When Black Rock Studios signed to Disney and produced one of the best off-road racing experiences in this console generation, people sat up and took notice. Disney? Black Rock? Seemingly out of nowhere they produced some beautiful screenshots of a game called Pure, and people scoffed thinking that the game couldn’t possibly match up to those sumptuous visuals.
Luckily it did, and though I found Pure a bit too reliant on performing tricks to get boost, it was a game worthy of a place in anyone’s collection.
Black Rock have moved back onto the tarmac with their next racing game, the annoyingly titled Split/Second (anyone who taps reviews into a CMS and has to escape every slash is probably cursing the developers for naming it thus).
A bit of a wow at last year’s various gaming expos, Split Second has now been demoed on the Xbox 360 so here are a few impressions.
• The sunlit visuals. Some really nice car models, superb environment graphics and plenty of excellent cinematic special effects to keep the whole thing looking and feeling realistic.
• Great choice of demo track – the airport track is destined to become a fan favourite online and off, with a tricky couple of routes, shortcuts and some great possibilities for quite literally bringing the house down on your opponents.
• Good sense of speed. The whole thing thrashes along at eye-blistering speed. It compares superbly with Burnout Revenge (the last Burnout game that truly gave the player a sense that they were going way too fast for their abilities to keep up with!) and doesn’t drop a frame when things get busy (certainly not in the demo at least).
• Simple “specials” controls and deployment. It’s very easy to trigger events and catastrophes once you’ve built up your power gauge by performing tricky manoeuvres. This element of the game feels slightly easier to attain than some of the boost-trick stuff in Pure.
• AI prone to mistakes. During the course of a few rounds with the demo the AI does seem to demonstrate as much numpty-thumbedness as a human player would. The AI opponents also seem to switch routes and trigger events in different patterns every race.
• Multiple routes opening up as more chaos ensued. Suddenly the track you started the race on is gone, and all the routes have changed. A good way of keeping you on your toes.
• The stunning demo reel at the end of the game showing off the other environments and just how much destruction you can cause.
• The lack of a handbrake button. Though it’s not exactly a deal breaker, it feels like an odd omission, and sometimes using the standard brake to trigger a cornering drift stopped me dead in my tracks or span me round.
• The camera shake. It’s realistic, but I dearly hope there’s the option to switch it off in the full game.
• No real car damage modelling until you’re wrecked. Slam into an opponent or a wall, the car doesn’t seem to suffer but they do explode / wreck quite nicely when you drop an airport control tower or petrol station on them.
• Lack of Anti Aliasing on cars. They do have a tendency to look a little blocky but if this means a stable framerate with no tearing, it’s probably the better option.
The demo is pretty short, just a few laps of the Airport track – but it’s definitely possible to get a good feel for how the game will work. Black Rock Studios are boasting 80 challenges split across 12 separate “areas”, with a whole host of unlockable vehicles so there’s more than enough variety to keep things interesting.
Reminiscent of a cross between Sega’s classic arcade game Scud Racer and definitely tipping a cap in the right direction of the better Burnout games, Split/Second ends the drought of driving games this year with a frenetic burst of action. Keep an eye out for the game, which should hit the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on the 21st May.