement! Cool, too bad that’s the end of the first hour of Split/Second! I want more!

Split Second First Place

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 1

What I loved: Excellent level design that let’s the track designers exploit some crazy action set pieces. If you see something ahead of you that looks dangerous, it probably is! The airplane landing on the track right in front of me was probably the game’s most epic moment, or the time I rode up the collapsed space needle... hard to pick!

The game looks very pretty with just the right amount of unrealistic gloss to remind you that this is a fun game, not a realistic one. Cars also come apart nicely, not as pretty as the car destruction porn of the Burnout series, but an excellent job nonetheless for Black Rock.

What I liked: There seems to be a decent variety of races, but so far, no big surprises. I expect we’ll see something pretty original soon though.

What I didn’t like: Fast games need to appear fast, and Split/Second seems to lack a bit in this department. Sure, the game looks and sounds gorgeous, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem like I’m going that fast. They fool you into thinking you’re flying along with excellent engine noises. It’s not that bad though, probably makes the game more playable.

Gameplay: The cars control great and you can really feel the difference between vehicles. Drifting works well but I almost feel it should be a bit more Outrun-style outrageous. Triggering power plays is very simple but learning the timing is the game’s trick that will keep you coming back for more.

Fun Factor: I haven’t enjoyed playing a racing game this much since I played the Burnout Paradise demo a few years ago. It’s fast and fun, just what I needed.

Graphics and Sound: Like I said earlier, presentation is excellent, just feels like they’re fooling us in the sense of speed department a bit.

Story: I don’t need a story in my racing games, but Split/Second’s television show framework is unusual enough to have me note it.

Would I keep playing? Heck yes, this is an incredible arcade racer with some amazing set piece explosions. Split/Second’s gimmick is spectacular and is easy to pick up but with plenty of depth to still crash headfirst into. Great first hour.