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Disney Interactive’s “Split/Second” wows the crowds at this year’s E3 Expo

Disney Interactive’s “Split/Second” wows the crowds at this year’s E3 Expo

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As I looked up at the domed ceiling, explosions filled the air, buildings came crashing down and drivers frantically tried to steer around all the flaming wreckage.

As my jaw dropped open from all the craziness & carnage being projected onto the roof of the Disney Interactive booth, the rep standing at my elbow laughed and said “Pretty wild, huh?”

Split Second from Disney Interactive
Copyright 2009 Disney Interactive. All Rights Reserved

Indeed it was. Split/Second -- the intense action/racing game that Disney Interactive was showcasing at this year’s E3 Expo – is a game changer for the Mouse House. Literally. Once this video game hits store shelves in 2010, DI (which, obviously, is best known for all its family-friendly fare) will finally have a title that will appeal to “Grand Theft Auto” fans.

Developed by Black Rock Studio, Split/Second has a truly twisted back story. Competitors are supposedly members of the cast of this hyper-competitive reality show. And the gimmick of this particular television show is that the participants will be driving high performance race cars through this enormous faux city / studio backlot setting.

Split Second screen capture by Disney Interactive
Copyright 2009 Disney Interactive. All Rights Reserved

“So what’s so twisted about that?,” you ask. “That sounds like a pretty vanilla racing simulation game to me.” Wait. It gets weirder.

The tall buildings that line the race route? They’ve been wired with high explosives. What’s more. You – as a driver – can detonate these explosions from inside your car as you’re driving along the course. These structures then fall onto the rack track directly behind you, forcing your competitors to drive through the debris field.

Now what’s truly cool about Split/Second is – in addition to its killer graphics & first person POV – is that there’s an element of strategy involved here. The more explosions you set off, the less energy you have left to use in the race. So – over time – you eventually learn to detonate specific locations along the race track only when it’s most to your advantage (i.e. when you can create a shortcut for yourself / a roadblock for your competitors).

Screen capture from Disney Interactive Split Second
Copyright 2009 Disney Interactive. All Rights Reserved

And some of the shortcuts that you get to take in Split/Second (ex: driving at high speeds right down the middle of a recently blown-up airport terminal) are truly surreal. Which is why the hardcore gamers who were wandering through the halls of the LA Convention Center these past few days just seemed mesmerized by Split/Second. They clearly wanted to play this new Disney Interactive title NOW.

Sadly, Split/Second (which will be available in the the Xbox360, PLAYSTATION3 and Windows-based PC formats) isn’t expected to ship until early next year. But if you’d like a sample of the real time craziness that you’ll be able to experience as part of this driving simulation game, go check out the trailer that the nice folks over at Fragland have just posted.

Split/Second is just one of the six new titles that Disney Interactive showcased at E3 Expo 2009. I’ll be discussing some of the other games (including a take-home version of “Toy Story Mania!” that does a superb job of recreating all the interactive fun you have riding this new Disney's California Adventure & Hollywood Studios attraction) in upcoming JHM articles.

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