Blur Review

   28/05/2010 at 15:05       Phil May       5 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - Blur Review, Activision, Bizarre Creations, Arcade Racer, Oasis are shit

There’s no other way

Typical isn’t it? You wait for a decent arcade racer, then you get two at once (well, within a week of each other). HairyArse has already reviewed Split/Second (go and have a read) so now it’s the turn of Bizarre Creations’ grown up Kart racer, Blur.

Comparisons between the two are pointless really, other than they’re both arcade racing games and are both high quality products. Bizarre have a pedigree as long as your arm, stretching back to the glorious days of Metropolis Street Racer on the Dreamcast and through four successful Project Gotham games, plus a bit of a wobble with The Club (an action shooter).

Now the team have jumped ship and leapt into bed with Activision, how does their first project under their harsh new overseers pan out?

Just fine is the answer. Blur is impressively polished and has more than enough gameplay in both single and multiplayer to make it a worthwhile purchase.

Don’t bomb when you are the bomb

The sexiest thing about Blur is that it cheekily steals the best ingredients from a variety of racing genres. You’ve got some tasty physics, real-world cars and locations that you’d expect to see in racing sims, spliced together with a slightly weird almost cel-shaded set of visuals, coated in a deliciously slick glaze of power-up-laden gameplay. Blur will probably make purists moan about the emphasis on drift and the unrealistic pick-up items, but this is an arcade racer and should be judged as such, whether it uses real cars or not.

Comparisons to the granddaddy of Karting, Super Mario Kart may be clichéd but if you had to pick a game that’s obviously influenced the way Blur has been designed, it would be SMK. Even Bizarre Creations gave a cheeky nod to the plumber and his pals in their viral ads.

Those aforementioned powerups are the key to your success, the thorn in your side and the element that differentiates Blur from a plethora of mediocre street racing titles, so it’s worth going through them all, offensive and defensive.

On the offensive side:

Bolt – A fast moving set of mini projectiles that can be fired in quick succession. Slamming three or four bolts into an opponent is a very quick way to wreck their ride.

Shunt – Like a homing missile made of molten lava, a successful Shunt will flip an opponent’s car up into the air, end over end. Can be deployed backwards or forwards.
Mine – Staple fodder of the Kart racer for years, dropping a mine behind you should see off your pursuers. Deploying one in front of you also works perfectly if you’re closely chasing a bunch of roadhogs.

Barge – A handy force pulse that can shoulder your opponents out of the way leaving the road clear for you.

Shock– The “Blue shell” of Blur. Using Electro will pepper the pack leaders with giant lightning bolts. A great way to level the playing field

On the defensive side you have:

Repair – Useful for bringing your car back from the brink if you’ve taken one too many hits.

Shield – Does what it says on the tin, can deflect all offensive measures but only lasts for a limited time.

Nitro – A speedy boost, handy for catching up with the race leaders if you’re lagging behind.

Driving over a powerup will store it in one of your car’s three powerup slots. Each item can be juggled and deployed at will, or you can drop stuff you don’t want to use at any time to clear a slot. Blur’s powerups can change the entire outcome of a race in the blink of an eye, but more strategic use of them will win out over just firing them off as soon as you collect them.

Volkswagen Beetlebum

As you’d expect from Bizarre Creations, Blur looks absolutely gorgeous. Car models are superbly detailed and instantly recognisable – and there’s a heck of a variety to choose from, everything from lumpy SUVs to nippy drift-happy Japanese riceboy specials. Each vehicle has its own characteristic strengths and weaknesses, so picking the right one before a race is a worthwhile exercise.

Tracks are also wonderfully detailed and it was nice to see Brighton Promenade feature as one of the race locations (you can even speed past my old flat).

Blur’s single player mode is broken down into a set of challenges based around a racing personality calling you out. The challenger lays down a set of objective-based races, and the race modes vary from “first past the post” style stuff to the trickier destruction challenges.

Success in a race can be determined by the “light” count at the end (the more lights you get, the better your final placing and medal). There’s also a nod to Bizarre’s old Kudos system. The “Fan” count at the end of a race rewards stylish driving, and you can also increase your infamy by charging through fan challenge gates, activated in every race. Nailing the perfect combination of a gold medal and top fan points is a fast way to blitz through the game, unlocking more cars, challenger tiers and race locations as you go.

After you’ve lost several hours to Blur’s single player you’ve really only scratched the surface. Blur’s public beta has already showcased the game’s multiplayer strengths and the full retail version of the game is every bit as compelling online as the Beta was. Races are frenetic, adrenaline fuelled and chaotic as you join up to 20 challengers all vying for top honours, all trying their best to take you down or smash your car into tiny little fragments. If you were ever a gentleman racer in Project Gotham, now’s your chance to become a filthy car-driving thug instead.

The game uses dedicated servers, so even on my crappy broadband connection the multiplayer experience was smooth and lag free. There are so many custom options to enhance your choice of online race mode, the only niggle is that you will need to unlock as many cars as possible in each car class in single player to stand anything like a fighting chance online, as everyone else will always opt for the most powerful car in a class. Still, duking it out with friends and all agreeing on the same car is a great mode to truly pit skill against skill with no unfair advantages.

Multiplayer truly feels like the reason to purchase Blur. It’s superb, and ignoring it would be a missed opportunity indeed.

M.O.R

With a game as polished as this, the few niggles are hardly worth mentioning. Activision’s nasty piece of marketing swizz if you choose to use your preorder code (which is hidden away in the game box) won’t really net you much other than a mediocre car and a few cheaty bonuses for multiplayer modes only. The registration process and hoops you have to jump through in order to get your download code are hardly worth it, so it’s probably better to keep the code intact and use it as a bargaining chip to net you a better price if you decide to sell the game on or trade it up.

Elsewhere, the game’s sound could’ve done with a bit more work. Car noises are a bit cheap and farty, and the selection of music is a bit soulless – but at least you have the chance to switch it off.

Other than these minor moans, Blur stacks up quite nicely against Split/Second, even though the games have very little in common other than slotting into the arcade racing genre. Split/Second’s compelling destructive adrenaline-fuelled stuff is brilliant, but Blur’s strategic and in-depth career and multiplayer modes are extremely rewarding. If you can’t afford both, you might as well toss a coin and choose that way.

This first outing for Activision only makes us all the more interested to see what Bizarre does with its upcoming James Bond-themed Driving / Action game. If Blur’s anything to go by, Bizarre Creations definitely belong on the list of superior britsoft development teams who are steadily showing the rest of the world exactly how to craft the perfect driving games.

Stars
User Comments:

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repairmanjack - on 28/05/2010 at 21:00 wrote:
 
Quite tempted by this... and Split Second, but can't seem to decide between the two. Which, stupidly, means I'll probably end up grabbing both.
 

HairyArse - on 29/05/2010 at 16:56 wrote:
 
Arghhh. Too many games.
 

repairmanjack - on 29/05/2010 at 19:10 wrote:
 
Yeah. Bought both.
 

NewYork - on 01/06/2010 at 10:49 wrote:
 
Avoided reading this review until I wrote mine. It seems we agree on most points.
 

peej - on 01/06/2010 at 11:05 wrote:
 
I'm just hopelessly addicted to the try, retry and retry again game dynamic of trying to nail the "fan" sticker for each race.

The more I play this the more it's like a 5 rather than a 4.
 


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