Arcade racing at it's very best!
Do arcade racers need a story? Well not really but thankfully this one does not get in the way. The premise is that you are a constest in a reality tv show where the object is to take part in races within a specially designed "city". You drift/draft and jump your way to filling the power bars and then let rip. Unlike in Ridge Racer where the bars offer you boost, in Split/Second the bars offer you insane explosions. All round the 11 race tracks are "explosion points" and as your rivals drive past you can trigger these explosions to wreck your rivals and help you to victory. There are 2 levels of expolsion, blue and red. Blue requires 1 bar and red requires all 3. Red ones, as you might imagine, are much more significant and have a much larger impact on the surrounding environment. Red ones can also be used to trigger route changes and it is possible to have the route change on every lap of a race. If you catch your rivals in a route change it also wrecks them.
There are 12 "episodes" and in each episopde there are 4 races plus a locked bonus race and a locked elite race. Earning credits in the 4 races unloacks the elite race and finishing in the top 3 of the elite race unlocks the next episode. To unlock the bonus event there is a target of how many rivals to wreck in total within that episode. You can replay the races as often as needed to reach this target. Finish the 12th elite race to finish the season in the top 3 to "beat" the game although there are many other trophies to get after that.
The credits earned for completing the races also unlock better cars. Cars have 4 characteristics Speed, Acceleration, Drift and Strength and I think the only one to explain is strength - basically how well it rides the shockwaves of the explosions! Picking the right car for the race can be important!
Race - a 2 or 3 lap race where the objective is to finish first.
Detonator - Basically a time trial where you are alone on track and the explosions trigger automatically. It is the same subset of explosions each time so unfortanutely it is just a case of learning which ones are triggered but a fun mode none the less. Preset target times are given.
Survival - Earn points by overtaking big rigs on relatively simple tracks that don't appear anywhere else in the game. Earn point multipliers for 3 cleans passes in a row. Preset points target to reach. Oh yeah, the big rigs drop red and blue barrels off the back. Red ones wreck you ( and lose the multiplier ) and blue ones slow you down. There is a timer and each pass adds more time - once the clock runs out its sudden death - pass as many more as you can until the next time you wreck! This mode is great fun and can also be played split screen and on-line
Air-Strike - You race alone round the track and a helicopter fires missiles into the ground around you. Avoid them all to score points and a bonus for completely clean waves. Clean waves also give you point multipliers and the aim is to reach a target score as quickly as possible. Pre-set times are there to beat.
Air-Revenge - Same as air strike accpet that instead of points you earn your power bars for dodging the missiles - once your bar is full you can deflect the missiles back at the helipcopter! Bring the helicopter down within the set times to win. Saving up for a red power bar does more damage to the helicopter!
Elimination - 8 cars on the track after a minute the last one is eliminated and every 20 seconds after that. The rules for earning power and triggering explosions are the same as in race mode so wreck your rivals to get to the front and stay there!
All of these events appear in the various episodes of the game and all can be played in Quick Play modes as well. Split screen is available for 2 players for race, elimination and survival modes and this is fun with a friend ( or in my case my son! )
On-line - probably the weakest part of the game. The same modes as are available in split screen are available here and you can choose to play public ( anyone can join and track selection is random ) or private where the host is in control. 8 players can compete together and once in a race it is a lot of fun however the lobby system is a bit glitchy and it can be frustrating finding a race in the first place and equally I've had it crash on me post race while returning to the lobby that required me to restart my PS3. This has happened more than once although not so much recently so maybe they have stabalised the servers a bit!
On-line you start with a ranking of 99 and finishing in the top half of a race increases your score and in the bottom half decreases again. Trophies are available for hitting 75, 25, and 1 ( bronze, silver and gold respectively and on a personal note finally got my gold one this evening!! )
Overall then this a great aracade racer that brings something new to the genre and is adicitve to say the least. I for one am looking forward to Split/Second 2 already!!