Arcade racing at it’s finest.
Reality TV seems to be the bane of our existence in recent years. You cannot flick through the channels of your telly without finding at least a couple of reality shows. Even the variety of these shows seems to have covered every single aspect of our lives, intruding on every profession and invading the privacy of our most precious moments.
So, when Disney Interactive Studios releases an arcade racing game based loosely around a fictional reality TV show, one has to ask if this is something we really need. I can only answer with a resounding “hell yes!”.
The basic premise is this. You, the player, are competing in a reality show revolving around racing cars and wanton destruction. Each episode consists of a number of events and the player must rank high enough to proceed to the next episode. Beyond this loose idea, the reality show theme does not really feature elsewhere in the game.
The selection of different events that the player can participate in ranges from the basic three lap race and eliminator where the driver in last place gets kicked off every so many seconds, to some rather interesting event ideas. Take the race where the player has to basically survive as long as possible whilst dodging missiles fired from a helicopter gunship, or another race mode involving large lorries spewing explosive barrels in front of you. Never a dull moment.
“What about the destruction?”, I hear you all cry. Well, this is where Split/Second has come up with a genius idea. As the player races and performs drifts, drafts and jumps, they gather points that fill a three part meter. For each part of this meter that is filled, the player may trigger hidden traps that are set around each course. The other racers will have an icon above their car when they are near to one of these traps. It is at this point that the game becomes more like an over the top action movie. These traps can consist of anything from helicopter dropping exploding barrels into the path of the cars or buses exploding from the side of the road, right the way through to the more extreme cranes sweeping across the track and pushing cars out of the way and massive towers collapsing and altering the actual course itself.
Adding to the fun is the fact that, upon detonating these traps, it is very easy for the player to get caught in them and effectively ruin their own race. Of course the AI cars can also activate these traps, and quite often do, leaving the player weaving in and out of explosions and the such. This all makes for a very exhilarating race.
All of this would be kind of irrelevant if the game did not handle well and look good. But the game looks gorgeous with crisp and bright graphics providing the player with a real cinematic experience. The cars handling is not realistic, but this is an arcade racer and as such it performs easily as well as any other arcade racer. There are various different cars to unlock, each with different strengths and weaknesses, and the player will have to choose carefully depending on which event they are entering. Strength or speed.
Taking the game online only offers the most basic of game modes, such as lap race and elimination, but the sheer amount of destruction that can be witnessed in these events make racing online a joy.
I must admit that I was not expecting much from this arcade racer, especially given its Disney roots. But I came away with memories that will stay with me for a long time. Like racing along an airfield runway into the path of a large, crashing aeroplane, or racing along, and through, an aircraft carrier that is in the process of capsizing. Everything within Split/Second seems to be on an epic scale and gives the feel of an epic American summer block buster movie, possibly starring someone like Will Smith. Never before have I been known to shout so much during a racing game, often calling innocent bystanders to come and witness the action unfolding on screen.
Move over Burnout, Split/Second is the new king of the destructive arcade racers. An unforgettable experience.