Friday, April 30, 2010

Split/Second Demo Impressions

Earlier this week the demo for Black Rock Studios' upcoming racing game Split/Second was released, and after running it through its paces I thought I'd offer you some impressions on it.

Within moments of loading the demo I was impressed by its subtle, minimalist presentation; the shards of glass floating across the game's menu screen effective in conveying a sleek yet destructive appearance that I would soon go on to discover is prevalent in the gameplay, too. Split/Second looks nice, its graphics on par with what you'd expect from a current generation racing game though they will mostly go on to be ignored due to the sheer speed you will be traveling at and the countless explosions happening on screen. The HUD is implemented subtly, with it appearing at the back of your car as opposed to the corners of the screen like in most racing games. Displaying your position, current lap and whether you have any 'Power Plays' (I'll get to that in a second), it communicates crucial information to you discreetly and it's not long before you don't even notice that it's there.

The game feels exactly like Burnout does in the Takedown or Revenge style, straight down to the (optional -- you press a button if you want to see them) replays highlighting the destruction you have caused by using a Power Play, the main mechanic of Split/Second. Obtained by performing maneuvers such as drafting and drifting (again like Burnout) and filling up a bar at the back of your car, a Power Play allows you to open up a shortcut or attack your opponents with an object around the track, such as causing a petrol station to explode or blowing out a piece of wall. The bar has three sections, two blue and one red, each representing the status of your Power Plays. The blue sections represent tier 1, reserved for the short and less powerful actions described above as well as for shortcuts, while tier 2 is more powerful and allows you to cause absolute mayhem. Ranging from blowing up a building and having it fall on the track to a plane crashing right down onto your opponents (and you if you're not careful), tier 2 is where the most fun of this main mechanic comes from and is, as you would expect, longer and harder to obtain. Tier 2 has another ability though, as it allows you to alter the route of the track, opening up new obstacles and corners to deal with, and more potential Power Play moments for your disposal. Combined with the opponent's own Power Plays, the end result is a crazy, fun experience where the explosions are seemingly ubiquitous and there is always something cool to see.

I can, however, see it getting old, the track in the demo fully exploited by yours truly within just three races. I saw every attack, shortcut, change of route and scripted setpiece it had to offer, and the fact that this happened so quickly leaves me curious to know if it will apply to the remaining tracks in the full game. It's a small criticism yes, but perhaps one that will go on to drag down the overall game if there isn't more variety over its tracks. Overall it's a game I definitely intend to get but since it releases around the same time as certain other games, it has to wait for now.

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