Impressions: Split Second Blends Well-Timed Destruction, RacingS

Split Second is a racing game about timing, but not just the timing of turns, of drifts, of jumps, but of exploding bridges, spectacular plane crashes and releasing a wall of water into a trio of speeding cars.

"Split Second is an action arcade street racing game set in the world of a global reality TV show," said Mitch Powers, senior global brands manager for Disney Interactive Studios. "Racers race around a made-for-TV city. There are a multitude of environmental objects rigged for destruction. They range from smaller effects like a manhole cover or water rushing onto the course to taking down a building, altering the track."

And timing is everything, he says.

The key to Split Second, set for an early 2010 release on the PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, is to build up enough power to pull off these course-destroying power plays.

Racers build up the three segments of their power by drifting, drafting, jumping and near misses with other drivers.

The first two bars, currently shown on the back bumper of the car, are blue the third is red. The blue bars are used to activate the smaller effects, the red bars are used to activate the huge effects.

Each race starts off with a television-like intro that gives players a quick glimpse of some of the tracks power plays.

Powers showed me a race set at an airport. Initially the track had eight cars racing around the outer perimeter of the airport, but as some of the larger power plays kicked off, that changed.

The first massive effect I saw collapsed an overpass and cars were zipping by it, taking out several of the vehicles. The collapse also permanently changed the course, tearing down not just the overpass, but also collapsing an outer wall of the terminal, forcing cars to race through the inside of the airport.

Later, Powers triggers another big power play that forced cars to race first through the terminal and then onto the runway itself. A third power play knocked out the air traffic control at the airport and a massive commercial plane crashed on the runway wiping out several cars as they raced up the runway.

While the early-build of the game I saw, which is being developed by Pure-developer Black Rock Studios, had some fairly impressive graphics, Powers pointed out it's far from finished.

"You're seeing the very first production piece for the game," Powers warned. "The final game is going for Hollywood-size special effects. The special effects in this game have pretty much not been seen in any game before."

The smaller power plays I saw were also pretty neat, including an over-sized jack hammer slamming into the ground, shaking cars into each other or the side of the course.

Most of these smaller effects reset, allowing you or your opponents to use them each time around the track, Powers said.

The controls for the game are fairly straight forward: You steer with the left stick, brake with the left trigger, speed up with the right and drift by applying brakes and gas at the same time.

The smaller power plays are activated with the A button and the larger with the B, in the Xbox 360 version of the game I saw.

While most of the power plays I saw were activated in front of the driver, with enemy cars next to them, Powers said that the developers are looking at creating power plays that would activate behind you with a motion sensor or something like one.

"We're still fleshing that out," he said.

While I only saw one course, the final product will have a "variety of locations through the city", each with multiple routes.

The single-player experience will have gamers trying to become the season champ for the TV show, but the game will also have a "nice offering of multplayer options," Powers said.

"Split Second is not just for people who enjoy racing games, it's also for people who enjoy blowing things up," Powers said. "It is a frenetic racing game."

Impressions: Split Second Blends Well-Timed Destruction, RacingS