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Games To Keep An Eye On: Blur

Don’t let this game slip under the radar! Blur is being developed by famed studio Bizarre Creations. Bizarre Creations are behind the 360 Exclusive titles under the name Project Gotham Racing, which is one of the best looking racing franchises on the 360 (though, very limited in terms of vehicle upgrades, etc). Due to licensing, Project Gotham Racing is owned by Microsoft, so Bizarre decided to go a different route in the racing genre, and Blur is the result.

At first glance, the game looks to be a full-on arcade racer. Given the power-ups available, it’s more akin to be a kart racer with licensed vehicles, what, with all the power-ups and whatnot. The only thing is, though, Bizarre likes to make things a little more realistic, so they’re aiming for the vehicles to have more realistic handling as well. One thing is for sure, this is definitely one of the most stylized (and best looking) racing games out there.

The game includes 55 licensed cars (and I’m sure more will come via DLC) and an awesome damage model. The cars aren’t direct representations of the real-life counterparts, seeing as they’ve had a few design provisions to suit the game’s style. You’ll see plenty of variety in the vehicle types as well, from muscle cars and tuners to luxury vehicles and vans. Given that, there should be something for everyone. No word yet on whether or not you can create custom liveries, but since more and more games support such an option, it would be a step backwards for such a game (especially with how stylized this game is), but it really isn’t that big of a deal.

As far as gameplay elements go, the main draw for this game is the power ups. Included in the game are five different types of power ups. Mine, Shunt, Nitro, Barge and Shock. Each has a specific characteristic. The ‘Mine’ power-up lays mines on the track, exploding on impact any vehicles that are following you. The ‘Shunt’ power-up, which sends a ‘homing’ blast to the car in front of you, upending the vehicle and causing it to lose control. ‘Nitro’, obviously, gives you a boost of speed. You can send a shockwave out the sides of your vehicle with the ‘Barge’ power-up. And last, but not least, is the ‘Shock’ power-up, which sends out a blue lightning bolt that slows any nearby opponents down, and causes the target vehicle to lose any of its power-ups.

One of the cooler aspects to the power-up system is that you can store two at any given time. If you happen to save up two of the same power-up, you can “double tap” it and increase the damage dealt, the speed, etc (depending on which one you use. They each have a different specialized effect). If you have two different power-ups, you can switch from one to the other if you prefer to use a specific one during a race. There are also health pick ups, so you have to keep track of the damage you take as well.

As far as race locales go, there are multiple real-world locations the tracks take place on, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, the UK and Spain (and many others). There have been some provisions made to the streets, seeing as there will be 20 vehicles on the track at any given time (including online multiplayer), but it will still give you a good feel of the atmosphere you’re racing in.

The tracks are littered with jumps and shortcuts, which help you build up your combo gauge, which gives you points at the end of the race to use on power-up upgrades, including their effectiveness and the number of power-ups you can store (kind of like Project Gotham’s Kudos points). Also of note, If someone uses a power up on you, and you happen to fly too far off track, the game will respawn you back into the middle of the track to get you back into the action a lot quicker.

One of the more mysterious aspects of the game is how the ‘story’ unfolds. It uses more of a social networking interface than any actual storyline the game follows. There hasn’t been a whole lot on this aspect of the game, but what we do know is that it evolves by making friends, rivals, fans, and the different races you compete in. I, myself, would like to see how that works, because it sounds like something never done in a game like this before.

Besides the 20-player online racing, the game also supports 4-player split screen. I know that’s a plus for some of you on here, especially Blackstaffer. Given the arcade-like gameplay, this should be a hit at parties for sure. Unfortunately, as of right now, that’s not an option for online games, but things can change between now and the release date.

Given the credibility Bizarre Creations has for its racing games, this is definitely a game to keep your eye on. The only thing I’m hoping for is that the PS3 version of the game gets a good amount of attention so it’s at least on par with the 360 counterpart. My worst fear is that it won’t be, especially since Bizarre use to be an exclusive developer for Microsoft, before they went independent.

The game was supposed to have had an early November release, but given the tough market this holiday season (Uncharted 2, Modern Warfare 2, Ratchet and Clank, etc), and possibly some last-minute changes, the game has been delayed until 2010 (which, itself, has some really, really tough market competition, especially on the PS3 with games lik God of War III and Heavy Rain). Until then, we’ll try to get more information on the game as it comes through. You can view some more details and screens, and a few developer blogs, over at the official Blur site.