Black Rock Studios released Pure at the end of last year, and it certainly hit the mark with extreme sports and racing enthusiasts alike. Its follow-up is Split/Second, an arcade racing game in which environmental attacks or "power plays" form an important part of the action. We got to see a brand-new environment behind closed doors at E3 2009 this year, as well as play the airport level that was revealed a couple of months ago.
Split/Second's USP is the environmental damage system, which lets you take out competitors by using dynamic aspects of the surroundings. For example, on the docks level that we saw, you can cause cranes to pull cargo pallets across the track, forcing other people to crash or take evasive maneuvers to avoid them. You do this by building up the power-play bar displayed underneath your vehicle, mainly by performing drifts, going over jumps, and driving well. When you're in the vicinity of other racers, you can trigger these explosive events by pressing the button that appears onscreen, but you can also use them to open up new areas or create shortcuts.
There's no doubt that Split/Second looks the part, with explosions that look particularly impressive in motion. Nick Baynes, the game's director, told us that he wanted to use the Call of Duty series as a benchmark for the explosions in the game, given that they're not something you usually see in the racing genre. Another trademark of the visual presentation is the lack of an onscreen heads-up display, with your power-play bar actually appearing underneath the car itself. There will also be a subtle glow around environmental hazards, so you should be able to spot them before someone else uses them on you. That said, learning the tracks will naturally be a benefit, which we discovered when we played the game on the show floor.
Split/Second is shaping up really well, and with Bizarre Creations' Blur on the horizon, this is one game that's going to have some healthy competition on release. It's currently penciled in for the early part of 2010, and we hope to bring you more on the game in the run-up to release.