IGN Review of Split/Second
When I reviewed Split/Second on the Xbox 360 and PS3 earlier this year, there was something I hinted at but never explicitly explained. On the HD consoles, Split/Second is a sort of house of cards made up of various elements; they all fit together just well enough to keep the whole thing standing, and it's been built pretty tall. Unfortunately, in the transition to the PSP, Sumo Digital has made changes cause the house of cards to collapse. With unresponsive controls, muddy graphics and bizarre collision detection, Split/Second PSP wrecks itself pretty quickly.
Split/Second PSP retains the series premise of an extreme reality show where contestants race on a track rigged for destruction. As you draft behind enemies and drift around turns, you'll earn Powerplays, which, when triggered, cause parts of the track to explode (ideally taking the competition with it). It's sort of like Mario Kart in reverse, and of course, you're as vulnerable as anyone else. In this regard, Split/Second shares some of the charm of the console versions -- it's fun to wreck other drivers, and when you nail six cars at once, it feels like an accomplishment.
That's pretty much where the charm ends though. Much of the satisfaction in pulling off powerplays during the console version of Split/Second was derived from the visual spectacle on display as the world fell apart around you, and the PSP version falls short of that. You can see that something's happening, but the sense of scale is absent, and more importantly, you often won't be able to see disasters in the making until far too late to take any meaningful action.
This doesn't feel like a design issue, it feels like a graphics problem, as your view into the distance is seriously truncated and small details are mangled in a sea of reds and browns. There's a serious lack of important track detail in Split/Second. Even navigating the courses is a chore, as turns are difficult to see coming, and Split/Second's Spartan presentation doesn't have room for a course map. The cars look fine, but they're not amazing, and there's a poor sense of speed to the proceedings that makes it seem more like soccer moms jockeying for position than crazed reality racers trying to wipe each other out.
The controls and collision detection are Split/Second PSP's most frustrating problems, though. The analog stick is practically useless here, as there's a large deadzone that makes turning sluggish and infuriating; you'll often overcompensate and crash as a result. The D-pad works better, but it still doesn't yield the quick reaction a game like Split/Second should require. Worse is the collision detection. You will frequently wreck your car and not know why, and after a few hours, I realized that I was colliding with what were invisible objects jutting from each track. I don't know how they got there, but they were responsible for about as much profanity as any portable game I've played this year.
The problems from the console versions of Split/Second are also still present. The AI features some of the most aggressive rubber-banding I've ever seen in a racing game, save that if you fall behind, you'll just never catch up. You'll also find yourself in the standard "fall behind, restart race" loop that we've largely moved past in the modern racer -- expect to find yourself playing the same courses over and over again to get qualifying times and placement to progress.
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