Blur pledges kart-style racing for adults with its combat-infused gameplay mixed with beautifully rendered supercars. But, if you can't release your inner child and dive into some online hijinks, you might have a hard time enjoying this one.
- Incredibly polished presentation
- Plenty of replayability online
- Fast-paced online action
- Racing takes a back seat to fighting
- Chaotic online multiplayer gets frustrating
- Car physics too far from reality
While the Burnout series waits on an engine rebuild before devastating the competition on-track again, there’s room on the market for a new breed of high-impact, adrenaline-fueled racers. Blur is one of the models trying to fill that void and at the same time, allows developer Bizarre Creations to try and shake itself free of Project Gotham Racing and establish a new franchise. Despite the automotive theme, Blur is a big departure from the various PGR entries, and while this is not necessarily a game for fans of Bizarre’s previous work, those intent on bending fenders will feel a bit more comfortable.
It’s hard to avoid calling Blur a fusion of Project Gotham Racing and Mario Kart (not unlike calling PGR a hybrid of Gran Turismo and Need for Speed). Take the licensed autos, the superficial crash damage, and the funky presentation of the former then blend in the silly power-ups and the “last to first to last again” frustration of the latter and you have something of an idea of what Bizarre’s latest is all about.
There are multiple gameplay modes at hand here, but the primary one is combat-focused racing. You face off with up to 19 white-knuckled adrenaline junkies and try to complete a number of laps around a variety of circuits faster than everyone else while staying out of trouble and out of those 19 sets of crosshairs.
Scattered about the courses are icons representing each of the eight power-ups available, like the fire-and-forget shunt (ala the red turtle shell), the shock attack (lightning that targets the leaders, not unlike a blue turtle shell), mines, turbo boosts, and shields. Most projectiles can be fired forward or backward and it’s important to use them in both directions. Focus entirely on what’s ahead and an opponent will quickly fill your tailpipe with fire and brimstone, but keep your head on a swivel and you might make it for 30 seconds or so without getting blasted – maybe.
Getting your Crash On
Offline, you’re presented with a series of challenges grouped into nine sets containing things like races, time trials, and some mindless shooting of brain-dead opponents. Complete a set of challenges, then beat an end-boss and you’ll unlock a new special car and a new special ability like boosted shields or extra ammo. Meanwhile, you’ll be earning experience in the form of fans, groupies who show their appreciation of your on-track prowess by filling your garage with savory autos. There is plenty to unlock here and, while it won’t keep you occupied as long as some of Bizarre’s previous efforts, the online component makes up for that.
There the career is much the same, again unlocking cars and power-ups as you earn experience based on how well you perform. Racing with power-ups is still the primary mode, with up to 20 players competing at once, but there is also arena-based combat and even honest-to-gosh racing without weapons. However, that action will leave you wanting thanks to the unrewarding physics. Some cars grip and some cars slip, and while drifting is certainly encouraged it feels far too detached from reality. Meanwhile, “motor mash” arena combat is unsatisfying because the cars are so fast; competitors fly in and out of your sights in a flash, leaving everything chaotic and random. It's less “hunter vs. hunted” as much as it is a barrel full of monkeys -- with guns.
Combat racing is similarly chaotic; it’s played out in a frantic nature that people will either love or hate. You can easily be off in the lead in a race, get knocked over a cliff or into a barricade by an opponent and get zapped again by a mid-pack racer only to find yourself last. From here you might claw your way up to the middle again, but victory will be out of reach. There is certainly skill involved here and a better competitor will finish higher on average, but one great racer won’t be able to fend off attacks from 19 trigger-happy rookies. Bizarre’s previous racers were all about celebrating driving prowess, while Blur embraces random acts of violence. That’s not to say a little carnage can’t be fun, but constantly being pummeled by attacks out of the blue quickly becomes frustrating. Blur’s biggest problem is that unlike a genre standard bearer such as Mario Kart, it throws too many cars at you, and such a high number of weaponized vehicles destroys the balancing. Factor in the idea that Nintendo’s game doles out the power-ups based on your performance and not on a constant location on the race course, and you can see the contrast between an ambitious kart racer and the genre juggernaut.
Thankfully, soothing techno tunes will bring that blood pressure back down as soon as you hit the menus, part of an overall package of audio and visual treats that delight from the first moment the disc loads to the second your once shiny Lotus Exige expires in a dazzling ball of fire. From fireworks popping on the beach to heavy beats stirring from a mid-course nightclub, Bizarre Creations has always paid incredible attention to the little details of a game and has really outdone itself with Blur. Likewise, online performance is solid, and while we did see the occasional car warping, things were generally smooth during my time invested in races. Crazy, but smooth.
In Blur, skill at driving definitely takes a back seat to one’s ability to attack and defend against 19 other cars, which becomes the primary focus here. Instead of finesse-heavy racing made more intense by the addition of power-ups, you have a simplistic driving game flooded with projectiles. There’s certainly a fair amount of fun to be had, but the constant barrage and the bare-bones physics leaves this feeling like any other kart racer: a little bit shallow. That’s fine if you really just want another kart racer (especially one with a lot of goodies to unlock), but not if you were instead hoping for something a little bit special. Blur is a good game, but as a hybrid of two fairly disparate subgenres of racing games, it’s not the dream combination you’d expect.