Review: Split/Second: Velocity
Split Second: Velocity from Black Rock Studios is an attempt to freshen up the racing genre by splicing in some fast paced action centered on the environment. What is the result?
- Worth The Time?Yes, definitely.
- Things LovedThe adrenaline rush when playing, the near perfect blend between fast paced racing and exciting action, the fantastic game modes, the brilliant racing cars, multiplayer, amazing race tracks and variety in them.
- Things HatedThe sometimes cheap advantage of the CPU, the way the game eventually becomes repetitive, the fact that it's a bit shallow.
- RecommendationI definitely recommend a purchase, even more so that the game goes for cheaper than usual. That's coming from me, someone who really isn't even the racing genre's number one fan.
- Name: Split/Second - Velocity
- Genre: Racing
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: Online (2-8 players) and Offline split-screen (2 players)
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Black Rock Studios
- Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
- Price: R538-599 (PS3, Xbox360), R269-299 (PC)
- Reviewed On: PS3
Split/Second: Velocity is really a game that takes little time to describe to someone, even less to learn, but there is simply eons to spend enjoying it. In the game, Split Second is a reality TV show, one that’s all about fast paced, over the top action and racing, and you’re a driver participating in the show. That’s really all there is to the premise of the game, so it’s time to get to the awesome parts. Split Second revolves around a few things that make up the entirety of the game. The first is obviously the cars, the second are the racing tracks, because learning them and knowing the ins and outs of them is really a lot of what this game is about, and lastly is the unique “powerplay” system.
The powerplay system is what makes up the action. Basically, these are player-triggered events that interact with the environment, causing vehicles to explode, buildings to crumble, massive cranes to sweep the track, airplanes to crash, shortcuts to open – there is a ton of variety in them, all designed to annihilate your opponents or give you an advantage. There really is nothing more satisfying than causing a giant explosion, with precise timing, that trashes four cars, giving you a clear way to take first place. The crazy part is that you’re susceptible to destruction by your own powerplays, so it definitely becomes tense to get the timing right and drive properly to take out enemies and dodge both their powerplays and your own. Powerplays are activated by the tap of the button when the icon appears above an object in the environment.
The entire HUD is cleverly displayed at the back of your car, where your eyes always are, and it fits all essential information, such as your position, the laps and, of course, your powerplay meter. This meter builds up as you drift, draft, jump, perform a close call, which means dodging a powerplay that was triggered in your path, drift pass, which is to overtake an opponent while drifting and a jump pass, which is the same thing except with jumping. You can fill up a maximum of three bars at a time, and if you manage to get three bars you gain access to a level 2 powerplay, which costs all three bars to use, but triggers something enormous. Level two powerplays are so huge that they can even result in the entire racing track being altered. The great thing is that all powerplays can be dodged if you drive skillfully and carefully and know what the objects activated will do, so it’s all about skill and timing rather than luck and cheapness.
The racing tracks are both smartly and brilliantly designed. There are many to race in, and all of them make for exciting races and provide great variety. As I said, getting to know the tracks is a big deal in Split Second, because that will teach you how to dodge certain powerplays and how the track gets changed by level 2 ones. Also, it’s obviously good to know the layout of a track. It really is great how everything in Split Second matters, whether it be the racing track itself, the cars, things like drifting and drafting and even your environment. When I say “matters”, I mean they make more of a difference than you’d usually except in racing games, and all are factors that need to be taken into consideration if you want to win.
There are a number of fantastic game modes to play. There’s your usual Race, which is simply a three lap circuit, and Elimination, where the point is to stay first, because once the timer goes down the driver in last place is kicked out of the race with a big bang – literally. Then there are more unique modes, like Air Strike, where you have three lives and a helicopter bombards you with missiles. The point is to dodge them of course, and rack up points by completing each missile wave. You’ll get more points for not getting damaged in a wave and with multipliers, and the idea is to stay alive long enough to get the highest points and win or until you lose all your lives.
More interesting game modes includes Survival and Detonator. Split Second really takes what’s expected to be an ordinary game mode and crafts it into something special. Basically, in Survival, you’ll be racing, with a time limit, on a given track while a bunch of giant trucks will shower barrels on you. The blue ones slow you down and the red ones blow you up, where you’ll then respawn instantly. Getting hit by either results in losing precious seconds off the clock, while getting past trucks adds more to your time. In Detonator, you’ll drive through a track at top speed to beat the given time while powerplays are automatically activated all around you in an attempt to reduce your speed or end you. They’re all truly awesome – and I haven’t even mentioned all of the game modes.
As for your gameplay options, there is the main campaign, dubbed Season mode, there is Quick Play, to instantly jump into a race, Split Screen, which is self explanatory, Online play and Extras. The Season mode takes you through the episodes of the Split Second TV show, where you’ll take part in a variety of races in order to earn enough credits to take part in the championship race. Credits are earned based on your position, so basically coming first gets you 50 credits, second will award you with 40 and so on. In each episode there is a bonus event, which is unlocked by meeting certain criteria, such as blowing up a certain amount of cars. Furthermore, during Season mode you’ll unlock new cars to choose from and new tracks and game modes to play.
All areas of the game are extremely fun, and split-screen is definitely something to take notice of. Single player is really awesome, although unfortunately, it can’t make the game on its own, but luckily there is the multiplayer component to spend your time in. Before getting into the online mode, let’s quickly discuss Extras. In here you’ll find leaderboards, the Decals viewer, which is basically a list of your game achievements and trophies, your personal statistics, the game’s tutorial mode, access to downloadable content and the credits.
Now, here’s one problem I have with the game, although admittedly it’s understandable as to why it was made this way. See, you can’t just jump online immediately, because you’ll be killed due to your beginner cars being unable to take on the more advanced vehicles. Basically, you’ll have to play single player, and get far in it, to unlock the best cars, and only then can you consider testing your skills against other players, otherwise you’ll just get creamed. It’s unfortunate that you can’t just compete with drivers on your level, unless you create your own games and invite your own players, so you’re forced to play the main campaign, but online really is worth it and is incredibly awesome. It’s also as simple as pie to get into a game and have a blast. There is public game and private game, and the latter is simply a game that you host which only allows invited players to join. Public searches for a game and throws you inside of it as soon as possible. In the lobby you’ll get to choose your car and see other drivers’ car rankings and how they fare against your own.
What was really great for me was that I got no lag or delay when playing online, and this was just while playing random international games. It took just about a minute to get into a game and start playing, which was also very cool. The only waiting you’ll have to do is in the lobby, either while a race is getting finished, meaning you joined late or after someone quit, or while the countdown timer is going down. All in all, the online component can definitely push you to pour a lot more hours into Split Second, and it truly is every bit worth it to pick up this game for it, despite the fact that you have to play the single player campaign first – because hey, that’s also great.
Perhaps the worst things about Split Second are that it’s a bit on the shallow side and it can be quite repetitive, and these probably make up its only real flaws. The game is basically played with a few buttons, that being accelerate, break and powerplay and from there it’s just a matter of driving skillfully and enjoying the ride. However, this is a controversial point, because many, myself included, would enjoy the simplicity of the game, but it can be an issue for the more advanced racer. The simplicity of the game also makes it become repetitive after a while, but fortunately the multiplayer component and welcome variety in game modes can make this better.
Graphically, Split Second is really a treat. The cars look fantastic, the environment destruction is awesome and the tracks look great, with a neat drawing distance. There are practically no technical issues and the game runs perfectly smooth at all times. The menu can be a little jittery at times, but this is mostly caused by loading and it sorts itself out in a few moments. A flaw would be that the AI can be cheap at times, in how they maneuver their vehicles and have steady control, but you can always beat them provided you play right. They do get steadily more difficult as you progress further though. One thing to love about Split Second is the feel, sound effects and music. With all elements combined, this game sometimes feels like an action racer like no other. The music is awesome, bordering on epic at times, the sound effects add both excitement and intensity to the game and overall the game feels brilliant, both in the action and racing department, as the game plays and the cars drive like a dream.
For years now, racers haven’t done anything for me, only with the exclusion of Forza Motorsport 3 probably. Now, Split Second: Velocity has showed me exactly why I should return to the racing genre. It’s fast paced, hellishly addictive, a huge amount of fun and almost flawlessly blends action and racing together. It’s unfortunate that the game lacks depth, as more of it overall might just have resulted in something extraordinary, but as it stands, Split Second is simply amazing and is definitely worth the time, for any racing enthusiast.