Split/Second Hands-On

We've seen the future of arcade racing and it involves things blowing up. Many, many things blowing up.

The current talking point in racing-game circles is whether merely racing is enough. Turn apexes, ideal racing lines, and the general craft of driving skillfully, it seems, aren't enough to keep the casual crowd happy, and now game developers are struggling to figure out how the arcade racing genre can evolve to keep bringing new fans to the consoles. Lately, we've seen more than a few racing-game experiments looking for answers, but one that certainly has our attention is the upcoming Split/Second, which we had a chance to try today during a Disney Interactive press event.

Developed by Black Rock Studio, Split/Second is as arcade a racer as they come. Cars rip around tracks at ludicrous speeds, with only the slightest requirements of brake usage. Rail riding is a perfectly valid tactic, even if it does scrub speed off of your car as you go, and real wrecks come only with the most dramatic of collisions. However, what sets the game apart from every other arcade racer we've played before is the sheer amount of mayhem that you can create in this game thanks to the so-called "powerplay" system.

As you whip around in your car, you'll gradually fill up your power meter (indicated by a colored meter beneath your car). With enough power built up, you can set off powerplays by pressing the A or B button at the precise moment. Smaller powerplay moments (executed with the A button) will result in minor catastrophes on the track; for example, a bus that was previously inert at the side of the road will all of a sudden explode and shoot out into the middle of the road, taking any cars out in the process. Likewise, a helicopter might drop an exploding barrel in the road, wrecking any cars caught in the explosion.

If you fill up your boost meter completely and subsequently press the B button at the right time, you'll execute an absolutely cataclysmic powerplay that will have major repercussions on your opponents and the very track itself. Consider the airport-themed track shown off in the game demo. At various points on the track, executing a "major" powerplay will do anything from topple a control tower to blow up an entire terminal, or send a jumbo jet hurtling down the runway in a crash landing aimed directly for your car.

All of this mass chaos is explained away in the game's narrative, which finds you driving through the sets of a series of action-themed television shows. These scenes of destruction aren't happening in the "real" world of the game, but that doesn't take away from their impact. During our first few laps in Split/Second, we continuously saw destructive havoc that had us smiling from ear to ear. As cool as the powerplay moments look, they're also effective for taking out opponents. That said, they're just as dangerous as they are useful. As you get used to the track, you'll find the best spots to use powerplays to cause the most damage both to the surroundings and your opponents, while also making sure to leave yourself in the clear to make up some race positions.

Graphically, Split/Second is running off of a modified version of the engine behind 2008's Pure (another Black Rock Studio creation). The game's frame rate, even at this early stage, is holding together remarkably well, considering the volume of destruction displayed onscreen. The explosions are big and fiery, and the crumbling dust effects when buildings topple are dramatic. In some moments, these effects are almost too much; it's easy to lose your way in all of the chaos and get caught in a crash. Producers told us that they're aiming for 30 frames per second when the game ships next year, and they aren't that far off the mark now.

Currently the game supports only eight cars on the track in a race--a number that we wouldn't mind seeing bumped up at some point--but if our hands-on time is any indication, the racing will be tight from back to front. We had several moments in which we found ourselves in front of the pack, only to get the business end of a powerplay moment and become an instant back-marker. And given that the game's tracks are always changing thanks to the destructive powerplays, you can expect new shortcuts to frequently open up.

Will Split/Second pick up the mantle from 2009's Burnout Paradise as the arcade racer of choice? That depends on several factors: track variety, the frequency and variety of powerplay moments found in the game, and the driving model itself. If Black Rock Studios can nail all of these things and toss in some compelling online modes to boot, Split/Second has a real shot at shaking up the arcade racing genre. The game is currently due for release in early 2010, and we'll be following its progress all the way to the finish line. Look for more coverage on the game during GameSpot's coverage of E3 2009.

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Discussion

48 comments
deathcell731
deathcell731

another!!!wow come up with something new please!

Un4givingAsault
Un4givingAsault

gamespot should have a conclusion or articles main points for lazy people like me

svendepino
svendepino

@webbut That's just like L4D, only 4 characters.

webbut
webbut

I was into it untill i saw 8 cars... all that mayhem would be a waste in a setting of only 8 cars

metal_gear4
metal_gear4

I think the game will be good that I read so far.

Vlad27145
Vlad27145

I like the sound of everything! ... Except 30 fps. For a racing game isn't that a bit too low?

ruzgold
ruzgold

This sounds very interesting! I'm definately going to be keeping my eyes out for this title. Might be a jump from GRID to Split/Second mind you. Powerplays sound brilliant, breath of fresh air into racing games (as good some are already). I remember a quote from a certain somebody.. "When in doubt... explosives!" lol

UnreaLuigi
UnreaLuigi

sounds interesting, ill keep my eyes peeled, but for now i have my eyes set on dirt 2 and how good thats lookin

BradHummr
BradHummr

I just finished Pure a week ago and now I'm reading that the same devloper that made that excellent game is creating this? Can't wait. :D

vufor
vufor

Sounds really fantastic game!

dragonfly110
dragonfly110

hmm, this seems vaguly interesting, Ill keep my eye out for this one.

Aero_X360
Aero_X360

Looks like Disney is finally maturing.

DevilUchiha2
DevilUchiha2

Racing,cool!!!Is this release date true???

angry_girlgamer
angry_girlgamer

Mmm splitscreen sounds good, but unlikely probably due to the amount of action on-screen.

IdahoStud
IdahoStud

I can't help but think of Mario Kart....how strange...

OGKNav
OGKNav

Rubberband racing, here we come.

danielcliment
danielcliment

SoetSout, totally agree with you man... why on earth they think playing with your friends on the SAME place is not worth it any more!?!?!? is sooo much fun than playing "alone" on line, c´mon! do split screen!!!! is like CoD MW! why not split screen!!!!!???

SoetSout
SoetSout

if they want to be top of the racing board they should just add a little thing SPLIT SCREEN ************** it makes me so mad that les and less games comes with multiplayer capabilitys. they only want you to play online. im not saying online is bad, its just that playing with a friend is just WAY beter

josiah4972
josiah4972

Il keep an eye on this, looks intresting

ksa_187
ksa_187

i cant wait this game looks good

konradak
konradak

I wana try the demo to this, it really sounds interesting.

oneofthefall
oneofthefall

Sounds interesting yes, but will there be a Cockpit view for the Hardcore Gamers? if theres a cockpit view im sold... simple lol

twistarhymes48
twistarhymes48

game still kinda reminds me of Nascar Rumble. but better

SlashDementia3
SlashDementia3

Right now, this is the game I'm looking forward to the most in 2010.

zeus_gb
zeus_gb

Can't wait to play the demo.

UFO2012
UFO2012

Looking forward to this!

thejoker727
thejoker727

this game looks AWESOME. following in the burning footsteps of burnout revenge. man i love that game.

Drumtasticnick
Drumtasticnick

If they can blend the 'Everything can be blown up' element of Red Faction with the 'Oh My God, my eyes are bleeding' element of the Burnout series...then we may be onto a winner here.

Xzakuter
Xzakuter

Sounds good. Worth a try. =]

Skat137321
Skat137321

The cars in the game kinda reminds me of Motorhead

sigerzx
sigerzx

can't wait, loved Pure and think this will be awesome!

bennae66
bennae66

looks cool but any kind of racer just doesnt do it for me. this is the kind of game i would borrow off a mate after he is done with it. i say again tho, it does look cool.

VJrus
VJrus

see now...this sounds like its going to follow the 'traditional' roots of arcade racing, as in, pre-determined races and tracks rather than the open world scenario and I think its a good good thing. I mean burnout paradise was good and all, but I preferred previous burnout titles like revenge, dominator and take-down. So looks like this game is gonna be on my wish list then !!

Pete5506
Pete5506

sounds cool, cant wait to see more

Xions-Fursy
Xions-Fursy

Burnout Paradise is the only racing/car game I've ever enjoyed, outside of the mario kart series, which is only fun to me when i'm playing with other people. So more games with a similar premise is a step in the right direction to me.

raahsnavj
raahsnavj

If I don't have to drive around looking for a race or go switch my car (by driving to a junk yard and back) to do a burning lap this game already beats out Burnout PC by a VERY large margin. I'm fine with open world if the developers also make a menu system so people that want to get to the point don't have to waste their time.

CrimsonFlagg
CrimsonFlagg

I really don't understand why people consider Burnout Paradise as "the arcade racer of choice". There are plenty of better arcade racers out there.

alkaline_DnB
alkaline_DnB

the pics look great. I gotta see this thing in action.

PixelHunter
PixelHunter

I'm looking forward to this game. And with Split/Second upping the ante on destruction, you gotta wonder what the next Burnout will be like.

mrcookie44
mrcookie44

Awesome :D I'm really looking forward to blow up an airport ;p

newb16
newb16

The Burnout series is very good, but this new action/racing series split second will be even better from the looks of it all.