Split/Second is a fictional television program about car racing. Rather than NASCAR races, however, this is a game about racing through fireballs, and crashing through the wreckage of other races. To knock someone behind you, trigger an explosion on the track to send the car flying. Bombs and traps line the tracks, and any car could be swept out of the lead in a split second. The tracks are all massive set pieces for this fictional TV show, and the player is one of many racers who compete for the lead. All of these drivers are evidently immortal, judging by the number of crashes they survive. Split/Second is about surviving crashes, as much as it is about driving fast.
For this reason, Split/Second seems to be the best racing game for someone who doesn’t play racing games. Driving fast is one of several factors that can ensure victory – the others being dodging, setting off traps, and dumb luck. This reviewer, a terrible racer, went against a friend who happens to be a veteran of countless racing games. Despite the obvious skill disparity, the wins/losses were about even, and it’s always possible to give a handicap to the worst driver. Split/Second is most fun when two friends are competing on a couch, vying for first place as they constantly send the other into spectacular crashes.
This is not a criticism of the single-player mode, of course. With 72 events spread across 12 “episodes”, there’s plenty of content to enjoy. The exposition describes your travel through the ranks, and various new challenges present themselves throughout the campaign. There’s plenty of variety, with races against the clock, elite AI opponents, or even missile-firing helicopters. Completing challenges unlocks further content, so playing through the single-player campaign before trying multi-player elements is a good idea. Unfortunately, unlocking everything is very difficult, as the challenges have inconsistent difficulties. Most races are easy enough to win, but certain against-the-clock challenges seem impossible. If you can’t unlock everything through skill, however, there is an $8 DLC pack that will unlock all of the content for you.
Unfortunately for online racers, this DLC is available to anyone who wants to buy easy wins. Those who have purchased this content easily outrace those who have not, and using an inferior car feels like riding a mule in the Kentucky Derby. Even purchasing the content is no solution, as owning a vastly superior car makes the races uneventful. This is hardly the only problem with online multi-player; it takes several minutes to join a game, and quitting is a common problem. Until these issues are fixed, Split/Second is much better with a friend holding the second controller. With the online experience in Split/Second badly flawed, it’s best to ignore it entirely.
Split/Second really is a racing game for those who don’t like racing games. Fantastic special effects and entertaining traps are its draw, not the driving itself. This driving is satisfactory to long-time racing fans, though the steering sometimes feels like a caricature rather than a simulation. This is still a game worth recommending to anyone with a friend to race against, provided they don’t want to race with strangers online.
- Impressive music and graphics
- Extensive single-player mode
- Fun two-player races
- Unique premise
- Very poor online multiplayer
- Inconsistent difficulty
- Low complexity for a racing game
- Review by Alex Lamoureux