Split/Second is an incredible game. Three quarters Need for Speed, three quarters Mario Kart, this is a game that requires you to juggle the desire to race with the perfect line, and collect the blue shell. The premise is simple, kinda dumb, and brilliant. You are a competitor in a futuristic reality show called Split/Second. The show is a racing show with a wonderful and perfectly realistic twist. Every track is littered with explosives. The explosives are triggered by the racers and effectively act like a cross between Mario Kart’s power-ups, and every arcade racer’s turbo. These range from simple explosive barrels that get dropped from helicoptors to massive and catastrophic structural damage involving dropping massive earth movers to nuclear cooling towers on your competition. The thing is, every single explosive is in a set location on the map, so if you know where these all are, you might just be able to avoid them.
Unsurprisingly, this adds some chaos to the game. Also unsurprising, this is incredibly fun. I haven’t ever loved a racing game like I love this one. Sure, your Forzas and Gran Turismos are more accurate simulations of real-world cars. Yes, Mario Kart is about the only video game that my wife will ever play. But, I have never gotten to drop an air traffic control tower on anyone in those games.
What Split/Second does so well is make every second of every race exciting and relevant. I have staged some incredible last minute come-from-behind victories, and more than my share of last-minute, drop-from-the-lead defeats. At every moment, everything can change.
There are some other race modes to really mix things up if that gets a little boring. (It never will.) Elimination is a pretty standard race (by this game’s definition), but every car is loaded with explosives. Periodically, the last place car is eliminated until only the winner is left alive. Survival is a race against the clock on a closed track where big rigs drop explosive barrels. Just like the river chase in Terminator 2. Yes, it is as fun as you think. Perhaps the most over-the-top is Air Strike. In this mode, you are racing along the track, while an attack helicopter shoots missiles at you. Later versions of this mode include a mechanic that lets you shoot the helicopter down. The designers of this game might have heard of restraint, but they are clearly not fans.
I should confess that there are some flaws here. There is some obnoxious rubber banding and there are not that many tracks. The thing is, none of this changes the fact that this game is more fun than any other racer I have ever seen. It is also pretty friendly to the part-time gamer, since there is almost no penalty for stopping when you need to run be an adult. The thing is, you can always come back and blow stuff up while driving fast cars. How can you not love that?