Final Blur Hands-On PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted May 12, 2010
The last time we saw Bizarre Creations’ real-world take on arcade kart racing was at PAX 2009. While Blur had definitely made many welcomed advancements since its debut during E3 2009, it still remained to be seen how the strange mix of its simulation pedigree and over-the-top weapon-based arcade racing would come off. The picture is a bit clearer now, but the game still feels like it’s straddling the tone/style fence to its detriment.
Bizarre associate producer Lip Ho stopped by the G4 offices recently to show off some of Blur’s single-player features, and while the game definitely looks and plays smoothly, I couldn’t help but feel like I was looking at a never-released Need for Speed game. Thinking back on it now, I’m not entirely sure why I thought this, but it was my gut reaction, so that’s probably worth something.
If you’ve played any of the multiplayer beta, you’ll know that the game plays like Super Mario Kart but with real cars, and fireballs instead of turtle shells. In fact, as Bizarre was demoing the game, they would refer to Blur’s weapons in terms of their Mario Kart inspirations just in case the similarities were lost on anyone, which they weren’t.
The first set of races introduced the various power ups available to you in the game. You can carry and toggle between three power-ups at any one time, which adds a nice bit of strategy, since you have to decide things like whether using the power boost now and waiting to use the EMP mines is the best approach or not. And being able to set the power-ups as mines or fire them ahead, another staple of the kart racing genre, adds to that strategy as well. The cars handle as you’d expect they would from an arcade-simulation hybrid, especially when it comes to hitting walls or being hit by power-ups since the game does a good job of never fully killing your momentum, so you don’t feel like you have to have an absolutely flawless race in order to win.
I also saw the various boss drivers on display. These characters, which you face off against at the end of each circuit, race in custom rides that can be yours should you manage to best them on the track. Not only that, those cars also come with special abilities, like a titanium protective shield that be used to deflect enemy attacks. There are plenty of these abilities, and each one offers a unique way to get an edge on the racetrack.
By far the most compelling feature of the single-player portion of the game that I saw is the friendship challenge. These are basically offline multiplayer sessions that give players the chance to challenge other players to best their performance on a particular race. It’s basically a virtual, racing-based version of HORSE. Best of all though, you can tweak the parameters of the race that you just completed. So if you beat the race on easy and only used two power-ups, but you want your friends (up to three can be challenged at once) to beat it on hard only using one power-up, you can do that. And the next time your friends boot up the game, they’ll see a little icon that will indicate that they have been challenged.
The friendship challenges are a brilliant way to give those gamers who traditionally favor single-player a chance to experience a multiplayer-type experience. Plus, it creates a great sense of accomplishment and competition on a more intimate scale than straight-up online multiplayer.
Even though Blur has come a long way over the past year, there’s still something about it that just doesn’t pop for me. It lacks the all-out quirkiness of ModNation Racers and it’s not nearly as over-the-top wild as Split/Second. There could be a sweet spot somewhere in the middle there, but I won’t know whether it will be able to shoot the gap until I get my hands on the full game.