Split/Second Preview: Power PlayS

There have been plenty of racing games that pump up the action by arming cars, but Split/Second allows you to use an explosive environment to take out competitors and change the course.

What Is It?
Made by the team behind PURE, Split/Second hopes to deliver a racing game packed with Hollywood-sized special effects. In the game, players can build up their power play bar by drifting, drafting, jumps and near misses. Once filled, icons on the screen tell players when they can activate small and large power plays which can derail other cars, blow out walls or even permanently alter the course.

What We Saw
I played through a single race four times.

How Far Along Is It?
There was only the one level available, built specifically for the event. The game itself, I was told, has a long way to go before it hits the PS3, PC and Xbox 360.

What Needs Improvement?
Control Sensativity: The game's controls are still a bit too touchy for a racer, but the developers said they know that is an issue and are already working on modifying the controls.

Graphic User Interface: The first time I saw the game, the score, place, and power play gauge were all on the car's bumper. This time around they are all displayed beneath the bumper. It's an improvement, but I'm still not in love with the look. I think the look has plenty of room for improvement.

Damage Modeling: While the cars do take damage as you race around the course, that damage doesn't impact the way a vehicle handles. In a game that's all about taking out the competition, damaged cars need to act damaged.

What Should Stay The Same?
Power Plays: The power plays are broken down into small and large events. I was able to trigger gas station explosions, walls collapsing, taking out an entire highway overpass and even downing a large commercial flight. These events, which both slow other races and change the actual course, are what this game's all about. On the course I ran, they had a nice mix and all of them were delivered with over-the-top graphics.

Aesthetic: The game's look is perfect for what it wants to deliver, a summer blockbuster of a racing title packed with explosions and surreal events.

Over-the-top Action: In my final race, finally comfortable with the controls and understanding the concept of the two-tiered power plays, I tore the track apart, speeding through billowing clouds of dust, drifting around flaming wreckage and avoiding a crashing plane. It was unlike any race I had played before.

Simplified Controls: The controls definitely need work, but using them couldn't be easier. One trigger is gas, another brake and you pull both to drift. Then there's one button to activate the smaller power plays and another to activate the larger ones.

Final Thoughts
Split/Second is a great idea, a racing game in a staged set built around the idea of blowing things up and changing your course. The game adds a much needed sense of fun and tactics to a genre that is increasingly in danger of becoming a niche accessible only to gearheads.