Disney are one of the biggest corporations in the world and have influence in all forms of media. However, some sectors have had less input from Disney than others, with video gaming being one of the least.
There's been a lot of talk about Disney Speedstars and how we're finally getting a Disney racing game, but a decade ago, we already had one. Split/Second Velocity was that game and it's a crying shame that it's now a forgotten classic of racing.
So, what happened? And what made it so special? Here's our take.
A truly unique concept
Developed by Black Rock Studio back in 2010, Split/Second Velocity is an arcade racing game like no other. The developers wanted something new for the racing genre and they succeeded. Split/Second is like the result of if Forza Horizon and Michael Bay having a lovechild.
That might sound crazy, and it is, but it's absolutely incredible. Split/Second isn't about the cars, it's about the circuits and the game's "Power Play" mechanic. Power Plays are activated by the player and are used to trigger changes to the track's environment.
This can be anything from pipes falling onto the track to a skyscraper blowing up and completely changing the first section. It's absolute carnage, but it worked magnificently. Like Mario Kart's power-ups, these are all in the aim of disrupting your rivals' flow.
The result was that you had a circuit that was ever-changing. The Power Plays not only took out your opponents, but changed the layouts of the circuits themselves. One lap would be different to the next
Sensational single player & multiplayer madness
Like any racing game, Split/Second became a whole new level of crazy online. An eight-player multiplayer was available in Split/Second and it was honestly glorious. While the AI were good, nothing beat playing against your friends when you could ruin their hopes of winning with the press of a button.
As for single player, Split/Second's story focused on a fictional TV show where racers would compete for fame and fortune. This explained how the Power Plays came to be, as performing stunts and driving well helped to fill up your meter. This isn't too dissimilar to how Formula E rewards the most popular drivers.
Your aim was to become champion of this series, but it wouldn't be easy, as the AI could also activate the Power Plays and rain on your parade from above. While some may not like the over-the-top style and cheesiness, it was self-aware and didn't take itself seriously.
Why did Split/Second fail?
Let's just be absolutely clear here, Split/Second Velocity didn't fail critically. With Metacritic scores for both fans and critics in the 80s, it's up there with the very best that Need for Speed and Burnout have to offer. We couldn't find overall sales figures for Split/Second, but we do know it only sold 86,000 copies in the US in its first 12 days.
By anybody's standards, that's a low number. For Disney, it was unacceptable. So, despite the way that Split/Second's story ended, no sequel was ever made. This also spelled the end for Black Rock Studio, which was shut for good in 2011, just a year after Split/Second was meant to start a new franchise for Disney video games.
As for why Split/Second failed, it's likely down to how over-saturated the market was at the time. Blur would be released just a week after Split/Second, as would ModNation Racers. Add the new Gran Turismo and Need for Speed games into the mix and Split/Second was up against a wall from the start.
Plus, even for Disney, it isn't easy to break into a market that the likes of EA and Activision had on lockdown.
What a revamp would look like
If there's one legitimate criticism of Split/Second it's that the frame rate did have a tendency to drop when things hit the fan. Some of the larger Power Plays caused your PS3 or Xbox 360 to fall down to a crawl, but this was rare. On the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X though, that won't be an issue. These consoles are far more powerful.
We should also mention Split/Second's other game modes such as Gladiator events. Air strike, for example, is a real challenge, as you have to dodged as many guided missiles from an attack helicopter as possible. A personal favourite of ours though is Survival.
Survival is where you drive as fast as possible to overtake trucks, which sounds easy. However, these trucks have an endless supply of exploding barrels which trickle out of the back and onto the road ahead of you. We'd love to see these revived in 4K and 60 frames per second.
The AI adapted to your driving style and got harder the more you win in Split/Second. This intelligent AI was really revolutionary for its time and the developers should bring this back and improve upon it for a revamp. But, we do need a take-down mechanic, and a boost feature.
If the devs go down the sequel route, they'd have to pick up where they left off. Split/Second was left on a huge cliffhanger, as after you become champion, a new force arrives on the scene. Another rival program from the 80s returns to steal the show.
We don't know what Split/Second 2 would've been like, but a theory has circulated that the sequel would go back to the 1980s to show the origin of those mystery attackers at the end.
We never got officially licenced cars nor the ability to customise their appearance in the original Split/Second. It would be great to have these features in a revamp, particularly the latter.
Whatever form it takes, it would be amazing to see a new Split/Second. Sadly though, no news has surfaced regarding this, and Disney are unlikely to sell their IP. With Split/Second receiving more attention in recent years though, it is possible Disney could latch onto the hype.
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