Very simple arcade game with major design flaws. Leaves you in frustration rather than fun. Get Burnout instead.
But first, we'll start with some of the positives:
The graphics are nice if you own a very powerful machine. There are no options to fine tune the settings; they are either set on low, med, high or very high. The only difference between high and very high seems to be AA. But be warned, on not-to-date PCs, this game's fps will be in the teens (not acceptable for an arcade racer). And if you turn the graphics to high or below, everything looks terrible. This game only looks good on "very high." I ran it with this setting at 1920x1200 and the average fps was around 45 (still pretty low considering I can get butter smooth 60+fps on Grid, NFS Shift, Burnout Paradise, Dirt 2, etc. at the same resolution and maxed out settings). Perhaps the graphics can be fine tuned via the .ini file? (not confirmed)
All the tracks look nice; but again, only if you have a powerful machine. Otherwise it'll be swimming pixel world.
The menu system is simple and similar to how PURE was setup. It's very console like, but that's not a bad thing. The game automatically recognized my Logitech gamepad, but I didn't test it with my G25 (I've heard it doesn't support it). But in any case, I usually play arcade racers with gamepads anyways so I didn't care. The sounds and music sounded great with a nice "I'm at the arcade" feel.
Ok, now to the not so great stuff:
The biggest problem is the power up system. You gain points by doing drifts, drafts and jumps. However, you can only use them if you are behind other cars! And what's worse, there are no ways to avoid being targeted by the AI or other players when you are in the lead. The result: you take the lead, and suddenly out of no where an explosion takes you out; and there's nothing you can do about it. First off, why can't we use power-ups when you're in the lead? I mean even the first Mario Kart allowed you to drop oil slicks and bananas on you competition when you're in the lead (which made for awesome gameplay and tactics). This is a major oversight by the developers. Secondly, if the game doesn't allow you to use power-ups when you're in the lead, then at least give me the option to convert the power-ups to defense systems such as shields, invincibilities or speed boosts. As it stands now, being in the first position is the last thing you want to do since everyone behind you has a very easy way to take you out. I also noticed the AI doesn't use their power-ups on you unless you are in 1st. Thus when playing with the AI, I found a very simple tactic. Just stay in second place and hold off on your power-ups. On the last lap and before you reach the finish line, start using up all your power-ups. This is fun for the first 30min of the game, then it just gets super boring.
While the track design over-all is nice, some of the turns can be very hard to see. This is not a problem once you memorize the track however. The car handling is beyond arcade. The cars are glued to the track and it's virtually impossible to not stay on the road. Hitting side walls or obstacles broadside won't cause any crashes either. You only crash if you hit stuff head-on. The AI cars are also glued to the road. You can't knock them off-track or bump them into fatal crashes. This again is a major design flaw.
Over-all, this game is just too simple; even for an arcade racer. Games such as Burnout, Flatout, or even FUEL (fuel has no combat) offer way more play value. This game feels more like a budget production made in Eastern Europe (reminded me of Crash Time or something). It'll probably appeal to the younger console players with its flashing colors and explosions. Gameplay wise, expect more frustration than fun.
If you are looking for an action arcade game, try out the games I mentioned above first. I've already uninstalled this game to make room for others.
As it stands now, Split Second doesn't match up with its competitions. Even the developer's first game, PURE, is much better in comparison.