13th June 2010 - Esteemed racing developers Bizarre Creations bring you yet another slab of racing genius unlike any other. But this isn’t like anything you know and love from the people that brought you the amazing Project Gotham Racing series. This is a drop dead unique take of the clichéd ‘Kart Genre’ game, but these days, when realism is all the rage in the gaming industry, how does a completely fantasy racing game based purely on enjoyment hold up against the rest of the racing games on the market these days? Read on to find out.
The first thing to understand with Blur is that isn’t your average racing game. Its not even your average Kart Racing game at that. In fact, it’s a mix of both your Street Racer and Kart Racer, but its far from average; Blur uses amazing racing physics that Bizarre are known for since Project Gotham’s braced out consoles, mixed with very enjoyable arcade mechanics and power-up abilities that you will find share similarities to the likes of Mario Kart and Sega All Stars. Its no secret that Blur will suffer from constant comparisons to the previously mentioned Kart racers, but heed my word when I say that such comparisons are very unfair. Blur is its own game completely, and should be looked on as such.
Where it separates itself from the Kart genre is that it actually uses real cars, something next to no games like this do. But their not just ‘real looking’ cars, these are fully licensed vehicles all with their own stats and handling mechanics. This adds a lot of varying playability to the racing, multiplayer in particular, as there over 50 cars split into 4 separate class’s to even things a little. The games actual racing mechanics are no push over either. These guys made Project Gotham 4 (and the rest of them) after all, you know, the racing game very often cited as the best racing ever created? So its kind of a given that the cars in Blur all feel and handle realistically while still being overly speedy and easy to drift in.
But to get to where this isn’t just another racer is how the games power-ups effect the racing. Blur has taken a brave move by only having a very select few power-ups, which puts it directly into the possible line of countless fire by gamers and reviewers alike wanting more. But truth is, if Blur had put in more power-ups, it simply wouldn’t have worked so well. Every power-up in the game has its ups and downs, and due to the counter attacks in which you can do, all equal each other out very nicely. The whole concept of the power-up abilities and attacks complement the enjoyably realistic-yet-furiously-fast racing very nicely, making for some of the best and unique gameplay the genre has seen in years.
We all love a good multiplayer romp on a good racing game, particularly games like this. I for one remember the years very well of sitting around the Nintendo 64 playing Mario Kart with friends and family alike, getting elbows stuck into the action as your mates pass you by and slip a banana backwards. It has always been a immortal feeling, but lately in the gaming industry, there just isn’t room for this kind of fun anymore. With everything ditching split-screen for online only play, it’s a scarce day when we get to experience something so fun again. That’s why I must admit, the best thing about Blur is the split-screen multiplayer. Up to 4 players on the same screen can get stuck into all the enjoyable action of Blur, taking part in all sorts of Races from Powered Up Racing (what the games all about) to Hardcore Racing (just racing, no power-ups), and what takes the cake; a destruction derby type game mode where you must cause as much damage to your opponents as possible before the time runs out. It really must be experienced to be completely loved, but it sure is a good feeling to have such simply pleasure back in games.
But its not all offline play, you can still go online and play even more game types, more players and more tracks with your friends in Korea and America and anywhere else you care to socially dabble while online. But truth is, given the games ‘CoD Style’ levelling and Mod system, it really isn’t so fun. Just like in most online shooting games, the players with the highest rank will keep on wining, having access to all the best cars and modifications. it’s a very unbalanced experience with little matchmaking help to even things out, and just doesn’t live up the enjoyment that can be had by sitting next to some mates and just having a good time around one single telly.
When I said back at the start about the cars looking real, I didn’t just mean they weren’t little go-karts with super powered turbo’s under the hood. Since the game is rocking fully licensed vehicles, they all look spectacular. Modelled from the real things, these wonderful cars all look amazing as you furiously race around corners and blow the hell out of one another. It certainly doesn’t look like your standard arcade racer, which, like with the gameplay, is what makes it so great.
But its not all realism and shiny wheels, no. As you can probably imagine, the power-ups in Blur aren’t realistic rockets, machine guns, drive-by passengers or the like. They are actually very stylish sci-fi style plasma and electric looking weaponry that shocks and damages the cars well designed damage models. It’s a neat twist to the rest of the stunning visuals, and really highlights the games casual feel, making gamers feel really like they’re just here to have a good time, which they are.
This is where the game takes a dip down from all the praise I’ve been giving it. In Blur, the entire audio department is lacking. Starting at the soundtrack; its bland and repeats itself more than it should. Your best bet here is to crank some of your favourite tunes from your hard drive and just headbang your way around the track to victory. Next up is the actual sound effects; the cars all sound decent for an arcade racer, but they don’t sound too real or as powerful s they appear to be. Also the sound effects for all the power-ups and abilities are all a bit stock-worthy. They have their usual blast and swoosh sounds like you would expect from a plasma blast, but that is seriously it- there’s no surprises here, nothing to write home about and certainly nothing to be praised. Its sad that Blur cant hold the audio torch as high as it holds the gameplay.
Its good to see some games not pricing themselves at the usual price range, and this is one of the few that don’t. You can actually pick Blur up brand new pretty cheap at almost any local game shop, and even cheaper online. But you can’t help but ask why is this game cheaper than the rest? Is there something wrong with it? Answer is, no. Blur is simply one of the very casual and pick-up-and-play games that simply comes cheap, despite actually having a good amount of content. From the long and very enjoyable campaign, to the online play and even the hours of fun you can have with a mate or three offline; Blur has it all and caters to gamers of all experience levels, but the only way you will truly get your moneys worth is if you’re looking for something different. If you’re sick of most of the new age ‘Racing Simulator’ games that practically everyone is trying to become, then this is the game for you. Its easy to recommend to casual gamers, but if you expect to be wowed at its online play like you most probably were from the Beta, think again before digging deep for this one, as a lot changes when a level cap is removed.
Blur is a game that dares to be different. It takes all you know and love from Bizarre Creations great Project Gotham series and everything that made games like Mario Kart enjoyable and throws it all together to get a realistic and highly enjoyable arcade racer with all manners of accessible playability. Its casual, fun, stylish and anyone who enjoys a bit of muck-around with friends will love it! It may have its few iffy characteristics, but overall they don’t take away from the actual gameplay experience. Online is a bit of a failure, but this shouldn’t bother you when offline play is so damn fun. Blur really is a game where winning is only where a fraction of the fun comes from.
AAG SCORE: 8.6/10
+ Great mix of arcade and realism
+ Offline split-screen is immensely satisfying
+ Stylish and polished visuals are great
- Unbalanced and unfair online play
- Very sloppy sound and audio department
- Gets old during long play sessions
Reviewed & Written By John Elliott