The Split/Second demo has been out for a while now (well for those of you on Xbox Live), and as release date draws closer and closer, here’s a few first impressions for those of you have not had a chance to download this explosive demo.

Set in a time where media is king, racers compete for fame and glory. Destroying the scenery around them, using pre-set explosives set up by the TV station is key. Not particularly an original idea if you think back to films such as Death Race, or The Running Man. Using these events requires the ‘power play’ meter. Players can build this up through drifting, following competitors closely and near misses, all your standard high risk manoeuvres. The more and more you build this meter up, the bigger the event, with the highest form often taking the shape of crashing planes, collapsing whole buildings and exploding highways. This obviously leads to some pretty momentous times during the race that can really get your adrenaline going.

In terms of game play it seems pretty solid. Your standard kart style racing, with little emphasis on anything but accelerating and drifting. This allows the game to appeal to a ‘pick and play’ market, whilst allowing something more casual for those hardcore racer enthusiasts. Cars split up into three categories, which are essentially, sport, truck and muscle, each with its own presume ably control style. This feature is not shown on the demo, as you are automatically put into a car (probably the most standard one you can choose), but will no doubt play a stong part in the full game . The ‘power play’ meter is split up into 3 sections. The first two being fairly small scale events, such as exploding buses and gas stations. Nothing particularly over the top. The final section (helpfully coloured red) is your more epic-scale events, which are activated with a different button. The power plays can be implemented anytime you see a blue or red symbol above your opponents heads, causing them to either swerve around erratically to avoid it, or total annihilation. Smaller power plays can also be used to activate shortcuts, and red ones can trigger track altering circumstances. This gives the game an element of spontaneity, meaning every race can be slightly different depending on which plays are used.

On to the negatives. The AI seems particularly easy, often reluctantly triggering power plays or even not at all. I found myself winning nearly every race, even if I crashed numerous times. Maybe it was the difficulty, or maybe I’m simply amazing, but there still should be some type of challenge. You would think you would really need to pull out all the stops in order to gain the race changing events, however I found myself simply drifting from side to side, building up the meter pretty effectively. This isn’t so much of a problem if you are eager to see the bigger events, but in terms of so called ‘fun factor’ it appears slightly unfair. Surely we should be awarded with such power by showing feats of excellence, only awarding them to the more skilled players. Or even to a Mario Kart style system, giving the super events to slower and less skilled players, thus giving them a fighting chance.

It is defiantly worth a play, I mean it doesn’t cost anything. Finding yourself swerving to avoid rolling cars and debris in the middle of a huge explosion really immerses you for a split second (pun anyone?), making you feel like you really are on the set of some action packed movie. But if you feel like a more robust racer is for you, then don’t get your hopes up. As first impressions go, i’m not quite convinced. It shows potential, as do many demoed games, and i’m sure it will be worth the money in a few months or so once it’s dropped in price a bit.

Split/Second is released on the 18th May (USA) and 21st May (UK).