April 27, 2010

Demo Report – Split / Second

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 9:27 am

Split/Second Demo
So I was more than a little disappointed that the demo for Split/Second only offers up a single-player track – three laps around the airport is all I’ve got to work with here. And let me state the obvious – this makes absolutely no sense, specifically with the goal of “selling the game” via the demo. I’m not handing anything over to Activision’s Blur, but I know plenty of people switched their interest off in the absence of a comparative multiplayer glimpse into Split/Second.

Split/Second is scheduled to release on May 18, only one week ahead of Blur on May 25 – which has had a multiplayer demo hit the press and gamers weeks ago. It’s not impossible to imagine some racing fanatics buying both, but economics makes it one or the other in my world – where the x-factor in making that decision involves how much fun it becomes wrecking my friends online and reveling in that jerk factor. A little bit of mystery is the spice of life, but I can’t help feeling that Split/Second threw in the towel in the fight for more attention.

Again, I’m not handing anything over to Blur just yet. I still prefer what Split/Second has to offer in its approach, a game focused entirely on racing across exploding tracks, with players earning power-play attacks by drifting, drafting, and jumping, rather than tedious item management. The trick often becomes using power-plays without destroying yourself, and there’s plenty of “oh-so-satisfying” moments in wrecking an opponent and watching their auto corpse spin in the air and over your head.

And while I only have that one track to work with, a few dozen laps last night has helped shape some talking points for how the game feels so far.

Split/Second Demo
The track is the focus of personality here, with the cars serving more as vessels for navigating a course that can change with the destruction, and hides secret pathways through the twists and turns – the turns meant to feed the drift charging opportunities needed to blow the track apart and pile up the wreckage. The result is a race where the attention shifts away from a direct focus on other cars around you since attacks are disrupting the environment and not simply shoving a projectile up your tailpipe. It’s reasonably clear from a video at the end of the demo, which shows a large barrel dropping semi-truck, that players are fighting the environment to win the race – opponents simply make your life harder by pressing the detonation buttons.

As good as all this looks, the track here did feel spotty at times.

One minute I’m able to dodge exploding buses and falling buildings, even driving through a building as it explodes – and loving every second of it. And yet at other times it feels like banking and tapping into a corner lightly, or having another car strike my side on a turn wrecked my ride a little too easily.

The car feels a little heavier than I expected, and it’s hard not to compare it to Blur, which offers a drift that comes across the tires with more energy.

Split/Second has a very Hot Wheels racing vibe with the emphasis really off of the cars, leaving no real sense of speed. Part of this certainly owes to the minimalist HUD, which I like quite a bit, but which also leaves me uncertain as to just how hard I’ve braked into a drift at times – though this could stand to be a sense I develop more over time.

I’d like to say the drifting is great in the chances there are for it and the drive to build points through using it, but the weight of it, that sense of your tires really pushing or pulling forward as you hammer the gas to come out of it, feels slightly off.

Plenty of my more enthusiastic words are going to depend on the emphasis of the multiplayer. Are we just racing and exploding one another to start a few seconds back within a race that largely remains anyone’s to win? This taste of the single-player hasn’t given me a clear sense of how drifting and speed opens a larger lead – it’s fine fighting it out with the pack, but then I wonder if elimination could be a focus for multiplayer?

Unfortunately I’ve got more questions than answers coming out of this narrow demo. I’m still pulling for the game to hit a new racing sweet spot, but you don’t need a degree in marketing to reason it unwise leaving any doubts like this with so many titles cluttering the shelves. Crossing the finish line on this sampling of the game still leaves Split/Second with plenty to prove.


  1. Is demo this out only on 360?

    Comment by Gold Panda — April 28, 2010 @ 11:02 am

  2. I’m under the impression that the PS3 will get the demo, but not until May 11th :/

    Comment by Jamie Love — April 28, 2010 @ 11:18 am

  3. Just played the demo, pretty groovy indeed, reminds me a lot of Burnout but with Wipeout/Mario Kart type power-ups. Looks really good, is this by the same people that made Pure for Disney? I don’t play racing games that much, but once it hits a cheaper price, I’ll definitely be picking this up.

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — May 3, 2010 @ 8:49 pm

  4. Yup they did Pure, couple of Moto GP’s too I think. Did you bring down a building with the full charge?

    Comment by Jamie Love — May 4, 2010 @ 8:40 am

  5. Hrmmm… I don’t think so. I think I kept hitting the Power Play 1 (?) button. :) I’ll have to play it a few more times and check it out. I did finish first however on my one and only race.

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — May 4, 2010 @ 11:37 am

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