Fast cars and explosions are, for many people, a match made in heaven. Hollywood directors with cash to burn seem required to film at least one high-speed sequence on a busy motorway, complete with cars flipping out of control and crashing into each other. This essentially is Split/Second Velocity, although Black Rock Studio's game adds out of control cruise liners, crashing airliners, collapsing towers and a whole lot more.
As far as racing games go, Split/Second is one of the simplest in recent memory. You take part in a series of events which make up episodes in a fake TV show. Success in these races, survival challenges, missile evasions and more results in credits, which unlock new vehicles. The goal in each episode is to unlock the final Elite race, with a podium finish here opening up another episode. There's no car tweaking, no stat upgrades, no open world cities to drive around - just good old-fashioned racing. Oh, and all that explosive stuff I mentioned at the start.
Drifting your car, getting air time from ramps or drafting behind rivals fills a meter that enables you to pull off powerplays, Split/Second's big gimmick. Each filled part of the meter lets you trigger one of the game's many explosive track-on-car attacks, in which objects from the environment do their best to ram the race cars into oblivion. All you need to do is hit the powerplay button when you see a big icon appear above an opponent's car, or better still above numerous cars. It's not quite as easy as it sounds, as powerplays generally need to be well timed and activated when cars are on the correct side of the track, but they're always destructive.
Even if you fail to take out a car completely, the shockwave will often throw them off their racing line, giving you the opportunity to overtake. Powerplays can even disrupt your car's handling, or, rather embarrassingly, wipe you out if you time their use really badly. On top of this, if you fill the powerplay meter completely you can activate the really spectacular stuff, such as the aforementioned cruise ship that crashes and creates a new path, and an air traffic control tower which crumbles right in front of your eyes. It's incredibly cool, with the new paths adding variety to what would be fairly standard multi-lap races, and impressively, doesn't get old as quickly as you might think.
Car handling, in particular the drift system, makes for a game that is never as straightforward as it seems. In order to fill your powerplay meter you generally have to drift, but it's easy to mess up and in turn slow you down too much. There's a balance to find between going all out for the powerplays and just driving each track as well as possible. Powersliding feels very Project Gotham Racing to me, which is a good thing, although there's certainly an argument to be made for a more corner-hugging model like what's been used down the years in Ridge Racer.
What Split/Second really excels at is creating a constant sense of peril, meaning you've got to have your wits about you at all times. You can seem fine one second, but in reality are just feet from a complete wipe-out moments later. Last second swerves to avoid flaming trucks and swear-filled tirades aimed squarely at the "bloody game" will be common occurrences. Even Burnout, with its supreme crashes, can't compete with Split/Second's dynamically changing gameplay.