GDC 2009: Split/Second First Look

Destruction awaits at our fingertips in Black Rock Studio's latest arcade racer.

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Let's face it, reality shows are part of our culture now whether we like it or not. Black Rock Studio, the development team behind Pure, uses the reality-TV setting to create a large-scale playground for your car to plow through and blow stuff up. We met with publisher Disney Interactive to get an early look at what appears to be a fun and hectic arcade racer that will appeal to anyone who likes watching and participating in the destruction of well-put-together architecture. The demo that we saw was still unfinished, but we liked what we saw because it's flashy and chaotic, and being able to bring down an entire airport terminal on your opponents is awesome.

Anything goes in this reality-TV-based racer.
Anything goes in this reality-TV-based racer.

The goal of the game is to become the season champion by winning each race and beating out your opponents in style. Because you're cruising through a made-for-TV city--in our case an airport--the track is rigged with explosives that you can activate as long as you've built up your power bar. Solid driving skills will help you build up your bar, so drifting, drafting, jumping, and narrowly avoiding a catastrophe all count. Triggered events range from manhole-cover explosions to car explosions, jackhammer malfunctions, and entire buildings coming down in a shower of debris. When your timing is perfect, you can take out opponents in front or behind, and you'll know when you've succeeded when you see an over-the-top but fantastic Burnout-like wreck sequence.

The HUD elements are still in the works, so right now all the information you need is on your back bumper. Your power bar is split into three segments, so after you've built up enough of your bar, blue indicators on the track will let you know that an event is coming up and you have only a small window of time to decide whether you want to trigger that explosion or save your meter for a more destructive event. When your bar is completely full, red indicators on the track will appear to let you know that you can cause a strong-enough explosion to completely alter the course, creating shortcuts.

In our demo we saw an entire terminal demolished before our eyes, which the presenter then used as an alternate route to continue with the race. Another sequence had a full-sized commercial airliner coming down fast and straight toward us. We were told that the opponent had activated the control tower event, which was about to bring the plane down on us unless we got out of the way. It was a little disconcerting to be driving down a runway directly into a plane that's about to crash, but we missed the disaster and made a mental note to avoid the wreckage on the next lap. With plenty of activation points on the track, there seems to be a healthy amount of chaos that can be caused throughout the race. Smaller car-stopping obstacles (like a jackhammer) will reset by the time you make it to the next lap, so with careful timing and strategy it can be an episode to remember.

Give people what they want. More explosions!
Give people what they want. More explosions!

We were able to see only this one track and mode, but the game looks promising. We were told that there will be a variety of city dwellings for you to race through and destroy, but details about tracks are still being kept under wraps. To give the game a Hollywood blockbuster feel, each race is set up with an episode teaser, which consist of storyboards for now, but the final product should be interesting because of this TV-show setup. We'll update more about Split/Second as soon as the information becomes available. The game is currently set to be released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC in early 2010.

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