Split Second

Split Second cover
Split Second cover

Split Second review & strategy guide by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“Non-stop action makes for an exciting racing game!”

Overall Score:
9 out of 10

Overview & Gameplay:

Throw your brain out the window and enjoy the pure fun and adrenaline that Split Second will throw at you in the form of a pure arcade racer. The game gets repetitive after a while but by the time you notice, the game will be over.

The game is about a reality TV show (very similar to the remake of the movie Death Race) that consists of immortal people (or I guess people remote controlling their vehicles) racing their cars and pickups around unlikely tracks that take place in airports, junkyards, nuclear power plants, chemical plants, foundries, mines, and so on, which have all been rigged with explosives so that as you race and pull off cool moves (drafting, jumping, and drifting mainly), you build up enough energy to trigger parts of the track blowing up and taking out your rivals, in events called Powerplays.

You basically participate in races, whether traditional who gets the first place, set amount of lap races, or elimination which is like last man standing, in which every set amount of time, the last car drops from the race. There is also a race mode in which you race against the clock with no opponents and the entire track will just trigger its bombs and have the terrain collapse on you, as you basically try to race a perfect lap (without getting killed). Each time you get killed, you basically lose a position.

The other game modes consist of you passing semi-trucks which drop barrels on you to try to blow you up as much as often, with that game mode ending in a sudden death mode which happens after a certain time or when you take the 1st place position. The final different kind of game mode consists of you trying to evade a combat helicopter which randomly fires rockets at shown areas of the track ahead of you. There’s a mode where you just see how far you can survive and another mode where the more you evade it and drift, the more energy you build up and counter attack the helicopter to try to shoot it down.

The final game mode for each “episode”, for which there are 12 which complete the season (single player storyline mode), is the elite race in which you race against the best AI racers the computer has to offer and requiring you to place usually 3rd place or higher to keep moving to the next episode (set of races) available in Split Second.

Overall, there are 12 episodes in Split Second, with 6 races offered in each, 4 that are always available, one bonus race (which unlocks if you meet its requirements; usually killing a certain amount of rivals), and the elite race which unlocks after you have enough credits (money) from placing good enough in previous races (it’s a total number, so you can go back and replay previous episode races if you’re lacking in performance).

There are no upgrades for vehicles and the game is rather short. After races, you get a certain amount of credits which the game automatically counts towards unlocking the next vehicle. You don’t get to pick. The only thing you get to pick is what episode you want to complete in next after the current episode is over.

The game offers the single player campaign (season play), quick play (which you get by unlocking tracks and game modes in season play), online multiplayer play, LAN play, and split screen hotseat play.

Split Second is available on PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, iPhone OS, and on Java ME platforms.

Fun Factor & Replayability:

The game is pure FUN. This game goes to the core of classic video games where the storyline might not be the greatest but you can pick up and put the game down very quickly and the game is FUN enough that you will want to keep playing, even though the races are short enough that you can literally play the game for 3 minutes at a time and go do something else if you need to. In my busy life, this appeals to me.

The fact that the speed scaling of the game is realistically done, although the game itself is not realistic reminds me of really going dangerously fast in a real car. Let’s see… pure speed and big explosions mixed together? That’s a winning combination!

I just beat the game but I am going to play it all over again right now and I’m certain that it will be fun yet again.

Fun Factor gets a score of 10 out of 10 and Replayability gets a score of 9 out of 10 from me.

Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility:

Unfortunately, I found the game rather short and easy, which I guess is one of the only real long term downsides of this game. I think they will probably update the game with DLC, which might add more life to it but other than that, as far as difficulty, I never got frustrated even once in the game as the death penalty is not really severe. Even if I failed a race, I didn’t find it annoying to redo it as the game was too fun.

Difficulty gets a score of 3 out of 10 and since I didn’t see a way to alter the difficulty, the Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 3 out of 10 as every level other is equally easy than the elite races.

Value:

You can pick up Split Second, every version here in gogamer. At this time the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions are $49.90, which are too high for me, but the PC version is $38.90, which is still too high for me.

Console pricing I give a score of 3 out of 10 because console games unless old games are ALWAYS too expensive, and the PC version I give a 4 out of 10 because the game is too short for that price tag.

Sound:

Sounds for the explosions are really well done, as well as the wind of flying through different kinds of buildings and their environments. Some of the engine sounds didn’t sound realistic for some of the vehicles. Sometimes a vehicle like a pickup truck that would have had something like a V8-V12 gas or diesel engine in real life sounded more like an inline 4 engine with a fart-can muffler. One of the cars (the one that looks like a Lamborghini Murcielago) sounded more like a car with a turbocharged inline 6 engine rather than a naturally aspired V12.

The Sounds get a score of 8 out of 10.

Music:

The music is all tense energetic music which keeps you focused on the action and the style of the game.

It goes along really great with the speed, action, and explosions Split Second gives us. Music gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game crashed for me only when I decided to ALT-TAB it. It let me do whatever I wanted in the desktop and once I ALT-TABbed back to the game my computer rebooted itself instantly. Since that’s the only situation in which that happens, I give Stability/Reliability a score of 8 out of 10. Just don’t multitask and you’ll be fine.

Controls:

The controls are very simple and since the game is an arcade racer, the game doesn’t need anything else. For the PC version, the arrow keys control your car. Forward/up make you accelerate, left/right are obvious, back/down makes you brake and can trigger drifts. Right-CTRL triggers your typical level 1 attacks (Powerplays). Right shift triggers your level 2 super-attacks (the ones that change the route of the race).

Since the Controls are so simple yet effective I give controls a score of 10 out of 10.

Graphics & Performance:

Even in DirectX 9, the game looks completely amazing. The game makes the best use I’ve seen of the Havoc engine. Even on my 3 year old gaming PC the game ran completely flawless, not even slowing down when somebody was copying data from my hard drive at the same time. Graphics get a score of 10 out of 10 and Performance also gets a score of 10 out of 10. Really, really good job Black Rock Studio! Kudos!

Strategy Guide:

I usually go for cars that have everything into acceleration or into top speed. Don’t worry too much about strength (hit points) as that will usually indicate a heavy vehicle (with terrible acceleration).

Pickup trucks are surprisingly powerful in the game not only because they take a ridiculous amount of damage but because for some reason (which is unrealistic) they have a super-high top speed. They have terrible acceleration so try not to slow down as much as possible. Simply taking advantage of that and not slowing down along with their stable 4 wheel drive will make you have an average top speed than your rivals, often letting you win most races.

Like in all racing games, memorize the tracks. Know where the booby trap areas are and avoid them if you want to be on the safe side. Blowing up and losing 1-2 seconds will cost you a couple of positions usually. Stay as close to ahead of the pack and don’t blow all your Powerplay energy necessarily because you have it. Time it so that you can use it to secure your 1st place position near the end of the race.

For the helicopter missions pick always the cars that have the most control for your playstyle and you can just ignore the missiles easily. For the truck barrel missions simply pick any car that his insane acceleration and even more so super-high top speed.

Conclusion & My History With This Game:

At times, the game reminded me of Speed Busters: American Highways from 1998, in the sense that you can sometimes in that game use the track to take out your opponents. Other times, considering how quickly the computer cars caught up to me, it made me think they were just simply teleporting behind me sort of like the AI cars did in Megarace 1 and 2.

As far as I go since this game game out at nearly the same time as Blur, I’m going to be checking that game out soon to see which one is the superior game. So far this is keeping me entertained.

F-Zero review & strategy guide

F-Zero Title
F-Zero Title

F-Zero review & strategy guide (SNES) by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“The trend-setting pioneer of futuristic racing games.”

Overall Score:
10 out of 10

Overview, Gameplay, & Strategies:

Before Wipeout came out to compete with it, F-Zero pretty much dominated the futuristic racing genre and for good reasons too. The game consists of piloting one of 4 different hover race-cars. Whereas in the past Formula 1 was a test of driving skill, in the universe of F-Zero (F0) racing hovercars has taken over this test for racing supremacy.

When the game starts, you pick one of four different cars. After picking the one that you like or that matches your skill or play style, you pick which league you want to play in. From easiest to hardest, the leagues are: Knight, Queen, and King. This modifies how hard the tracks themselves will be. Next, you pick your difficulty level. This modifies how much damage you can take and how good the A.I. of rival drivers will be. Each league has 5 tracks which are variations of each other. The tracks are Mute City, Big Blue, Sand Ocean, Death Wind, Silence, Fire Field, Port Town, Red Canyon, and White Land. They are not raced necessarily in that order rather depending on your racing league difficulty. Each track and its variations have their own strategies and all these strategies depend on what car you picked. Some cars will be nearly useless on some tracks and it will be simply a matter of surviving through the race. I say to do what I always do, which seems to work (in games and in real life): memorize all tracks and all their parts to be able to take optimal turns and know when it’s hammer down time.

F-Zero 1st place
F-Zero 1st place

The goal is to reach first place or as high a place as possible while surviving. Yes, this is a game where if you take enough damage you will die. Your car has a certain amount of power and if you take enough damage the performance of the car will be significantly lowered. When your power bar empties out, you blow up. You can also blow up by taking a ramp and jumping and landing off the track (which can happen especially in the higher difficulty leagues). Touching other cars, touching the side bumpers, and especially touching the cars that are about to explode and do explode, all damage your car, especially the last one.

After each lap, you are awarded with a speed booster. It’s a good tactic to save these until needed rather than waste them, unless you are driving on a familiar track and you know that there is a manageable part up ahead that you can blast by going beyond the full speed of your car. Every 10000 points, you get an extra life. These lives are used if you do not meet the minimum position for that lap or an overall 3rd place finish overall for the race, as well as being used up if you blew up during the race. At specific parts of a track, there are areas where if you drive over them, a ship from above will fly down and beam power to your car to heal it. A strategy here is taking into account that the ship does have a lead time for it to get aligned to the optimal position where it can share the energy with you. Stay as much on the strip as possible if you want to heal the maximum amount of power. Also, certain parts of the track have sand which slows you down (taking advantage of that can be a winning strategy as well) and some areas have a super speed boost arrow which can boost you up faster than the speed booster. It’s not always a good tactic to use these if they are positioned to boost you too fast into an area where you will need to turn aggressively and you will now be speeding out of control into a wall, for instance.

You pick the car you like over the 4 different cars, The Blue Falcon (Blue), Golden Fox (Yellow), Wild Goose (Green), and Fire Stingray (Pink). Each car has a certain amount of thrust, a certain top speed, and a certain amount of weight. All these factors are really important, like in a real car, as you have to deal with how much momentum your car has (related to weight), which is related to its handling characteristics, and its power-to-weight ratio. I did find that the way car weight is done in this game is UNREALISTIC. Whereas a lighter car in real life would be easier to control (let’s say like a Lotus Exige), the opposite in this game happens (that would be like a Chrysler 300 outmaneuvering that Lotus Exige; it would never happen). In this game having a heavier weight gives you a more predictable turn with less drifting.

Let’s look at the detailed stats of each car and discuss their strengths and weaknesses:

BLUE FALCON (Blue)
Max Power: 3200 PS
Max Speed: 457 km/h
Weight: 1260 Kg

This is the default car that most inexperienced gamers will pick but it’s actually sometimes harder than some of the heavier cars, if you don’t know how to properly use it. It has a considerable drift ability and it being the 2nd lightest car will have it been bounced around pretty hard should you crash against other cars (which happens often). The tactic for Blue Falcon is to really avoid all other cars, to anticipate your drift and floor it through turns but letting it glide (turn with not thrust) seems to work wonders. Braking is not as bad as with some other cars since it has the 2nd best acceleration as well. Keep the boosts around for emergency use.

GOLDEN FOX (Yellow)
Max Power: 2950 PS
Max Speed: 438 km/h
Weight: 1020 Kg

This car is a little rocket, with the best acceleration, but lowest top speed and challenging handling. The tactic with this car is to drive like crazy knowing that you will re-accelerate really quickly. This car is the most prone to drifting so be real careful when taking 90 degree and higher turns. The tactic of braking and gliding works the best with this car. Since you have the lowest top speed be sure to use those boosters aggressively in tracks with little turns and lots of straightaways.

WILD GOOSE (Green)
Max Power: 3670 PS
Max Speed: 462 km/h
Weight: 1620 Kg

Although this car has the 3rd best acceleration of the four. To me, it is the best overall car. It’s still a good tactic with this car to hold on to the boost until you crash or are forced to slow down then hammer down on them, especially if you can manage the upcoming turns or its an easy straightaway in front of you.

FIRE STINGRAY (Pink)
Max Power: 3800 PS
Max Speed: 478 km/h
Weight: 1960 Kg

The tactic to this car is to exploit as much as possible the fact that you have the highest top speed out of all the cars. Take advantage of the car weight to turn optimally without braking or hitting anything. This car is the one that gets screwed over the most whenever you crash since its acceleration is abysmal. Using the boosts are a vital tactic to winning with this car. Since you have the highest top speed you will also have the maximum boosted speed as well. Remember that.

Remember that the shortest way in between two points is a straight line and this game takes advantage of that. Also, the ship that gives you power does not boost your speed, so unless you need energy, don’t swerve to pick up power if you are already at max power…

Fun Factor, Replayability, & My History With This Game:

This is an old racing game but it’s still fun enough to be able to play it over and over for hours. Sure, it’s relatively short and there’s only 15 different tracks but it can be very fun to master all tracks with all cars. Fun Factor gets a score of 9 out of 10.

I’ve been playing F-Zero since 1991 when my friend Eric R. got it for his SNES. We played the living hell out of this game although at the time this was a really tough game for us. The speed scale of the game blew me away as I was used to much slower racing games on the c64, which I still played a lot back in 1991. The speed of this game did not get topped until I started to play the Wipeout games and a forgotten racing game called Motorhead. I’ve played F-Zero probably in over 1000 races. Replayability gets a score of 9 out of 10, even after close to 19 years of the original F-Zero.

Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility:

Until you get good at this game, you might find this game rather hard, especially if you up the difficulty or pick some of the harder leagues right from the start. I recommend starting on Knight at the start but at least Standard difficulty, unless you are a complete noob at racing games. There are three difficulties: Beginner, Standard, and Expert. Standard is hard enough for most gamers but Expert is where the real fun is at. Just make sure you have trained enough to be able to handle it.

Between the mix of the league and the difficulty factor, this makes for a well customizable and challenging game. Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 9 out of 10 because you can really set it once you get the hang of how the system works. Difficulty itself is up to you but I give it a score of 10 out of 10 because it can either be a relaxing game or time to get bend over and let the game hurt you.

Value:

If you have the original cartridge of you can get it for $10-15 bucks, that’s great. This game is a requirement for any real SNES library. If you are like most people and emulate it, Value is perfectly free. I think unless you get really ripped off, the game is worth buying and owning. Value gets a score of 10 out of 10, so long as it’s around the free or $10-15 price range.

Sound:

The sounds work marvels in this game as you will hear the engine jet turbines whir from a stand-still to their max peak output. The damage sounds or explosion when you die are amazing. I just love the engine whir… Sound gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Music:

Music adds a lot to a game, especially to a racing game. The music of F-Zero is one of the most loved soundtracks for the Super Nintendo. I recommend getting the original ripped files as well as checking out the remixes at Overclocked Remix.

Stability/Reliability:

Never crashes! Neither the original nor emulator do so that gets a much deserved score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

Left and Right turn in their respective directions. One button controls the thrust (gas), another brakes, another applies the speed booster, and the L/R buttons make you side drift in those specific directions. I have found the side drift to be sort of useless except during emergency situations. I found it more effective to use traditional braking/drifting techniques. Controls are fluid, especially once you get a hang of them. The control setup for this game gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Graphics & Performance:

The game looks simply amazing and this was a landmark game for Nintendo showing some of the graphical and performance limits of the Super Nintendo. Whereas most other games for the SNES are 2D, this game is actually 3D, one of the few titles along with Star Fox. When I first saw this game and how quick it was, my jaw dropped. Graphics and Performance both get a score of 10 out of 10.

Conclusion:

What else can I say? This game is really a classic. I redefined the racing game genre for a lot of people. This proved to a lot of us that 16-bit systems could do a lot more than many 8-bit ones and that technology was going to create more and more advanced video games as time went on. If you have yet to play it, you are missing out on an important racing game in video game history.