Some racing video games focus on finessing a finely tuned car through intricate courses. Others are more concerned with a virtual sense of raw, muscular speed or the controller-vibrating impact of crumpling sheet metal. Disney Interactive’s Split/Second, however, is all about the spectacle.
The game is based on a unique premise: Imagine yourself in a reality television show where you and other amateur racers slip behind the wheels of mega-buck supercars and blaze through downtown streets, an abandoned airport or perhaps a twisting city aqueduct. And just to make it interesting, the show’s producers also toss in some bang for the viewer’s buck: One second you’re jockeying for position with fellow racers. The next, you’re dodging the tail section of a burning airliner that just came hurtling at you out of the blue.
Hoo-yah! That would make the ratings jump.
Of course, a real show like this would be out of business in a New York minute, right after the first dozen or so wrongful death lawsuits. But in the explosive fantasy world of Split/Second, even the speedster who just got pulverized by that collapsing water tower or obliterated by napalm somehow lives to race another day.
Road Race or Road Rage?
So is there any real racing amid all those detonations, you ask? Sure. Split/Second demands lots of high-speed maneuvering, which includes applying just the right amount of gas or brake through the curves and hairpin turns and finding that speed-boosting slipstream coming off the car in front of you.
But mastering those drifting and drafting techniques does more than just propel you through the racing ranks. Gamers who excel in these skill areas also earn power points with all sorts of useful potential. Earn enough points and you’ll unleash enough explosive firepower to detonate a canyon wall, for example. Or to instruct a hovering helicopter to drop its payload on the lead cars. Points can also be used to open up drawbridges and shortcuts. Add it all up, and this is one of those rare racers where it pays to bide your time back in the pack until you slip through for a checkered flag in the final, uh, split second.
Along with straightforward head-to-head competition like that, the game also tosses in some additional challenges to get your motor revving. “Air Revenge” races dare gamers to make it around the track while a military helicopter pinpoints them with missile strikes. (Now, tell me that wouldn’t loosen up a real-world traffic jam.) In this case, built-up power points deflect the explosives back at the offending fly-guy. And so-called “Survivor” races challenge players to do exactly that as they thread their way through semis hogging the roadway … and dropping explosive barrels that can crater any nearby speedster.
Tune In or Change the Channel?
And that’s pretty much the game’s whole reality show season in a nutshell. There are no obnoxious announcers to put up with. And the E10+ rating means said drivers won’t be flying out their windshields on impact, either. Nor are there any bad words flying out of their mouths, for that matter.
What we have is simply fast driving, hot cars and lots and lots of falling buildings and debris to dodge. Did I mention the explosives?
Like other games at this end of the genre, then, all that high-octane destruction deserves some consideration before just jumping in and starting your engine. This is indeed a world of pedal-to-the-metal speed and smash-’em-up chaos.
I’m not suggesting that Split/Second players will soon be driving their Honda Civics off a parking garage roof or dropping TNT on their pals. But it’s worth noting that even the game itself includes periodic warnings reminding players that transferring its digitized mayhem and crazed driving to the real world could be very hazardous to one’s health—everyone’s health.
So how can I do any less?
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.