Split/Second Preview: Race Track Go Boom

E3 2009 gave us another opportunity to get our hands on Disney's explosive, course-altering reality show racer, Split/Second.

What Is It?
Split/Second is a racing game that takes place over the course of a season of an imaginary reality TV program. Players race on giant set pieces rigged with explosives, which they can trigger once they fill their Power Play meter in order to open up new shortcuts and inconvenience their opponents, with events ranging from signs falling across the road to massive, devastating events that change the track completely.

What We Saw
I watched a developer race through a new shipyard level before they allowed me to drive the same airport course that Crecente saw last month.

I had to play through the track twice, as the first time I went around I managed to flip my car, leaving it spinning on its roof, where it sat as the developers stared. Apparently this hadn't happened before, at least without the car resetting, which it didn't. I killed it!

How Far Along Is It?
They've still got a long way to go, with only two levels available at the show, only one of which was playable.

What Needs Improvement?
Again, Damage Modeling: Echoing Crecente's concerns, cars that are damaged don't drive as if they were damaged, and the game would certainly benefit if they did. Imagine the drama of taking out your opponents with a well-timed explosion and then limping across the finish line in a barely-drivable heap. This reality show could use a bit more reality.

What Should Stay The Same?
Drifting And Handling: I'm not sure if the controls have been tweaked since the last time we previewed the game, but I found Split/Second's controls to be perfect for an arcade racer. It feels very much like a boostless Burnout, which for me is the sweet spot for a pick up and play racing experience.

Big Budget Blow-ups: Signs and power lines falling across the track are impressive, but when an entire section of the track sinks into the ground? If Split/Second can manage to pull off massive events like this on a consistent basis it's going to be one hell of a show.

Single Track Variety: I got to play through the airport track twice (well, one and 3/4 times), and both times the experience was completely different. That's the joy of Power Plays. Depending on who you are racing and what Power Plays are available (more unlock on each track as you progress in the season), the variety present in any one track is delicious.

Final Thoughts
While I wish I could have seen more, what Black Rock Studios has so far for Split/Second has a great deal of potential. It's an arcade racer with an element of strategy to it, which could be a sweet answer to delivering a deeper racing experience to those of us who shy away from the more realistic driving simulators out there.