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Split/Second blurs by other racers

Split/Second is one game where the demo does not do it justice. This game and Blur were released around the same time. I played both demos and Blur seemed like better game so it was there that I placed my bet. While I didn’t bet entirely on the wrong horse, Split/Second is more of what I was looking for, even if I didn’t know it.

More arcade racing please

I sung praises of Blur a while ago. It is a good game, no doubt about it. Blur is “Mario Kart with real cars”. It holds up well, looks good, and has some excellent online play. To compare Split/Second and Blur might be unfair, but both are arcade racers in their truest forms, the latter more so, however.

Split/Second takes the car battle formula to a little different place by not giving your car weapons and instead making the race track the weapon. Instead of using bullets, mines and shields to destroy your opponents, Split/Second lets you blow up buildings, bridges and helicopters in attempts to make it to the finish line first before other racers. You have to play with a different mindset, but its a challenge that I quickly fell in love with…of course, it helps that the game is presented wonderfully.

I’m a sucker for the game show theme, a la Running Man and Death Race…and Split/Second is just that, a television game show of the future. Everything about the presentation of Split/Second screams TV reality show. The colors, the music, the voice overs…and I love it. It’s not overdone and it’s not underdone – it’s handled just right. If Jerry Bruckheimer would ever make a reality game show with cars, it would look and sound like Split/Second.

It's like CSI meets arcade racing
It's like CSI meets arcade racing

A whole new type of driving chaos

Once you start racing you are challenged from the first green light. This game is fast and the tracks are complete chaos. There is a “course” in the linear sense, but staying on it is tough because it’s not outlined very well. It will take you a while to get used to how the game gives directions. It is a bit frustrating at first, but after the initial learning curve it’s wonderful to play in and very rewarding as you dodge explosions, death traps and drift around corners. Between the other AI drivers and all the environmental distractions, you’ll find yourself doing a quiet “woah” every time you narrowly miss an obstacle.

The cars in Split/Second are all fantasy cars, which is a bummer. Nothing beats driving around in real world cars, but I’ve found that fake cars really open you up to car capabilities and not just cool factor. In games that use real cars, you find yourself using whatever car you like regardless if it’s appropriate for your race. You like Ferraris? Then you’ll use the Ferrari, even if you’ll do better with a truck. Fantasy cars take out any bias which can be a good thing, especially in this game.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MK4EyNGKanE[/youtube]

I’m not sure how many race tracks there are in Split/Second but I’m not sure it matters. I have yet to really memorize any single track – probably because it changes every race…sometimes every lap. You see, the course changes as you blow up the environment. Short cuts open, short cuts close, jumps pop up, rubble blocks lanes…you really have to be on your toes. From best I can tell, there are only a few “locations” in the game, like an airport or construction site, but each course will be different every time you visit. It’s clear that each course is made up of a select number of track segments that are then arranged in a different order. You will recognize features as you’re driving, but it’s hard to commit any single course to memory.

After an entire weekend playing Split/Second, I must admit that this is game I wanted when instead I bought Blur. Blur is good and fun, but Split/Second is more my type of driving game because it’s more about straight up racing. Sure, you’re blowing stuff up trying to make others crash, but you have to focus more on just driving and avoidance than lining up the perfect shot or when to use your turbo boost. The lack of worry is what I enjoy most. Just let me drive fast and dodge hazards and I’m happy.

Who needs online play anyway?

If there’s one downside to Split/Second, it seems to be the online play. When I was able to connect and find a multiplayer game (which took some effort), the lobby, settings and actual racing are pretty lacking. It feels very much like an after thought. I’ve found that online play suffers heavily from the classic Mario Kart problem of crashing, getting dumped to the back of the pack, and then finding it near impossible to catch up. The AI in Split/Second is either less forgiving or just dumber…I dunno which but they’re a lot more fun.

A great bargain

So if the demo of Split/Second didn’t sell me, why did I buy it? Simple enough, it was on sale. I saw on Twitter that Best Buy had it on sale for $20 and even I couldn’t pass that up. The demo couldn’t sell me a $60 game, but it certainly sold me on a $20 game. However, now owning and playing both, it should have been the other way around.