If you’ve played a Mario Kart game before, Blur’s powerups are very similar in the roles they play in races (A fact Bizarre Creations seems to take great pride in – one of the reward titles for using the most ‘Shunt’ powers in a race has the moniker ‘The Crimson Carapace’ as a reference to the infamous Red Shell powerup from Nintendo’s Kart racer). In total, there are 8 different power ups: Nitro, a speed boost that can also be used to deliver a powerful slam attack against rival cars, Shield, which grants you invulnerability, A Repair power up to heal your car’s damage, Lightning, which targets players in the lead with a deadly lightning blast, Bolt, 3 ranged projectiles that can cause your enemies to lose control of their vehicles, Shunt, a large, homing blast, Mines, and Barge, which emits a wave of purple energy from your vehicle, smashing nearby cars out of your way. Each power has an ‘Alt-fire’ mode as well – Mines can be fired forward to surprise your opponents, for example, and nitro can be fired backwards to give you extra braking power for hairpin turns. How you time and use your powers, of which you can carry up to 3 at a time in a race, is the key to victory in Blur.
One of the weakest points of the campaign can be the brutal difficulty spike about half way through – suddenly first time race wins become a rarity, and the player progression comes grinding to a halt as you’re forced to repeat more races to unlock further content. It is a shame the difficulty coudn’t have been seeded into the campaign at a steadier pace, as in stead it creates an absurd tonal shift between the two halves of it: the first being relatively easy to breeze through, the second prone to bouts of maniacal difficulty. The intense difficulty of some of the later races and challenges can sometimes ruin the fun that is ingrained into the core of Blur’s fast paced racing, and it damages the experience as a whole.
However, Blur’s greatest strengths lie in its online play. Up to 20 racers can group together to race, and as always, the human element that online play brings can make Blur’s already exhilarating races electrifying at times, with hectic powerups tearing across the swathes of barging cars creating frantic and chaotic moments that leave you laughing with delight. Multiplayer also makes the use of a persistent progression system, á la the Call of Duty series. Using powerups, drifting, placing well in races, completing challenges and a multitude of other elements earn you fans, who are the equivalent of experience points. Earning these fans ranks you up to unlock more cars, multiplayer game modes and paintjobs as you progress in multiplayer. Another element borrowed from the more recent Call of Duty games is a Perk system – which is called the ‘Mod’ System here – which allow you to custom tinker the effectiveness of your car to suit your playstyle. Mods range from bonuses such as extra fans per powerup hit, an improved chassis to allow you to take more hits before crashing, and the ability to be ‘gifted’ a random power up at the start of every race. With 4-screen offline play also included, it is clear that the most fun to be had with Blur is with your friends, whether they’re sitting on your couch or you’re with them over the internet.
Blur also comes with full twitter and facebook integration, taking the multiplayer community aspect of the game to another level – you can tag friends to be your ‘rival’ and challenge them to beat certain scores on campaign races, or your best lap time on a certain track, or share your personal bests and challenge completions by posting them on your Twitter Feed or Facebook wall. The integration doesn’t outstay its welcome either – any time you feel like sharing something with a friend, or issuing a challenge, the share function is mapped to a single button on your controller – one tap, enter a few details, and you’re done.
The presentation of Blur can be distilled down into one word: Slick. Everything from the look of the locales, to the menus, to the powerups is dripping with style. The realistic locations, ranging from San Francisco, to Tokyo, and even to a stunning Brighton beachfront at night, mixed with the almost Wipeout-esque, neon futurism in the effects and designs of the powerups, creates a game that just oozes with style. Although sometimes a little flat, on the looks front Blur definitely stands out as a very stylish game that certainly lives up to its own name – the feeling of speed, combined with the neon effects, does give Blur a hazy feel at times that certainly keeps the game feeling fast paced and frenetic.
Overall, Blur manages to marry realistic driving and Kart racing with great success, offering a refreshing take on the racing genre that certainly provides a great deal of fun. Although not the best choice of racer if you prefer playing alone due to the patchy and thin campaign mode, if you and your friends are looking for a slick, exciting racer, Blur is definitely a game to consider.
Developer: Bizarre Creations
Genre: Arcade Racer
Time: About 6 or 7 hours with single player, and more than triple that with the online multiplayer over Xbox LIVE.
Gripes: Single player experience is lacking, and some of the tracks feel a little samey after playing for a while.
Get it for the: Chaotic, 20 man races. They’re fast, furious and great fun with friends!