Split/Second


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Split/Second Hands-On Preview and Video

If there’s one thing missing from top iPhone racing games like Real Racing, Need for Speed Shift, or GT Racing: Motor Academy, it’s the explosions. Split/Second, an upcoming racing game from Disney, aims to change that by adding plenty of pyrotechnics to the mix.

The game is set in a gigantic television studio, with a limitless budget to force drivers into horrific crashes, easily the most exciting aspect of any televised racing event. As you drift around corners you will build up a meter below the car that lets you trigger stunts which, if timed precisely, will blow up your opponents and let you take the lead.

We originally played Split/Second for the iPhone at GDC, where it was looking pretty sparse, especially next to its ridiculously detailed big brother on Xbox 360 and PS3. After just a few more weeks of work, however, the game offers much more visual detail. The crash animations in our most recent build were still a bit glitchy, though.

The game uses just tilt controls, with onscreen buttons just for braking and activating traps. Most of the traps we saw in the iPhone version were just triggered explosions, but we are hoping they integrate some of the more creative obstacles from the console version, like helicopters that drop debris and flaming airplanes that crash onto the track.

The biggest draw, besides the unique concept, will probably be Split/Second’s online multiplayer mode. You’ll be able to race against other players via Bluetooth, or locally or online via Wi-Fi. While we didn’t get to try this mode for ourselves, we are always happy to see more online games for the iPhone.

As an arcade racer with some combat elements, we think Split/Second could fill a destructive need for some racing fans. The iPhone doesn’t yet have its Burnout-style aggressive combat racer, so Split/Second should be one to look forward to. It is scheduled to come out around the same time as the console version, which will be released on May 18th.

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Slide To Play Q and A: Split/Second

Split/Second, an explosion-heavy, rubber-burning racer, hit the App Store a couple of weeks ago, and we loved the concept, but thought the game had some room for improvement. We recently chatted with Matt Beecher, the vice president of worldwide product development for Disney Interactive Studios, the company that developed the game.

What was the development cycle like on Split/Second for the iPhone? How did it compare to the development cycle of the console version?

Typically in the industry, console titles are developed over the course of a few years while iPhone titles are developed on the order of months. Split/Second was comparable to these industry timelines– our Black Rock Studio spent over two years developing the console versions while our iPhone title was less than a year.

What was the biggest challenge the team faced in porting a console game to the iPhone?

The console game is pushing many boundaries with epic action sequences and explosions at a level of production that rivals Hollywood movies. To bring a game like this to a small screen device that lacks the processing power of next-generation consoles is a challenge. We pushed the limits of the device in order to mirror what is seen on the console game, however many things obviously needed to be scaled down.

Now that Split/Second has been out for a little while, are you happy with the reception it’s received from users and critics?

One of the great aspects of mobile games is the ‘two-way’ communication between players and developers. Split/Second has received a lot of feedback that spans good and bad in a short period. We know the game is resonating with fans and our goal is to bring the best possible experience to players and, as with all of our titles, we factor feedback into development. In the coming weeks, you’ll see several updates to Split/Second, including gameplay tweaks and enhancements in addition to planned new features.

We particularly enjoyed the speed of this game. The first cars you have access to are as fast as the last cars you unlock in some other racing games. Was that something you wanted to include from the beginning? How did that factor into the level designs?

Speed and Power Plays [causing explosions in the environment] are everything in this game. After all, how can you have a game with slow moving cars to represent a title like Split/Second? A good portion of our Split/Second development time was spent constantly tweaking the placement of turns and power plays to fit how fast the vehicles move.

We noticed the number 0.9.4 in the lower-left corner of the menu screen, where the version number of a game is often put. Is the version of Split/Second that was released a less-than-final version? If so, is a 1.0 update in the works?

Split/Second was not “less-than-final” when released. It was a simple versioning mistake that caused 0.9.4 to be identified as the launch product, and it took us a short period to update the labeling. This game competes with the best on the market and we have much more to come.

What are you going to focus on in the updates?

Our update strategy is something that any gamer would love as we are adding new environments with multiple tracks, new vehicles and a new game mode. The new environments include Sedona (desert-themed with airplane graveyards and power plant areas) and Entertainment (boardwalk-themed with fairgrounds and wharf areas). We will also be adding a new game mode called Nemesis, which will be a new event that players will need to survive within the episodes, such as maneuvering around a big rig that drops explosives from its trailer.

Split/Second Review

You know what’s annoying? When after losing a race several times, you finally speed into third place and think you’ll be able to move on, but then one of your computer-controlled opponents makes the road ahead of you explode, causing you to vault end over end into the air before being reset onto the track in last place, which is where you finish. This sort of thing happens often in Split/Second, a racing game that looks great on paper but is stunted by shoddy implementation.

But let’s back up. The premise of Split/Second is great. Take a rubber-burning racer similar to Burnout, and give each track several triggerable explosions that wreck all cars in the vicinity and even alter the course. So not only can you run your opponents off the track, but you can blow them to kingdom come, too.

If you see the debris, it’s already too late.

The environmental explosions are called Power Plays, and to set them off you need to power up a meter by executing jumps, drifts, and drafts. Then, when you’re nearing a part of the track that can be detonated and your opponents are within range, a button appears on your screen. Tap it in time, and you unleash the destruction, taking out any cars in range of the debris. Unfortunately, because the button only appears when you’re approaching the spot of the explosion, you can and often will become a victim of your own chaos.

Nine tracks are included, and they’re mostly quite well-made, with lots of bends, inclines, and alternate routes scattered throughout. We particularly enjoyed that some of the explosions, when triggered, change the shape of the track, opening up new areas to travel through. Our one qualm with the track design is that many of them include cheap-feeling corners and obstacles that are tough to navigate around even when you know they’re coming.

For each track, three race types are available. The first is Detonator, in which all of the Power Plays blow up when you drive by, letting you get a feel for where they are on the track. Next is Elimination, where a countdown timer kills off whoever is in last place periodically throughout the run. Finally there’s Race, where you go three laps against five other cars, building up Power Plays to use on your opponents.

And the walls came crumbling down.

But now onto the negatives. As everyone knows, crashing in a racing game can cause frustration, and in Split/Second you’ll crash a lot, often through no fault of your own. If it’s not unavoidable explosions that wreck you, it’s the aforementioned sharp corners and carefully-placed obstacles in the tracks that are difficult to navigate around without riding the brake. Worsening matters is the hit detection, which is wide enough to total your car if even just the edge of your bumper nicks a corner. The computer-controlled cars, on the other hand, are able to round tight turns just fine.

The cars aren’t the only thing that crash in this game: the game itself crashed on us at least half a dozen times as we played. Online multiplayer is equally buggy. Almost every time we tried to join a match, the game timed out before we could connect. We tried hosting our own online games but no one ever joined. The few times we were able to connect with others it was always just us and one other car on the track, making for some pretty boring races.

With its clever level design, high speed gameplay, and awesome explosion gimmick, Split/Second shows a ton of potential. But unless it’s updated to become less buggy and punishing, we recommend you sit this race out.

Split/Second Skids onto the App Store

You’ve read about it in our hands-on preview, you’ve daydreamed about it as you’ve driven down boring real-life roads, and now it can finally be yours. That’s right: Split/Second has arrived on the App Store for $6.99. You can buy it here.

There’s been no shortage of racing games on the App Store, but Split/Second stands out primarily because the racetracks can blow up and change as you play. Also, aggressive driving and ruthless takedowns are rewarded, so it’s more of a stylized Burnout-like racer than a traditional one. Featuring nine tracks from the console game, three single-player racing modes, and multiplayer via Online, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth, Split/Second is loaded with plenty of content. Keep a look out for our full review soon.

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