Thursday, April 29, 2010


I had a bit of room left in my cap for the month (okay, those of you in first world countries can stop laughing now), and I saw that a demo for Split/Second had been released onto Xbox Live. I mentioned Split/Second in my entry on how I was pretty unexcited about most of the releases due for the rest of the year, but I thought it was worth checking out.

Developed by Blackrock Studios, the company behind quad-bike racer Pure, the premise of Split/Second is that you compete in a futuristic television show, where contestants race around a track rigged with explosives. Filling your power bar by drifting, jumping or slipstreaming other cars allows you to trigger explosive power-plays, which can be range from small explosions to take out opponents to massive events which reshape an entire portion of the track.

The HUD is attached to the back of the car, so you can still see it when the speed blur gives you tunnel vision

One of the things which got me interested in the game in the first place was that it seemed to capture some of the spirit of the early Burnout games, and that spirit is very evident in the demo. It has the same manic energy to it, the screen almost constantly in speed-blur, bits of debris flying at the camera as you hurtle around the track. Most importantly, the "holy crap" factor is very high, as you dodge explosions and wreckage, and some of the power plays are enough to make you duck or lean on the couch to try and avoid them (notable ones on the demo's airport terminal track involve an air-traffic control tower falling into the track, and a plane crash-landing onto a runway which you are racing down at the time).

With only one car, one track and three laps, the demo seems quite light, and without upgrades or even needing to brake for corners, the full game might lack depth compared to, say, the heavyweight auto fetishism of Forza 3, but I don't really mind. In some ways it is not-unwelcome throwback to the days when games were just about the thrill of the action, before RPG progression wormed its way into every genre. Besides, longevity is hardly the top of my list of attributes I want a game to have nowadays.

So I'm definitely going to buy the game... when I can import it for £20. That seems quite harsh on a game which I think looks pretty good, but it seems like it will discount fairly quickly, and I'm currently not seeing the point of paying full price for a game I probably won't even get to play before the price drops anyway. Split/Second is out on the 21st of May.

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