It doesn't matter if you're shy of finishing first in a race by a fraction of a second. The winner is always remembered, but not necessarily how close the race was.

Split/Second will therefore be remembered as a poor racing game and not the ambitious crash 'n' bash racer it strove to be. A host of problems make this conceptually sound racer an aggravating experience, from its unpolished presentation and choppy technical performance to its finicky crash mechanics and bad gameplay balancing.

While it's possible to see how Split/Second could have been fantastic racing game, the reality is that it's an embarrassingly unfinished product.

Series premiere

Which is a shame, because the concept is compelling. As a contestant in a new reality driving television show, you compete against other participants in a series of episodic events.

Time trial laps, eliminator runs, and circuit races are spiced up with bombastic power plays that threaten to wreck any vehicles in their blast radius. Trains that speed across the road, exploding planes, crumbling buildings - power plays dynamically alter the course, while at the same time serving up contextual hazards that force you to make quick manoeuvres to stay in the race.

Triggering a power play first involves juicing up by drafting and drifting. A half-circle beneath your car's rear bumper lets you know how many power plays are at your disposal - up to a total of three can be saved, with a full gauge capable of calling in a route changing play. When a power play is lined up with a competitor, tapping a contextual key in the corner of the screen sets it in motion.

Pulled off the air

Frustratingly, you're more likely to wreck yourself than any of your competitors when making a power play. The unforgiving collision mechanics have your car crashing at the slightest bump. Frequently my vehicle crashed because I swiped a guard railing or was in the general vicinity of a wrecked opponent. If you're in close proximity to something dangerous, the game is certain to take you out of the race.

These excessive collisions are annoying on their own, but they become infuriating when they set you far behind in a race. Too often races are decided in the final moments when an unfair crash drops you from first to last.

In order to avoid these situations, you can stop using power plays and focus on speeding far enough ahead of the competition so as to be out of range for power plays. This is a winning strategy, but one that highlights the game's poor balancing.

The point at which you have to abandon the element that defines Split/Second in order to succeed is the moment that it shows itself to be a flawed game.

The 7-second delay

Unimpressive visuals and a noticeable technical hitches only further the sense of an unfinished game. The destructible environments boast plenty of graphical detail, but these are scripted and don't excuse the lagging performance.

A lengthy single player Season mode with more than two dozen events and online multiplayer - a surprising and welcome inclusion, to be sure - bestow plenty of action, yet the poor quality of the racing is such that Split/Second will be remembered as a wreck of a racer and not the great concept that could have been.