First Shot: Split/Second
May is a good month to be a fan of arcade racers. There's Blur, a Burnout-esque racer with powerups, Modnation Racers, a cart racer with a great map editor and online track sharing, and Split/Second, a game that encourages blowing lots and lots of things up. I'll be covering all three of these racers this month, so keep a look out for a buyers guide!
Split/Second takes the concept of destructible powerups from other games and turns them into Power Plays. By drifting, drafting behind opponents and getting airtime you build up a power meter. Once you have a third of the bar filled you can unleash a power play; icons above other cars indicate which ones will likely be hit by the shot. A power play, simply put, makes things go boom. A crane can sweep some cargo across the field, a helicopter may drop a bomb, a burning bus may begin tumbling down the racing field. Rest assured something explosive will happen and there's a good chance it'll wreck some of your rivals. If you manage to fill the meter up entirely you can activate special power plays that trigger massive events, like buildings collapsing or towers falling, which open up entirely new areas.
The power meter forces you to drive a bit more dangerously, much like the boost meter in the Burnout series. I found myself drifting a lot more than usual and tailing right behind opponents to build my meter as much as possible. The tactical use of power plays is deciding to use them to shoot down one opponent pestering you up ahead, or waiting until multiple players clump together so you can take them all out in one shot. You can also use them to trigger shortcuts in the area, so there's often a choice between helping your position or taking others out.
The most fun part of the game is dealing with the power plays. Speeding down the track and all of a sudden having to dodge a flying bus or escape an exploding bridge is thrilling; the action movie-like soundtrack adds to the intensity. My big question so far is if these awesome spectacles will hold up over time; how many times will seeing the same scripted building collapse seem epic? How often until it stops being unpredictable and just becomes a part of the course?
Look for a full review of Split/Second this week, and reviews of Modnation Racers and Blur soon after!