What happens when you mix Mario Kart and Wipeout with Call of Duty? You get Blur. Mario Kart for grown ups has been a frequent method of description when trying to sum blur up but it is much more than that. It features real cars racing round real locations but with fantastical weapons resulting in a frantic arcade racer with a fan/lights system that keeps you coming back for more as you constantly unlock and progress.
Progression through the main career mode is defined by fans and lights that are attained in each event. Lights are determined by how well you finish an event with bonus lights awarded for driving through checkpoint gates or meeting fan target numbers. Fans are attained in a similar way to XP as in say MW2, so completing actions like hitting an opponent with a weapon to overtakes them and drifting reward you with fans. Progress through the game involves completing 9 different stages that consist of 8 events. These are either race, destruction (score points for wrecking other cars) and checkpoint (race against the clock collecting time bonuses). Lights are obtained at the end of each event and each stage finishes with a head to head race. There is plenty to do and its worth playing through again on hard and to set better times for the online leader boards.
An excellent feature though, is the ability to share your score with a friend, after completing an event you can then send them a challenge to beat your score and they can reply showing how many tries it took them to beat it for you to beat. Blur is an incredibly social game with the aforementioned friend challenges it also features facebook and twitter integration, this involves posting updates of scores and unlocks that are user controlled. This means no auto posts about trophies or every race you finished unless you want it to. Unfortunately the Game’s website and leaderboards is still not fully functioning yet but hopefully that will be sorted out soon.
The weapons are varied and perfectly balanced with shield, mine, boost and repair all doing what you would expect. The other weapons are Barge (sends a shock-wave out of your car), shunt (homing red missile), bolt (fires 3 bolts) and shock which places 3 electrified traps in front of the leader. All of these apart shield, repair shock can even be fired backwards (or forwards if its a mine), with the boost acting as a bullet time direction changer being the most ingenious! Most of the weapons can cancel each other out using the barge to halt an incoming shunt, for example, all helps to keep the balance and being able to hold 3 weapons at a time allows you to manage your power ups and save them for when they are needed. It works a lot better than the 3-tier system used in ModNation racers for example, they are also not randomly placed so as well as learning the track you can learn, which power ups are where adding an extra layer of tactics.
The handling of the cars is straight up arcade with stiff turning and fast speeds, with drifting a required to navigate the trickier turns. The cars are broken down into 4 speed types from A to D with you starting at D with Ford Focuses and working up to A involving Audi R8s and Koenigseggs. There is a suitable difference between the cars and the tracks to warrant chopping and changing between each event with Amboy tracks suitable for off-road cars like the Land Rovers and Tokyo’s long straights ideal for power house Skyline’s to rip through. There are some cars missing that you would wish to be present such as Ferrari, Honda and TVR but you soon get over these losses by appreciating the selection that is present, it may not have a Gran Turismo size garage but there is still plenty there to play with.
Blur is divided in half in a similar fashion to Call of Duty with the game offering you a choice of single and multiplayer when you start it up. Multiplayer features online, LAN and splitscreen options – that’s 4 player splitscreen with 4 other AI cars all working flawlessly like the good old days. Online features an addictive leveling up system like MW2 with constant unlocks of cars and mods as you play, challenges also help boost your fan counts to get to next rank. There’s even a
prestige legendary mode when you’ve reached the top rank allowing to restart again but unlocks a unique car for your use and the unlocks are different from the single player with only the boss cars that you have earned carrying over. There are plenty of modes from the straight up 20 player races to MotorMash (deathmatch), Team Racing and Hardcore Racing without the power ups. The online experience can be chaotic, especially on tracks with plenty of Shock power-ups and be prepared to get rammed into walls but soon enough you’ll learn the ropes and start winning races.
From the moment you boot up the game and hear the sublime Ennio Moricone remix accompany a slow motion scene of destruction you know you are in for a treat. This is a slickly designed game, minimalistic menus are backed by ambient music and helvetica font is used liberally and neon graphic effects. All the events take place at night or sunset keeping a consistent visual style with a slightly washed out low contrast aesthetic. The cars are authentic and shiny bouncing off the light reflections and the tracks whilst a little fantastical do feature real world streets, I particularly enjoyed racing around my local area Hackney. The music also fits in with the style of the game with plenty of electronic, drum & bass & remixes from the Ninja Tune label that perfectly accompany the on track action (sadly there’s no Song 2).
Blur runs at 30fps which is works fine as this means races can involve up to 20 cars resulting in a lot of mayhem with no visible slowdown or screen tear, which is always welcome especially considering Blur is Bizarre Creations second multi-platform game since being Dreamcast and X-Box exclusive since the PSOne days. The damage model is a little basic and doesn’t show too much in the way of unique impact damage but it just about does the job, the cars flipping when hit are always spectacular though.
Blur is full to the brim with neat ideas, great design but also has the solid gameplay to hold it all together, it’s addictive and fun without feeling too unfair, a trait all too common with combat racers. There’s no doubting you can feel like you’ve lost a race through no fault of your own but you could always have been more prepared by hoarding more defensive weapons. to protect your lead and lets face it, there’s nothing like stealing a win on the last corner. If you’re looking for a fun, social racer to tide you over the summer you could do a lot worse than pick up a copy of blur, just don’t expect to find a beetlebum car in it though.
Played the Career mode till completion on normal and played online to rank 20.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Blur provided by Activision Blizzard.