Monday, January 10, 2011

Split Second Velocity PS3 Review

I did end up buying Split/Second on Saturday and already have 13 trophies to my name. Is it as good as the demo... hmmm. It's certainly bigger; which is a stupid thing to say of course it is, but that's the best way to describe it - there's more to it.

Initially the first few races match the demo in that they are purely races, however one stage was "Elimination" a clock counts down and the last place positioned driver is eliminated. You start with a 60 count and this is decreased as the race progresses. So far this has been by far the most annoying version as you with fewer cars left; crashing or being wrecked by an opponent will leave you at the back of the queue. Having such being done when there is only 9 seconds left on the clock and you now being 2 seconds behind the leader it's almost impossible not to be eliminated.

The other type of race I have so far encountered is a time trial, no other racers simply beat the clock while the hazards on the course are detonated against you.

At first these different types of race seem a cheat when the demo only provides one type, but replaying them reveals the understanding behind them.

The pure race is simple and teaches you about the course. Elimination requires a different tack rather than trying to take out your opponents you hoard your Power Plays against the option of you getting taking out. Having such in hand means a chance of nobbling an opponent and placing them in the bottom spot just as the timer runs out; have none in stock and you stand little chance. The timed races on the other hand mean getting another handle on the track as you drive around it and displays all the explosives and their timings for use in the other two types.

They complement each other well.

Now the flaw is the same as that which appears in every racing game - to unlock new cars and new courses you have to beat the preliminaries. If you're simply not good enough you have, in essence, bought half a game for full price. This flaw is redeemed in two ways - firstly you can pay £1.59 to unlock everything; secondly each race uses a points system to determine various aspects. As such it's possible to not win every race in a single stage yet accumulate enough points to unlock a better vehicle that may give you an edge to acquire more points and another vehicle. If you can't manage that then for a paltry outlay you can simply skip everything.

Onto the game itself, and it shares the same simplicity as Burnout Paradise - pick a vehicle from those offered which each presents a different aspect. Some are built for strength, some for speed, some for drifting etc. No faffing with suspension or gear ratios. Controls are likewise simple - accelerate, brake, steer, and two power play buttons that's pretty much it and is enough for even my small-handed cousin to grip.

That leaves the courses themselves and here's where it gets a bit sloppy. The game delights in slowing the action down and changing the camera view when you perform a particularly pleasant wrecking; this is not a good thing to do when approaching a 90 degree corner - splat. Likewise explosions and rubble can obscure the track leading to similar crashes. Worse yet when in the lead it can be difficult to determine exactly where the track runs. One course change had me revving up the deck of an aircraft carrier until I hit the fence at the point it jinked inwards; I was then respawned directly before a jet into which I instantly crashed. Another instance had a course change that led to jumping across the rooftops with little guidance.

Of course run the courses enough times and you learn where these pitfalls lie; which is why you do run them so many times. A negative criticism from the Escapist's Yahtzee was the repetition of tracks; view this game as a blow-em-up and that's fair. Go deeper and view it as a racing game and it makes sense - you're learning the track.

As it stands this is most definitely a game I'll fire up when I find myself with a spare few minutes just to race around a track, but also one I'll replay just to perfect my timings.

At £14 it's hard not to fault it.