Demo Impression: Split/Second

May 9, 2010 Leave a comment

What is going on? This is what I asked myself as I was competing in race at an airport and an air traffic control traffic is detonated and collapsed onto the racetrack, right in front of me while I narrowly avoid getting hit by it. Split/Second is an upcoming racing game by Black Rock Studio, the guys previously responsible for Pure. The aim of the game is simple. Finish first. But how you do this is where the game is unique.

The main feature of Split/Second is the ‘Power Play’ meter which is separated into three segments and is filled by performing various stunts, such as drifting, jumping and drafting. The meter is used to perform ‘Power Plays’ which usually consists of some over-the-top explosion that causes your opponents to crash. There are three types of power plays: 1st level, 2nd level and route changes. You can perform 1st level power plays if you only have on segment of the meter filled but the 2nd level and route changes require the entire meter to be filled. 1st level power plays consist of a minor explosion that is only used to target a single opponent. 2nd level power play are more extravagant ways to take out more opponents, for example an entire building exploding of a plane crashing into a runway. Route changing power plays are self explanatory: they change the route. The example I noted at the beginning of this post is a route changing power play. The tower comes down and blocks the previous route and redirects the race onto the nearby runway.

My immediate reaction to the controls were that they were a bit stiff. They were not as responsive as I had expected but I quickly adapted to them. The game plays very similarly to the Burnout series, most notably Burnout Paradise. Crashing is fairly easy so you have to be careful, which is a bit strange in a game that involves driving through an exploding gas station.

Split/Second is a good looking game. It’s vibrant, well detailed and stays at a solid frame rate, a feat that’s difficult to do when there’s so many explosions happening on the screen at once. The explosions are appropriately over-the-top and are presented very well, for example if you are driving near one of the many explosions, you will be thrusted away from it, the camera swerves appropriately and the game slows down time which makes surviving each and every explosion even more satisfying. The music is very fast-paced and adds to the tension of the action.

One concern I had going in was ‘Will this game be good to play over and over again?’ The answer: Yes, to a point. The route changes and the different power plays add some replay value but if you strip all that away, what you’re left with is a fairly mediocre racing game. This demo did grab my attention and I’m looking forward to trying the finished product. I’m just hoping that it won’t get too boring, too quickly which is still my concern with Split/Second.

Demo Statistics:

  • Size: 808 Mb
  • Amount of Content: 3 Lap Race (Airport Terminal)
  • Available: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3

Full Game’s Release Dates:

North America: May 18, 2010
Europe: May 21, 2010

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Post-Game Summary: Eternal Sonata

May 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Note: ‘Post-Game Summary’ is a new feature I wanted to try where I write a quick summary of the feelings and the experiences I’ve had for a game after I’ve had a bit of time to let it sink in, in this case right now it’s the morning after the evening I finished Eternal Sonata. This can be treated as a mini-review but please note that it’s still entirely possible that I will make a full length review later on. So with that out of the way I will commence with the post. Also, this post might contain minor spoilers.

When going into Eternal Sonata, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t have particularly high hopes since it’s been mocked repeatedly by other individuals for it’s slow pacing and tedious cutscenes, plus it didn’t help that I saw it in a bargain bin for $9AUD, which in Australia is a damn good deal for any game worth noting. I had finished my last JRPG, Persona 4, a few months back and I was ready for another.

The first thing I took note of was the art style. It went for ‘3-Dimensional Anime’ that I had previously experienced from the short demo I played of Tales of Vesperia. It was a nice look for a game that had so many similarities to anime. The game is also very beautiful but after about four hours into it I began to mock the vibrancy of it. I even took note that places in real life that are supposed to be dirty would be presented in this game as a colour-filled paradise. For example, the sewers in this game have clean, sparkling water and rainbows. RAINBOWS!

I noted in the last paragraph that this game has a lot of similarities to anime. It doesn’t stop with the art style. The story is very slow, which is something that anime is also known for, and is constantly filled with slow-paced establishing shots in the cutscenes that bare no significance to the action. The characters also have a tendency to soliloquise every chance they get. Even one of the characters halfway through the game is stabbed and it takes her 6 minutes in actually die because she’s too busy blurting out all of her feelings.

There are a lot of things in this game that didn’t need to be there and the time taken to create those things should have been better used in fleshing out the characters and the story. There’s almost no character development in this game. There is a predictable romantic sideplot during the game that isn’t established very well but you don’t really care about it because at the end, all the characters are unlikeable and forgetable.

The story in this game is very unique and interesting at first but soon turns tedious and predictable. The game is centred around Polish pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin in his death bed and takes place within a dream that he is experiencing before he dies. While this is a neat concept at first, this idea is tossed out the window as the game centres around political espionage and rebellion.

Finally, the combat is something I want to mention. The combat is a mixture of real-time and turn-based with each character in your party taking turn to wail on the enemies. Each character is given a limited amount of time of run around the screen and perform their actions. I really liked this combat system at first but it soon turn into another cheap, repetitive way to do turn-based battles. I like turn-based combat if it’s done right, eg Persona 4, but in this game it felt like a boring cluster of combos and quick-time events.

Overall, the game, while it looks and is presented beautifully, never lived up to what it was trying to do and ended up being a poor game because of that.

(Image © Bandai Namco)