Under Activision’s umbrella, Bizarre Creations unveils 'Blur,' their first racing project since ‘Project Gotham Racing 4.’ Even though BLUR (the game) has nothing to do with BLUR (the band) -- both will make you go "Woo-Hoo!"
BLUR is an unique racing game that mixes fantasy with reality. On one end, you have the fantasy elements of powered-up super weapons and odd car modifications, and on the other, real cars and real racing. The physics are believable, and for the most part, so is the racing. BLUR is a first rate racing game, sprinkled with a little “boom-boom.” You could say ‘Bizarre’ gets bizarre in this generational leap forward. Even its obvious influence of ‘Mario Kart’ seems outdated as it’s chaffed in BLUR’s own marketing campaign. BLUR might not revolutionize the racing genre, but it feels like an avant-garde effort towards changing our perception of powered-up racing.
BLUR’s ‘Mario Kart’ influence doesn't include its cartoon characters or silly banana peeled power-ups. It is the idealism of the power-up, the method of collection, and the overall theme to race hard and have fun. What makes BLUR different than ‘Mario Kart,’ and a hundred other arcade racing games, is its consolidation of arcade action mixed with reality based racing. In all honesty, BLUR is one-half ‘Project Gotham Racing’ and the other, ‘Mario Kart’-- on steroids.
The main reason this odd combination works is its firm planting in skill based driving. BLUR keeps its arcade feel without being too wild, and much like 'Project Gotham,' the cars have a real weight to them with a several nuances between each ride. Cornering and overtaking your rivals will take some skill and strategy. Instead of simply playing bumper cars, BLUR makes you work for that number one spot. Secondly, power-ups are used in the same vein as your driving skills. Careful planning is needed to blast your way to the head of the pack, and much like the racing, you have to pick your spots before you try to take the lead.
For a deeper understand of BLUR, let us focus on the highly publicised power-ups. Power-ups don’t make the game, however they definitely make it more exciting. The power-ups are not too outlandish and oddly feel like they belong in this juxtaposed world. Like the simulation-based arcade racing, the power-ups are not overpowering with a good balance between offensive and defensive traits. Since they play such an important role, we are taking a look at the eight goodies that you will be unleashing on your rivals.
Back the 'shunt' off!
Starting with a bang, we have the explosive 'Shunt.' The Shunt is a giant fireball of energy that does big damage to your attended victim. More than an simple exploding menace, the shunt's homing capability follows racers around the track until it eliminates them. Shunts can be avoided by a quick evasive maneuvers, but this takes skill and will take some time to develop. The shunt is the big dog in BLUR; however, it is not the only tool of destruction.
The Mine parallels the Shunt in damaging power, however it is just a plain old mine. Mines are best placed in high traffic corners and behind other power-up markers. Furthermore, the mine is good defensive tool, used to stop wanna-be over-takers and oncoming Shunts. Like the mine, the next power-up is also good to use in corners or to destroy Shunts. This powered up item is ‘The Barge.' The barge is a small radius weapon that emerges from your vehicle like a small sonic boom. It doesn't do huge damage like the others, but it is perfect for throwing racers off their game and saving your hide.
Following the Barge is the 'Bolt' power-up. Bolts are tiny purple projectiles that shoot from your vehicle. Bolts do little damage to your enemies and are mainly used to put a twist your adversaries mojo causing them to swerve out of control. Bolts are also be used to destroy mines and Shunts making it an palpable ingredient of the pursuers arsenal. Lastly, on the offensive side is the ‘Shock’ power that shoots a set of three lighting pools in front of the pack to slow down your leader. Similar to all the other offensive powers, the ‘Shock’ can also be used as a defensive tool, if your driving skills are sharp.
The last three power-ups are self-explainitory standard items that we have all seen before. On the defensive side, things are a little more boring with a quick activating 'shield.' and a standard affair 'repair' power-up to get your ride running in tip top shape. Lastly, we have the mandatory ‘Nitro' boost, a staple in arcade racing. These power-ups might not be as "cool" as blowing up other vehicles, but they are a necessary evil to winning races.
Those are some Sweet Rides
Returning to reality is a host of real-world rides and environments. The environments are based on real locals from around the world, including L.A., Spain, Tokyo and more. Each location has a basic theme with normal tarmac racing mixed with over-the-top jumps and off-road sections. The vehicles range from small compacts like the 'Ford Focus' and 'Volkswagon Scirocco' to some sweeter rides like the 'Lotus Exige Cup 260' and 'Koenigsegg CCX-R.' BLUR also has some off-road variations like the 'Nissan Navara,' 'Land Rover Defender SVX.' Each vehicle is rated in five categories --Acceleration, Speed, Grip, Difficulty, and Health-- and feels reasonably different from each another. No one car is always going to be the right choice because you have to take the event style and track conditions into consideration. The variety is perfectly set up to offer the gamers a good selection of rides to choose from, and even though it is somewhat strange to see an old beat up 'Volkswagon Beatle' called the "Rat" shooting a fireball, it works. In total BLUR represents over 50 licensed vehicles.
A New Kudos
To keep you motivated ‘Bizarre’ has created a new kudos styled system that encourages you to diversify your approach to racing. Aside from fan points, you need to make it to the podium to accumulate a score. The point system is broken down into fan appreciation and light points. Fan appreciation points are earned by performing skilled maneuvers, using power-ups, completing fan requests, and staying ahead of the pack. Fan runs are simply checkpoints you have to rush through under a timed limit. Activities start by running through icons, which is the same as fan requests, and power-ups. Fans points are essential to unlocking new items and should be a focus of your game along with earning lights. You earn lights by using power-ups effectively and finishing in a pole position. The new system is objectively simple and in the same right, uniquely challenging, however it's not as cool as saying "Kudos."
Racing for Pinks
The single player campaign is broken down into nine stages with a "boss" challenge topping off each stage. The goal is to win each bosses favour by achieving specific goals in a level so you can race them for their pinks. These challenges start out simple and become rather difficult later in the game. You will need to make every effort to impress the bosses in BLUR, so expect some frustration and a whole lot of re-starts. For a small taste, on the second level "Khan’s Level" you will have a list of demands to complete before you race him. These include 'Shielding against 3 Power-Ups,' 'Collect 40 Stopwatches,' and 'Evade 3 Shock Fields.' As you can see each objective can be vastly different from demand-to-demand, and this is only the second level. Nevertheless, BLUR’s multifaceted take on the “Chapter Boss” is fun and ranks up with some of the better challenges from 'Need for Speed.'
The boss scuffles are one-on-races with two different paths of victory-- cross the finish line first, or demolish your opponents ride. Defeating a boss rewards you with a Trophy/Achievement and more importantly, places their unique ride in your garage. Each boss has a special version of a standard car with a special modifier. Modifiers are exclusive characteristics that boost the ability of your ride. Mods do everything from adjusting your vehicles strength to mutating the in-game power-ups. There are tons of mods that all do their part to make BLUR even more customizable online and off.
"The Race is On" -- Online that is
Over the last few days, 2'000 of my closest friends have enjoyed BLUR online daily. The online portion of BLUR is highly addictive, surprisingly deep, and more importantly fun. The "just one more race" theory of late night gaming will probably get a hold of you as you fight for online dominance. The online integration in BLUR is superb, and beyond its own defined career mode (which is awesome) BLUR has some excellent community functionality to share you progress on Twitter and Facebook. Not to mention a statistics junkies dream on the BLUR homepage (www.blurthegame.com). BLUR lets you dig deep into every nuance of the game to track your skills in comparison to the rest of the world. It is really cool to see all your in-game actions translated into numbers and percentages. Who knew I was more efficient with Barge's than Bolts.
If you are not into the whole social networking scene, you can still get your gaming buddies together for some online racing in the assorted multiplayer modes, or even challenge them in the new 'Friend Challenge' feature. This feature lets you challenge up to three of your friends to beat any of your single player accomplishments in the game. The option to send out a challenge arises after each race, so you can send them out when you are at your best. It is a nice little feature that helps improve the community focus in BLUR.
Online BLUR is broken down into a few sections starting with Driving School (for ranked players 1-10). Skirmish Racing (ranked 2-20), Powered Up Racing (4-20 Racers!), Motor Mash (Earn points from doing damage), Team Racing (Powered Up Team Event), Team Motor Mash, Hardcore Racing, Community Events, and World Tour. Each section needs to be unlocked with the final 'World Tour' being unlocked at level 18! This selection more than ample, and 'Bizarre' needs a good pat on the pack for pushing so much online content into the game. Even with all online modes there is more online goodness to talk about.
During your extensive sessions online you will have the chance to unlock several unique challenges that involve leveling up to level 50! Included in these challenges are car challenges that reward you for various in-game actions. To go through every point comprehensively would take forever, so just note this, BLUR is pack to the hill with awesome online features that provide a continual reward to keep your wheels rolling. This constant feeling of achievement makes it hard to power down your console once you get in a role, making BLUR one of the standout multiplayer games of the year.
In terms of difficulty, BLUR is a steep climb upwards... quickly. Plainly said, BLUR can be a bugger! The addition of power-ups in this common racer is its Achilles’ heel. It can be nearly impossible to get ahead of the crowd if you start in the back, with one wrong move being overly damaging to your performance. The A.I. is heavy on the juice and will taking every shot they can. Now, I don't blame them, considering I am do the same thing, however it takes a number of retries to beat each level—and this includes dropping the difficulty down to EASY. The best approach is to level up your fan status to earn more unlockables, and hopefully you get the perfect car to overcome the odds. In one respect the strong difficulty provides a good challenge for the seasoned racers, although, the yin to this yang is that it also alienates the percentage who want a simple steamroller.
BLUR claims to be the ultimate powered-up racing experience, and I would have to agree. Blur is addictive, exciting, and ultimately a blast to play. BLUR might not reinvent the wheel, but it provides a first-rate racing experience that holds its own. Even compared to other games, not of the automotive genre, BLUR has a lot to offer in the way of online competition and integrated community features. Any serious fan of racing games should take BLUR for a spin.
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 06.03.10