Behold the new king of the road.
Preview by Aaron Drewniak (Email)
June 9th 2009
So it was the final day of E3 back to its former glory. The crowds that plagued the first two days were gone, leaving only a smattering of reporters, presenters, and other diehards. I was just waiting for Chris when I dropped into a chair before Black Rock Studio's newest racer, Split/Second With the big screen that close to my face, I was a little awed how the graphics, so fancy from a distance, didn't fall apart under close scrutiny, like those of so many other games at the show. The gritty gravel textures, the harsh light throwing thick shadows on the course, the clouds of dust kicked up from an explosion, and the fire . . . it made Burnout Paradise look like a fossil, even with the framerate at a mostly steady 30 FPS.
Playing Split/Second was like injecting uncut joy directly into my veins.
Then I picked up the controller. Playing was like injecting uncut joy directly into my veins. Handling is perfect with the 360 pad, responding to the slightest of adjustments in speed and pitch as I tore around the track. There was this nice, solid "clunk" feeling to the vehicle, completely absent in so many racers, including Bizarre Creation's newest, Blur. It really makes you feel like you're riding around in a few tons of steel, punching its way through the not-so-still air.
The "gimmicks" of Split/Second are the tracks littered with disasters waiting to be set off by the push of a button. There's nothing better than seeing a car zip past you and end up a burning wreck when an explosive barrel is dropped from above. Or making a shortcut by taking out an entire bridge in a tremendous explosion of fire and smoke that shakes the very screen. Of course, your rivals are just waiting for the chance to do the same to you, but there's always a fighting chance to avoid disaster and return the favor.
The plot is something about reality TV racing with big risk and even bigger prizes, but with a core gameplay this good, the extraneous details almost don't matter. Black Rock's previous racer, Pure, had a great start, but it became repetitive and ultimately disappointing because it was a little lacking at the basic level. Split/Second already feels endlessly replayable, but it'll be a long wait to find out for sure, since it doesn't hit until early 2010.