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 Split/Second: Velocity

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Posts : 173
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Join date : 2010-07-16
Age : 23
Location : Nasik

PostSubject: Split/Second: Velocity   Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:04 pm


PLATFORM PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Games are constantly evolving and developers are redefining genres to appeal to an ever-growing audience with a diminishing attention span. For example, almost all shooters now feature deep and reward-based multiplayer components to keep players coming back. In all of this, the racing genre seems to have remained somewhat stagnant. However, a slew of new racing games are aiming to change that, and Split/Second: Velocity from Blackrock Studios, the guys behind ATV racer Pure, are at the forefront of this change.

Split/Second is best described as an arcade combat racer, although you won’t see power ups and weapons for your car to use. Instead, the game relies on powerplays in the form of triggerable environmental destruction to help the player tilt the race in his/her favor. The main game mode is the career, which is designed like one season of a reality TV show. This season comprises 12 components, or episodes, each with six events. So with 72 events, the career is reasonably long. Events are of six types, namely Race – lapped races against the AI, Eliminator – where the last placed car is eliminated at regular intervals, Survival – where you must overtake trucks that drop exploding barrels in your path, Dominator – a time trial where the environment is your enemy, Air Attack – you against a chopper that launches missiles onto the track, and Air Revenge – where you can deflect missiles back to the chopper to blow it out of the sky.

You won’t find real world cars in Split/Second. Instead, the cars here look more like Matchbox scale cars with their large tires and low profile. Vehicle handling isn’t as easy as, say, a Burnout, but it’s still very arcadey and responsive, thereby allowing you to pay attention to the environment around you rather than worrying about negotiating the next corner. Vehicles fall under three categories – sports, muscle, and SUV. Each category excels in certain driving attributes, so you’ll need to pick your car depending on the event type.

The standout feature, and one that is fairly unique to this game, is the powerplays. Various areas on and around the track, be it structures like walls and bridges or buses and petrol stations, are rigged to blow. Driving skillfully, namely drifting, drafting and jumps, fills up your powerplay meter, which is divided into three parts. Fill up one or two parts, and you will earn the ability to trigger level 1 powerplays. When you have a powerplay available, a powerplay icon shows up over enemy cars when they are in the vicinity of a powerplay attack. Time it right and you can take out one or more enemies to gain an advantage. Level 1 powerplays are also used to open up short cuts.

Level 2 powerplays are only available when you fill up all three parts of the powerplay meter. Each track only has two level 2 powerplays, but the destructive power and scale of these powerplays is astonishing. Level 2 powerplays can either cause widespread devastation and take out multiple enemies, or drastically alter the layout of the track. Imagine having the ability to make a massive commercial jet plane crash land onto the track with parts coming loose and flying across the track as cars approach it head-on. Level 2 powerplays are game changers. The first time you see one happening before you, it’s overwhelming, and these powerplays are easily the highlight of the game.

But while the powerplays are Split/Second’s standout feature, they also expose the game’s biggest drawback - the lack of replay value. There are only 11 environments in the game, and although each features multiple layouts, the powerplays remain the same. So after a while, you’ll be able to memorize the locations of the powerplays, thereby taking away the element of surprise. The lack of environments is made very apparent in the second half of the career. However, the game’s presentation and AI do go a long way towards making the game enjoyable even once you’ve seen all the environments.

Apart from the career, there’s also two-player splitscreen as well as online racing for up to eight players. The structure is fairly generic and there isn’t much depth in the online multiplayer. There are no unlockables and no perks; just a very basic leveling system. Still, the combination of powerplays and a field full of human opponents is a potent one, and online multiplayer, as barebones as it may be, is the best way to experience Split/Second. In single-player, the powerplays tend to skew races in your favor, but online, everyone is just as adept at using them, and that will keep you on your toes.

Split/Second is quite an impressive visual showcase. The racing is chaotic and explosive, but there’s never a drop in frame rates. The environments are painstakingly created and it makes triggering powerplays and watching them unfold all the more rewarding. The reality TV show fits the game well, and thankfully they didn’t overdo it by featuring characters and a story line.
Split/Second is a commendable effort from Blackrock, who would have surely been under pressure to top their previous effort – Pure. The implementation of powerplays is spot on, and the core gameplay is accessible without being too easy. The game is best played in multiplayer, where everyone can take advantage of the powerplays, but there’s not enough depth to the online multiplayer to make you keep playing. In the career, repetition soon sets in as you race through the same set of environments again and again. So while the content that is there is fantastic, there just isn’t enough of it. There’s quality here, but not enough quantity, so enjoy it while it lasts.

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