Support Alex, click to buy via us...
Split Second 360 tapped into my fear of earth shattering collapse. Its explosive-aggressive track got worryingly inside my head to begin with, but eventually became a bit to predictable to be enduringly scary.
I recently reviewed Blur so jumping into Split Second I was worried that playing another arcade racer so soon would feel like more of the same.
There are similarities - both are fast paced racers with a realistic style. But happily each feels so completely different that the aesthetic level is really where the comparison ends.
While Blur's cars handle like real world vehicles, Split Second's skid and drift like they are on ice. Where Blur equipped me with weapons and placed an emphasis on strategy, Split Second uses environmental attacks that can open new routes and can instantly change the outcome of the race.
More than the simple mechanics though, it was the very different emotions each game elicited that most fascinated me.
Blur reproduced the horror of a car crash - the still moment just before impact. Split Second created something just as chilling but very different - the creeping tension of a natural disaster.
It is like being on water, a swaying that just keeps going. It feels unnatural, uncontrollable and powerful.
Many people have never experienced an earthquake, but trust me when I say the sensation is very different to what you might imagine. It is not the shaking seen in movies; you are not thrown around like you are on the bridge of the Enterprise during a Klingon attack. It is like being on water, a swaying that just keeps going. It feels unnatural, uncontrollable and powerful. And it's made all the more scary by not knowing when it will end or what the outcome will be. It is this overwhelming sensation that Split Second reminds me of.
Split Second's combat evolves out of this environment bent. It is a mechanic that is only used in two of the game's five modes but is the element that really sets the game apart from its contemporaries.
Performing drifts, slipstreams and jumps as you race slowly charges a meter sat beneath your car. This can then be used to trigger environmental attacks at certain points on the track. The greater the charge, the more insane the result.
Split Second's environmental interactions function in two ways, to attack or create a short cut. For example speeding through a tunnel I see my opposition in the distance, as they move past an environmental trigger a blue icon flickers above them. That is my cue. Hitting the X button sees a nearby gas tank explode, blowing two cars straight off their wheels, barrel rolling them through the air into two vehicles sending them skidding in to the barrier.
It is a similar mechanic for activating short cuts, detonating a sky needle and watching it collapse to form a new bridge (crushing the lead car in the process) in breath taking, and Split Second perfectly conveys the impact and devastation of it's impact as I race up the flaming, dust-cloud filled wreckage. Dodging between the remaining rubble is then all that sits between the lead and me.
Collapsing buildings are initially terrifying - trying to pick a route through the debris is a tense reaction based affair.
Unfortunately though, Split Second's greatest asset is also its greatest failing. Collapsing buildings are initially terrifying - trying to pick a route through the debris is a tense reaction based affair. But as you grow used to the patterns you realise there are a limited number of events on any track and each has a distinct way of playing out.
Although a crumbling building would initially fill me with the uncertain terror on an earthquake, a few hours in and it was all a little too familiar. I know how each catastrophe would play out, and more importantly how to avoid them.
And with the results of every explosion so dramatic Split Second began to feel more like an unfair obstacle course at a school sports day rather than a test of skill. I would go from eight to first and back again on the back of a single lap - scratching my head and wondering what had happened.
Split Second is a well-crafted arcade racer that suffers tremendously from not actually being in an arcade.
Split Second is a well-crafted arcade racer that suffers tremendously from not actually being in an arcade. Vulnerable to the home player's insatiable ability to plough hours into the game in just a few days, the initial thrill of the unknown gives way to mundane extravagance.
Once I became accustomed to each tracks pyrotechnics all that remained was the racing experience, which with its on-ice feel lacked the precision to be satisfying in the long term.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: