Caution! Falling course!
Tuesday morning, Day 2 of GDC 2009: I and GR resident ninja Nick Tan were tasked with checking out a sampling of upcoming games from Disney Interactive. Normally, Disney is not a company that you would associate with exploding airports and Jason Statham-esque vehicular violence but after taking a look at Split Second (or Split/Second), your delusions may be shattered. Black Rock Studios, the guys behind the popular off-road racing title Pure (or PURE) are taking their already unique approach to the genre to the next level. Since the game isn't due out until early 2010. the build that we got a look at was far from complete, but what we did see is already looking impressive. Mickey Mouse may never be the same again.
[image1]The game takes place in a world where murder and mayhem make for a great primetime reality TV show. And that's just what you're going to deliver... unless you would prefer to be left in the debris with your fellow drivers. Each piece of fancy driving you pull off, such as a drift or jump, will fill up a meter that allows you to interact with the environment with explosive and sometimes course-changing results.
Essentially, there are two types of "attacks"; those that are small obstacles, like a hydraulic lift coming down and smashing a car; and then there are "goddamn" obstacles like a 747 barreling down onto the runway or driving through an airport terminal as it explodes into rubble around in a spectacle that would make the shoe bomber weep. Certain moves will change the course of the race in its entirety, forcing you to take new routes and create shortcuts. Just make sure you're on the ball with your timing or another racer will beat you to punch.
[image2]The only environment we were shown was the airport, but there will be at least three others, each with several tracks included. And since power moves can have profound effects on the track terrain, it's rare for any two races to be the same. It's a great combination of hyper-action aesthetics of the Death Race movie and the violent terrain-influenced gore of Madworld.
In terms of gameplay, everything is focused on creating the most visually stimulating cinematic experience available. The controls are the basic "gas, brake, steer" that anyone who has played an arcade-style racer or Mario Kart will be familiar with, along with the two buttons for your basic and super power moves. There was no mention of whether or not there would be a manual option as well, but given the nature of the gameplay style, I wouldn't be holding my breath. Multiplayer will have some unique aspects to it as well, but information and specifics were not forthcoming at this time, so we all have to wait to see what's in store for us.
[image3]Another nice visual aspect is the HUD-less display. All imperative information is displayed on the back of your bumper and taillights. Ask anyone who has ever looked down to change the radio station, only to end up in a fender bender or the zombie corpse of Dale Earnhardt, and they'll tell you that a split-second glance can make all the difference in a race. Being able to maintain your focus, so that your car isn't buried under building debris, is one of the best showcased features in the game.
While Split Second still almost a year away from the shelves, you can tell that Black Rock Studios has been a lot of work into making something that is really going to wow you. There is plenty of time and there are many more features to be announced. If you had a good time with Pure, then you're bound to have a blast with Split Second. (See what I did there with the explosion joke? That was clever.)