PAX 09: Split Second Hands On

While in Seattle, I stayed with some of my college friends, Ace and Jess. Returning home on Saturday, Ace asked a pretty important question regarding the nature of PAX. Were there any games you saw or played that you had no intention of buying until after you saw or played them? Every company exhibiting games at PAX was there for the sole purpose of selling their game. They weren't there for fun.

This has happened a couple times in the past. In 2007, after seeing Mass Effect in action, I was sold. Last year, Castle Crashers completely changed my mind and I bought it on the spot.

This year, that game would have to be Split Second. Though, I wouldn't say it put me in a buying mood. It definitely caught my eye and I totally want to play more of it.


Split Second is a racing game, but has some elements that reminds me of the Burnout series. In your effort to finish first, you can knock out your opponents by causing explosions and considerably changing the environment of the racetrack.

Throughout the race you build up that blue/red meter underneath your car. It'll build up fast when you knock out opponents, catch some air, drift around corners, and any other fancy driving. As the Blue meter fills up, icons will flicker in the surrounding environments when you can cause explosions to take out your opponents.

Once you fill two Blue meters, the third meter is Red. Once the red meter is complete full, you can cause some serious explosions. Like blowing up the flight control tower and crash it onto the race track. Or blow up the road underneath your opponents exposing an underground promenade. Or summon a 747 airliner crashing while trying to land on the runway.

The environmental effects of a Red explosion are huge and cause the landscape of the racetrack to change. When you blow up the control tower, it blocks the track and racers need to go through hangers. When you blow up road, you fall into a lower version of the track. The changes create shortcuts, and more difficult areas.

Also, all the racers can blow up shit in the environment, not just you. Things are blowing up all over the place once the computers think you're winning too much.


One other very interesting thing about Split Second is the absence of a HUD (or Heads-up User Display). There's no information on the corners of the screen. As you can see from the screen shot, the place, laps, and explosion bar are tapered on the back of your car, which gives a very different driving experience than any other racer out there.

It's actually a pretty smart move since you need to pay attention to the environment around you, just as much as the cars in front of you. The HUD would just get in the way. And now you can see everything quite clearly.


Split Second is brought to you by Black Rock Studio, whose previous titles include Moto GP, Pure, and Hot Wheels Stunt Track. Their past includes all racing games, but none of which have really made a name for them. Split Second is definitely different, but could get repetitive very fast.

It was announced earlier this year, and should be release sometime in 2010. Even though, it surprised me and I played it several times throughout the weekend, I don't plan on buying it. It'll be at the top of my GameFly list, but I am skeptical the amount of enjoyment I'll get out of Split Second after playing it for 2 or 3 weeks.

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