Who exactly do developers Bizarre Creations see as the perfect audience for Blur? If you consider yourself a car nerd then most likely you’ll want one of the many, many games which features licensed vehicles to have at least some handling and performance similarities with their real-life counterparts.
If you’re a fan of kart games or weapon-based arcade racers then chances are you’re expecting hoverships or balloon-headed monkey drivers. Ideally, hoverships driven by balloon-headed monkeys. Blur has combined Mario Kart and Wipeout’s gameplay with Project Gotham’s eclectic taste in cars and (seeing Land Rovers racing competi-tively with rusted VW Beetles and Nissan 350Zs), and has you firing plasma balls and triggering energy waves. It leaves a peculiar taste.
Are we making too much of a snap judgement here? Are we getting all intolerant in our old age? After all, Project Gotham was hardly a simulator and Blur harks back (somewhat unfashionably) to the likes of Need for Speed: Underground and Midnight Club 2 – two titles that embraced reality only lightly. The Midnight Club series especially has long mixed real cars with power-ups and online play.
Although Blur will be primarily played as an online title, it also has a substantial single-player component. In this mode, your ultimate aim is to defeat nine rivals, whom you are allowed to compete against in one-on-one races after completing a set amount of races and meeting some of their specific objectives (such as wrecking X amount of cars or landing X number of power-ups).
Beat them and you’ll be rewarded with their special ride and a power-up ‘mod’ (such as extra Bolt ammo or a stronger shield) to use in future races. In addition to straight-up races, you’ll also get to take part in beat-the-clock Checkpoint races and a mode called Destruction where you must take down as much traffic as possible using your Bolt attack before the time runs out.
Playing in single-player will highlight several things. One is a steep difficulty curve. Two is that having 20 racers on the field at once is fantastic fun and now something we demand from every racer hereon in. Three is the realisation that the comparatively short-range weaponry means that, get enough of a lead, and you’ll be untouchable – or drop back, and you’re unlikely to catch up with the podium positions. Four is that the solo mode acts mainly as preparation for your eventual venture into the online arena.
You might have got the impression that we think Blur isn’t the evolution of PGR that we were hoping for and this silly racer is a bit of throwaway fluff for ‘the casuals’ – but that isn’t quite true. Once we got over our stubborn refusal to suspend disbelief it finally dawned on us that Blur – if you take it for what it is – is bloody good fun, especially online.
Unlike sombre simulators where the top three is usually decided by the second corner, a 20-player race in Blur is a frantic, unpredictable and explosive scrabble to be anything but last. If anything, the way it encourages an every-man-for-himself attitude, like grannies at Walmart sales, means finishing anything higher than tenth can feel like an achievement.
Blur is definitely no mould breaker (after all, almost all the power-ups are just techno variations of Mario Kart’s and similarities to Midnight Club have been covered), but it is refined, fast-paced, pick-up-and-play arcade racing with flourishes of individuality.
If we were to change anything then we’d like the vehicle drifting to be less speed-sapping and the tracks to be even more flamboyant. If you’re only going to make a nod to reality then you might as well go completely nuts.
In the world of combat racing, Blur is a high production example. The use of licensed vehicles may be more for the purposes of novelty than to transform gameplay but if you’re looking for a less fantastical, less bouncy and altogether more nail-biting take on Mario Kart you may have just found what you’re looking for here.
May 25, 2010