Split Second Multiplayer Hands On - Survival of the Fastest

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Split/Second has been a game that has appealed to me on some primitive level for quite some time. All it takes is the promise of break-neck speeds and the chance to blow shit up and my senses start tingling like Spider-Man’s do when Christian Bale rolls into town. For me personally though, what was always going to make or break the title was its longevity. We headed into Disney recently to test out its multiplayer and to see whether we had anything to worry about... It looks like we don't.

Throughout the day at Disney's UK HQ last Friday we went toe-to-toe with 7 other players in an extensive hands on with three of the game's multiplayer mode: Race, Elimination and Survival.

The game, for those of you who don't know, is an arcade style racer that allows you to build up power plays through drifting, drafting, air-time and close calls. These power plays can then be unleashed on your opponents at the click of a button, resulting in a cataclysmic environmental attack that can “wreck” their ride, merely slow them down or you can be all sneaky and activate a temporary shortcut to take advantage of. Save up three and you can perform one of the more devastating plays that can change a root and cause many casualties in one fell swoop.

Whilst the hands on did put rest to one of my concerns, it did raise another. Having only seen less than a handful of tracks beforehand and knowing there's only 5 districts, I was a little concerned that it might get a little samey. Thankfully, we managed to sample what must have been 15 plus tracks, all with a number of different types of bombastic power plays that range from toppling a power planet chimney and collapsing a bridge on top of unsuspecting foes, to squishing them with a huge cargo ship and splattering them with a skyscraper.

Therein lies the problem, because once you've played a track a few times, you essentially know which power play does what and thus, how to avoid them. Soon you discover that the initial awe-inspiring explosions are just a novelty. For instance, when on the docks level, you know that if the huge cargo ship is sliding across the track to head right around the back of it. Thankfully, sometimes avoiding the inevitable is just impossible and the game then opens up a new can of worms, and that's tactics. Instead of using the power plays willy-nilly, timing becomes essential and it eventually boils down to using them at the most opportune time, so that your opponent cannot avoid the unavoidable.

The action against human opponents is totally unpredictable in that sense as well. Even with some careful coaching from Black Rock – yeah, that’s how we roll! – I was sometimes unable to avoid the inescapable. "Quick, go left here," the dev told me, moments before I became the victim of a collapsing power plant that decided to make its final resting place on my face!

Part of the game's multiplayer charm actually comes from its intense battles that can drop you from first to eighth in an instant. Hugely frustrating, yes, but it works both ways and going from eighth to first with the use of a careful power play is like winning the lottery... Okay, maybe not the jackpot, but it's like winning a tenner at the very least.

Although it seems like the traditional race mode will offer up most of the fun, it'll be the modes like Survival that will offer the most intense experiences. Elimination? Not so much, and its eliminate-the-last-place-position-until-you-are-the-only-one-left mechanics tend to get old quite quickly.

Survival on the other hand is a completely manic and exhilarating game mode. It is a mode unlike any other, as players have to build points up by passing huge trucks on a circular course. For every three you pass without wrecking your ride, your multiplier increases. Sounds easy, right? Well, take into account that the trucks spew out red and blue barrels like Eyjafjallajökull spews out volcanic ash and then it make things a tad more explosive! Barrels you say? Big woop! Actually, they are, considering that the blue barrels create a small explosion causing you to temporarily lose control and the red barrels are an instant wreckage. That my friends, is how you raise the stakes and as a result, the action is frenetic. It’s also a tactical mode. If you decide to go full out, then chances are you’re going to crash more often than not, thus losing your multiplier. Go too slow and you don’t pass the trucks, ultimately failing to raise your combo. You need to find the perfect balance, oh, that and knock as many as your opponents into the barrels as they fall, which is as satisfying as they come.

With 6 modes, Split/Second’s multiplayer on first impression seems like it may have the legs to grab the arcade racing fan’s attention for a fair few hours. While the tracks and power plays lose their novelty after a few races on the same track, that’s where the tactics aspect of the title starts to excel. The choice of cars in our hands-on was limited and rather disappointing, but hearing the news that achievements change the decal on your vehicle selection means that cars will become instantly recognisable based on skill. Race is where the most fun’s at, but with modes like survival – and more to be announced – it’s looking like the depth will be the title’s saving grace where longevity is concerned. Longevity or no longevity, Split/Second’s multiplayer is an unpredictable and explosive blast. Quite literally.

Split/Second is out May 18th and May 21st in North America and Europe respectively.


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Game Info


US May 18, 2010
Europe May 21, 2010

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