Review: Will Blur edge Mario Kart off the road?
Is it Mario Kart meets Project Gotham Racing? Or Wipeout plus Gran Turismo? Choose your favorite comparison for Blur, the action racer from Bizarre Creations. With Geometry Wars under their belt, the Brit developer has a history with neon infused, arcade-style action, and Blur is no exception. It's bright, fast, and frenetic, with splitscreen multiplayer aiming to give Nintendo's beloved kart racing franchise a run for its money. But with an RPG influenced, Modern Warfare-style system of multiplayer leveling, it seems to want to be much more than that. Has Blur bitten off more than it can chew?
Combining real environments and cars with outlandish sci-fi projectiles has made for an uncanny experience, a game that looks alternately realistic and not of this world. Blur's true visual strength is in rendering shiny metal; headlights and passing projectiles reflect beautifully off your car. You'll bump and grind with threatening intensity, and the damage is well modeled, with crumpling fenders and dragging bumpers. Next to all this the real world tracks seem drab, maybe to help the player spot the vividly colored power-ups. When the smoke starts pouring out of your hood, you'd better be looking for the electric yellow of a repair icon.
Blur's sound design is an even more successful mix of simulation and fantasy. It's a detailed approach, engines have unique running noises, and you'll hear them shift at proper intervals. The auditory mayhem of vehicular combat is gut wrenching. The crash of metal on metal jars; a sideswipe or shove into a guardrail comes with a cringe-inducing crunch; you'll wonder how you're still driving. Blur's sounds aren't just well sampled; they interact beautifully with the world. Drive close to a wall and you'll hear your motor's roar reverberating off the surface. Tunnels create echo, and wide-open spaces disperse noise. The noises of opponents speeding past you distort and oscillate. Blur is a game that must be played at top volume for full effect. Better have the neighbors over, or they'll be complaining.
Blur's single player campaign has nine levels, each ending with a ?boss? race, but I doubt most players will complete it. Not just because multiplayer against live opponents is infinitely more stimulating, but also because it contains a small amount of game types repeated en masse with a difficulty that goes from zero to sixty in a flash. The three game types are race, destruction, and checkpoint, and feel like holdovers from every other racer. Blur is a game that wears its influences on its sleeve, in some cases successfully, but this is where it needed to innovate. The boss battles are a single streak of originality. They're a one-on-one race against an opponent with some ?personality?, i.e. a driver who will go to great lengths to protect his beautiful car, even if it means losing the race. These races have you adapting to your opponents' quirks and get the player thinking- something Blur could use much more of.
Blur's multiplayer is a mixed bag as well. With up to twenty cars on the track, the action is even more frantic when you have real people behind the wheel. As I mentioned, online players level up to gain access to new cars and abilities, encouraging people to create a ?build? that works for them. This means that higher-level players will have better cars and nastier tricks. While this works well in games like Modern Warfare, where players strive more for a good kill-to-death ratio than first place, it's very discouraging in a racer. You'll need to rank up a few dozen levels before you even have a chance of placing, which stinks because getting fourth or lower renders a negligible amount of xp.
In Blur, moving up the pack is very difficult, especially with so many competitors. You'll need to grab every boost available, block all incoming attacks, and never stray from the asphalt. Essentially you'll need a near prescient knowledge of the track and its available power ups, as well as a good serving of luck. That is, unless you're above level forty and have access to some of the more dominant cars. In that case, just establish an early lead, and maintain it by grabbing a steady stream of boosts and shields.
Basically, the more seriously you take Blur, the less fun you will have. If you aren't out to place first and simply enjoy driving like a sociopath, you will have a brilliant time. However, if the idea of completing a hundred or so races without placing first even once seems spirit crushing, Blur may not be your game.