Split/Second looks like a big budget action movie. Sunbleached and bathed in the kind of Michael Bay-esque yellow light that tells you
something's about to explode in slow motion, it only takes a few seconds of speeding around the game's courses before something does indeed go boom.
And what a boom. Explosions are Split/ Second's forte. Non-stop explosions. Intensely satisfying, visceral explosions that change and re-jig the very track you're racing on,as well as splatting any drivers who dare get in your way.
Pepper your driving with such slick moves as power slides and you'll be rewarded with Powerplay points, shown on a semi circular meter behind your car. This is split into three sections. The first two enable you to set off minor blasts - enough to sweep a foe off a bridge with an out-of-control crane arm, for example - but it's the last type that create the most impressive spectacles. Hold on, building your Powerplaybar until it turns red,and you can unleash route-changing megasplodes, toppling bridges like massive, real life Jenga towers, showering tracks with car-crushing lumps of rock and concrete.
There's a story under all the debris, something involving a gameshow, but
it's little more than an excuse for the Brighton-based developers to strap plastic explosives to everything and giggle like maniacs when that everything turns into a rapidly expanding fireball.
A symbol appears over opponent cars when Powerplays are deployable, enabling you to wreck the rest of the field in an enjoyably filmic fireball and helping you speed on to victory. Or,in my case, speed under the wheels of a 747 that picked a particularly uncharitable moment to land on my car. Thanks, massive aeroplane.
If you crash, you're pulled out of the race for a few moments, the camera panning and slowing to capture your humiliation. These smashes benefit from the scientific findings of the Burnout series (crashing is as good as, or better than driving)and look like the result of a movie car chase. The version I played lacked full car damage, but the developers, Blackrock, plan to supply it, pockmarking their imaginary vehicles without fear of a real-world manufacturer shouting at them.
What remains unclear at present is quite how organic the course-moulding explosions will be. Repeat viewings of the same two tracks saw them unfold in different ways. My first glimpse of a waterfront course had an oceanliner suspended in dock throughout the three laps, while the last saw it careen into the water after the first corner. Once racers have seen a scripted bridge collapse, it could lose its punch. At present though, the magic action movie combination of 'explosions!' and 'going really fast!' is expertly replicated in Split/Second.