Imagine one of the most treasured racing series, Mario Kart. Now imagine how that would transpose into real life. No doubt you’re thinking of something not dissimilar to Bizarre Creation’s new racer, Blur.
Just like Nintendo’s kart series, Blur pits drivers against each other on tracks littered with various power-ups designed to either keep you in front, or get you to the front (More on the power-ups further down). The cars used are all fully licensed real cars and vans (well, maybe not the F1 engine powered Transit). The tracks vary from the seaside of Brighton to the hills of Hollywood. Graphically, Blur isn’t as pretty as the likes of Forza 3, but the gameplay is so intense and fast-paced that it doesn’t need to look that photo-realistic. Basically, I haven’t ever thought the graphics were poor enough to detract from everything else going on on-screen.
The primary goal of racing in Blur is to gain fans. In essence, fans represent what experience points are in most other games which allow you to level up. Within races, there are ways to gain more fans; hitting rivals with power-ups, coming 3rd 2nd or 1st, performing a fan run (driving through specific gates that appear), and you’ll sometimes get a race type which has random fan requests (such as Nitro overtake someone). In single player, fans help pass challenges to progress to the next round of races, whilst online, levelling up your fan score unlocks new cars and mods.
The single player revolves around completing a number of stages. Each stage is made up of 7 or 8 races, culminating with a battle against a rival. But before you can go up against them, you have to reach specific targets they give you, as well as winning all the other races in the stage. These add more depth and longevity to the single player mode, as these targets can take a while to fulfil. Once you unlock the rival race, all you have to do is beat them to win their car and unlock the next stage.
The single player in Blur is a lot of fun, but multiplayer is where the game excels. Racing against AI cars doesn’t give the same level of satisfaction as with other people, and hitting someone with a power-up seconds before the finish line and beating them is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had online. Bizarre added a feature all racing games should still have, but many these days don’t; split-screen. Because it has up to 4 player split-screen, and is very easy to pick up, Blur can be played by the whole family, as it has by mine. Taking the game online is the way to get the most fun out of this game, I’ve found. 20 player races are exhilarating and tense, depending on what position you happen to be in.
These are either specifically offensive, defensive, or both depending on how it is used.
This has two functions. Using it normally, it gives you a boost, which you can use to overtake others, or shunt into them at speed. The secondary use is an air brake, which you can use if someone is right behind you. This makes you stop instantly for a second, and then shoots you forwards again at speed.
I consider Shunt to be the best power-up. Firing it forwards, you lock on to a car and fire a red orb, which, if it hits a car (and the victim isn’t good at using power-ups defensively), will flip it up into the air, allowing you to drive right past. You can also fire these backwards, but with no lock on ability. When someone else locks on to you, the HUD will flash letting you know, and if you have the right power-up (Barge, Mine, Bolt, Shield, or even a Shunt), you can fire them backwards at the right time to blow it up before it reaches you.
Barge is a pretty simple one. Use it when close to opponents, and it will send out a purple shock wave which will throw all cars out of the way. Of course if you see a car in front of you with Barge equipped, you’d better give them some space when overtaking.
This will shield you from any other power-up for a short period of time.
A very powerful power-up, if used properly. It gives you three bolts to fire either in front or behind. If a bolt does hit another car, it will put it off course for a split second. The best way of using this is to hit another single car with all three bolts, sending them even further out of control.
Shock is purely an offensive power-up, which shoots three lightning bolts down from the sky further down the track. If anyone drives through these, it’ll slow them right down. Skilful evasive manoeuvring is needed to get around these.
Allows you to release a mine behind your car, or fire one far in front. Very effective if you’re trying to fend of overtakers.
Each car has health which is shown as bars just under the rear-view mirror on the HUD. If it runs out, your car is wrecked and you have to wait a short while to respawn. This could take the valuable few seconds that were keeping you in first place. Repair fills your car’s health fully when used.
Power-ups aren’t the only part of Blur that can alter how offensive or defensive you play online. There are also Mods, which you earn with increased fan levels. Some can add strength or speed to your car, while others can be power-up specific (like a laser sight that appears when you have Bolt equipped). You have a choice of three Mods, one from each group.
There is also a heavy focus on the link Blur has with social networking. At any point, you can bring up a menu where you can share all kinds of game info on Facebook, Twitter, or a profile on the Blur website. I haven’t really used this feature, as I feel it would get rather annoying for friends/twitter followers. One thing I do use is the photo mode, which can send any photos you take to a Facebook album. All the photos in this review are my own, taken in-game using the photo mode, which has quite a few decent setting, such as aperture level, shutter speed, and tint level among others.
Blur is by far my favourite arcade racer of the current gen, and quite possibly ever. A few things let it down slightly. Not being able to customise your car any more than the paint type and colour surprised me, especially when you’re able to customise a lot of other things such as the Mods. Another is the music, which I forgive because you can play your own over it anyway. Overall, I would recommend this to those interested in arcade racers. It really is as fun as it looks.