Some people may believe there’s only so far you can take a racing game: you can either go uber-simulated or crazy-arcade or somewhere in between, but those are the limits. Every racing game falls within that aforementioned spectrum. Well…maybe Black Rock has a little something to say about that, as their new and very ambitious project may end up being something entirely new in the eyes of racing fanatics. It’s Split/Second, and although it isn’t due out until early next year, it quickly landed a spot on our ever-roaming radar when it was first announced. There were a variety of tidbits we gleaned from that announcement that perked our ears and piqued our interest, and now, IGN has gone hands-on with an early build of the game. This, combined with the baseline details we’ve been able to gather, allows us to get a closer look at a super promising title. Although it’s closer to an arcade-type racer than anything else, there’s an intensity element that should be very, very original.
In some ways, though, Split/Second may be similar to last year’s Need for Speed Undercover, which utilized a Hollywood presence to spice up the premise; it went from simple racer to an action/adventure/racing blend. As Black Rock design director Paul Glancey told IGN: “This is as much an action game as a racing game. It's certainly something different from what other people are doing.” If you’ve forgotten, these are the same guys that produced Pure, one of the best off-road racers we’ve seen in quite some time, so we do have plenty of faith in Black Rock. If you’re at all familiar with Pure, you know that the crowd-pleasing big air tricks were the focal point, so it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that over-the-top flashiness will play a large role in Split/Second. Glancey says they’re going for “Hollywood realism” and if the team does their job, they’ll give us “total craziness” in the form of a racer that will make our palms sweat and pulses race. The game consists of a variety of professional stunt and race drivers, competing across 24 episodes in a massive single-player campaign, all in the effort to become the Split/Second Champion.
Now, we stumble across another element: stunt driving. Will there be a semblance of the old Stuntman titles? Well, to some extent. Your cars will not only race, but they’ll also perform aerial acrobatics that will give you the ultimate edge against your opponents. Depending on the environment, any number of obstacles may be in your path, and you might even be able to use some of them to your advantage; you just gotta think outside the box, you know? In this way, every event may be different no matter how many times you participate in it, and if you want to succeed, you’ll probably have to experiment on a frequent basis. We imagine fast reactions and a keen eye will be pre-requisites playing this game, but just don’t expect the game to rely entirely on racing or stunts. The combination of the two should be intriguing, and if you factor in the dynamic, destructible environments, Split/Second could be one of the most engaging, singular experiences in video games. Of course, Black Rock needs to insure that multiple gameplay elements remain solid, and that’s a definite challenge for any developer.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the gameplay is the powerplay bar, which will dictate access to what they’re calling “powerplays.” You build up the bar by drifting, drafting, jumping and performing general stunts, and you will even get to use some of the destructive tools you may have at your disposal. If you look around the track, you will find that certain sections of the course will be adversely affected by your actions; the goal, of course, is to pile a bunch of crap in the path of your opponents. IGN talks about dropping a bunch of explosives on the track and then having to work their way through the debris, so you can imagine the range and scope of the possibilities involved. As Glancey added- “Every environment we look at for a track has to give us these spectacular moments.” Like we said, this isn’t just about racing, but about an experience that involves a little bit of everything that can be included in a game with cars. We’re not expecting something like Twisted Metal, but stunt/race driving always intrigues us. Provided Black Rock Studio doesn’t make things too overly complicated (remember your target audience, guys), this could be an excellent production.
Split/Second is scheduled to hit in the first quarter of 2010 and although Gran Turismo 5 remains tops on our most anticipated list, it’s fair to say that Back Rock’s project is most definitely on our tracking radar.
5/7/2009 Ben Dutka