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Split/Second takes everything good about arcade racers and keeps them while adding a whole lot more into the mix. One element is the Power Play mechanic, which is the one used to blow stuff up. Before you can set anything on fire, you must first build up your Power Play meter. The meter is located behind your car. This is another unique thing about Split/Second, it integrates the HUD behind your car so that you can view the spectacle which is the race with minimal distractions. Back to the meter, you build it up by drifting, drafting, catching air or having a close shave with your rivals' own Power Plays. Once you fill up a meter, icons will start appearing in top of racers. This is the time wherein you can activate the Power Plays. There are four types of Power Plays. Level 1 Power Plays are your basic explosions. These range from a crane dropping some steel girders to much simpler ones like roadside tankers exploding. These are usually used just to distract your rivals from their racing lines or let them drift uncontrollably because of the shockwaves caused by the explosions. Level 2 Power Plays are much bigger ones. They range from blowing a whole warehouse up to a whole ship capsizing into the track. These are just chaotic and very effective against taking down rivals. The next one is the Shortcut. Shortcuts in this game are activated and open up a path for you to take. As long as the Shortcut is open, anyone can take advantage. After a little while though, the Shortcut closes up forcing other racers to take the other route. The last and most dynamic of all Power Plays is the Route Changer. These are Power Plays that indefinitely alter the track you race in by destroying a huge structure. They are amazing to watch and can generally change the outcome of the race.
Is it a cheap gimmick just to sell the game? Well, not really. You see, once you know where all the Power Plays are, you are aware where and how these Power Plays work out. This is when this “gimmick” turns into a strategic element in the game. Timing is everything in this game and if you just spam your Power Plays, you'll end up with no power and your rival still in the lead. Worst case scenario, you hitting yourself with your own Power Play. Time them right though and you'll be in the lead in no time. Once you're in the lead though, you do no get to activate Power Plays, besides the Route Changers and the Shortcuts, which means you'll be under fire from your rivals and will have to play defense to maintain that lead. It keeps the race exciting and very lively that way.
General gameplay is very good. Every car handles differently from each other. Some cars will let out a slide even if you just tap the steering and some cars will just grip the track like a magnet. There are 3 different types of cars in Split/Second. These are the drift-happy Muscle Cars, the loose-handling Supercars and the tough-as-nails Racing Trucks. Drifting in this game is a bit different. It's not loose like Burnout's but not as controlled as Ridge Racer's either. It has its own drifting mechanic, a grippy one to be precise, and it honestly works really well. It can also slow you down if you're using the wrong car, so pick wisely. The AI in the game is also pretty good. It's not too easy nor too hard, it's balanced. They suffer from rubberbanding though, but it was pretty necessary. I mean, the whole premise of the game is to wreak havoc, and you can't really do that if you're all alone in the front of the pack. They can be cheap, but they're a nice challenge.
The Season mode, which is the main mode of the game is composed of 12 Episodes, each containing 6 races. The reality TV show theme is handled really well throughout the Season. As episodes end, you are treated to a teaser to the next episode, complete with those fast credits no one can ever read. It's a really nice touch and helps with the overall theme. By winning races in the Season, you are awarded Credits which will unlock cars. Cars unlocked can be used in any game mode, even online. So yeah, if you're thinking of going online before starting the season, forget about it as you will just be outran by players with much better cars than you. Sadly though, the Season doesn't last long and that's possibly the biggest gripe of this game.
There are 6 game modes in Split/Second, 3 of which (Race, Survival and Eliminator) can be played in local splitscreen. Race and Eliminator are pretty obvious modes already so we'll focus on the other 4. First is Survival, a very unique and fun mode. The objective of this game is to pass container trucks for points. Think it's easy? Well, it isn't as these trucks drop explosive barrels that go off when you make contact with them. Blue barrels will make you skid out of control while red ones will immediately put your car out of commission. There's a time limit in this mode and once it runs out, everyone is put into Sudden Death where every barrel the trucks will be drop
Game Traits applied to Split/Second (PS3) by NFSUK