Monday, June 7, 2010

Review: Split/Second: Velocity

One of the surprises at last years E3 was Disney Interactive's Split/Second Velocity developed by Black Rock Studios. A highly cinematic and Michael Bay-esque racer in which you can alter the entire course by blowing stuff up. The concept was there, and it does sound like something truly unique and fun, but does it go all the way?


SPLIT/SECOND VELOCITY
Developed by Black Rock Studios
Published by Disney Interactive
Platform: 360, PS3, PC-DVD (Reviewed on 360)

Let's cut to the chase immediately by talking about Split/Second's visuals. This game looks amazing, it's one of the most well detailed racing titles I've seen that still manages to take a artistic freedom to the presentation. The yellow tones and strong mixes of colours blend together great and creates a very fun and pleasing to look at game. The HUD in the game is also great, being small and simple but still informative and fitting within the style and sometimes when you're close to an explosion you'll get dirt and stuff that stick to the screen for a little while, which both looks and feels great. But it's not without flaws, the game is built on Unreal Engine 3.0 and is probably the best looking game on that engine so far, but this also means that the classic slow loading textures are present and will annoy some people when they begin playing a race. Also, a few graphical glitches are unfortunately present such as the road disappearing for half a second while driving or that the motion blur won't blur the last centimetres of the screen causing some annoyance while reaching top-speed. Aside from that however, the graphics are truly something worth looking at.


Something of a more minor detail would be the audio. The music in the game is pretty damn good and keeps the excitement going when you play and along with that are some astonishing sound effects from the cars and explosions. Speaking of explosions, this game has a lot of them and they feel great. The adrenaline-pumping Hollywood style builds up an amazing atmosphere to go with the fake reality show that Split/Second takes place in and it's clear that they want to separate themselves from reality as every car in the game is made up by Black Rock Studios but built in a realistic way to make the player feel at home while playing the game. Although that's probably an afterthought considering you won't pay attention to those things when you have a jet plane crashing down on you or a helicopter bombarding you with missiles. Finally I'll mention the games camera which is constantly in movement. When it follows you it will shake mildly and increase whenever something happens, if you blow something up big time it'll highlight it and might even offer you a replay of it in a cool cinematic angle. All in all, the game has an amazing atmosphere.


Split/Second follows a unique style of gameplay in which you must drift, jump and draft with your car in order to fill up your power play meter. When you fill it up to either level 1 or level 2 you'll be able to unleash effects to take down your opponents or change the course of the stage to your own winning. To be able to do this you must be in the right place at the right time, for example, if you have a level 1 power play and one of your rivals are on a bridge you can activate your level 1 power play and ram a boat into that bridge killing your rival. With a level 2 power play however, you can do even more devastating things such as taking out a air plane controller tower forcing a plane to crash altering the entire second portion of the stage you're racing on. All in the name of winning However, something that makes Split/Second interesting aside from all of that is that it's also a solid racing game even if you remove all the power plays. It has some great variety in both cars and courses and the controls themselves feels pretty spot on. While not perfect, I can guarantee that you won't have trouble controlling your car in Split/Second.


But no racing game is complete without different game modes. Split/Second feature six different modes including the normal race mode along with some truly fun modes like devastator and air strike. This helps in keeping the game from getting stale while playing. The main "season" mode of the game feature 12 episodes all of which takes about half an hour or more to finish clocking in to about seven or eight hours of game time, and then there are bonus challenges and a bunch of decals to unlock through completing achievements. Speaking of achievements (or trophies) there are 46 of them, a lot of them are secret and a lot of them are fun challenges that you'll strive to achieve. Which of course is nice as there's nothing more depressing then a boring achievement list to a great game. All in all, I must say that I'm glad I played Split/Second, as I can finally say that the Burnout franchise finally has a proper competitor in its explosive style of racing and I can't wait to see how Criterion Games tackle this game with the next Burnout game, whenever it comes. Perhaps at E3? Contestants ready? Three, Two, One... Go!

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