Usually I would be all for this wanton disregard for the rules of the road. Stopping your competition with a falling house is the kind of concept I wouldn't be able to resist. But this PSP port manages to suck most of the fun out of what should have been a can't miss concept. The core idea may have been retained, but it comes at the cost of an enjoyable experience.
Most of the game's problems can be linked back to the crummy gameplay. No matter which car is selected, race fans are in for a frustrating time of over-sensitive steering and fidgety driving controls. Even after the player has managed to wrangle in the controls, the smallest wrong turn will send the car flying. And if that wasn't enough, the game is often grossly inconsistent with what will make a car explode. I have run my car directly into a wall at full speed only to bounce off it, while in the very same race I merely dinged another car and was sent packing. It all leads to a disappointing experience that even a falling house can't improve.
For those gamers who can get past the problematic gameplay, Split/Second offers a surprising amount of content. The single-player mode features dozens of events and most of the tracks found in the original console game. There's nothing groundbreaking about the story mode, the player goes from one group of events to the next earning points for every win. For much of the game the computer takes it easy on you, perhaps it's taking it easy because it knows about your handicap.
The game's presentation is solid, doing a good job of recreating the look and feel of these destructive race tracks. Even though the frame rate dips a bit (and there are occasional pauses in the action), it's impressive to watch a building blow up in the distance and then fall on the guy in front of you. Sadly not every element of the game's visuals are as sharp as the backgrounds. The vehicles are laughably rendered. They are boxy and look like painted cardboard boxes. The ugly cars stick out in the otherwise good looking world.
I take issue with the way the box art sells the game's visuals. On the back of the box you get four screen shots that are clearly from the home console version of Split/Second. They do not represent what this PSP game looks like, and Disney should be ashamed for misleading their customers. There's nothing wrong with the way the game looks, let the PSP visuals speak for themselves.
On top of the lengthy single-player mode, gamers can race against three of their close friends. Unfortunately these friends will need to be extremely close, because this game only supports four-player Ad Hoc. Even then, there are plenty of multiplayer options to choose from. It's a shame the game doesn't support more players, races aren't nears as exiting with only four people competing.
Split/Second has some interesting ideas going for it, but is ultimately marred by a lack of strong execution. Even with some movie-quality explosions and edge-of-your-seat action, the controls bring this racer to a screeching halt. With so many worthwhile arcade racers already on Sony's handheld, it's hard to recommend this disappointing port. Split/Second proves yet again that when it comes to making PSP games, a watered-down console port isn't going to cut it.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Split/Second doesn't suffer from a lack of great ideas and explosive action. Between cars blowing up and bridges falling down, there's something exciting happening around every turn. Unfortunately the whole thing is spoiled by crummy handling and an inconsistent frame rate. Even with the falling buildings and fun multiplayer support, there's no reason for this PSP port!
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