Over the past few weeks, gamers have been beset with new racing titles, and some fans may feel they're drowning as they try to figure out which best fits their needs. Pure kart racing fans who love customization will get a kick out of ModNation Racers, while those looking for a Burnout-style arcade racers with a twist will adore Split Second. Along comes Bizarre Creations with something completely different, a game that features real vehicles and locales but also manages to mesh the frenetic pace of an arcade racer, the randomness and destruction of a kart game, and the style and grace of a simulation all into one beautiful package. While Blur won't appeal to the purists, it's an amazing mash-up for everyone who's ever wanted to experience the best of all worlds.
Given Bizarre's pedigree, many may first think of Blur as Project Gotham Racing meets Mario Kart. That's a fair jumping off point, as the Bizarre crew has taken the skills it has honed with the PGR franchise and injected a healthy dose of Nintendo's mascot racer. Players will zip around the tracks in Audis and Vipers while picking up power-ups that feel strangely reminiscent of red turtle shells, banana peels and mushrooms. Thankfully, the power-ups are a bit more complex than that, with each having multiple uses and some even working as creative defenses against enemy attacks. Say a foe has locked on to your car with a homing attack that's closing in fast. What do you do? In most games, those without a shield in their pocket would be toast, but this time around, there are options. Players with some dumbfire lightning bolts can blast them backward and ward off the attack. Other options include laying down a mine in the path of the upcoming projectile or waiting until the last second to deploy a short-range energy burst that will knock it off course. In this title, you're never helpless against an enemy attack, and a smart and resourceful player can be ready to attack or defend at a moment's notice.
What prevents Blur from feeling like just another kart racing rip-off is the attention paid to the actual driving mechanics. This isn't another one of those games where players can just mash down the accelerator and power-slide around corners. Blur requires much more finesse and the cornucopia of cars, each with its own unique attributes, will help almost anyone find his or her most comfortable ride. This game isn't just about trying to nab the car with the highest acceleration and top speed; drivers have to also consider grip, strength and several other factors.
Blur also stands out with the challenges that populate every race. By running over special icons, players can activate events as simple as driving through a set of gates or as complex as taking out an enemy with a certain power-up while drifting. Passing these challenges (and generally displaying top driving skills) nets fans, which in turn unlock new and better cars. Thus, it's not just about racing to the front of the pack and staying there. If you want to be a true superstar and gain the top-tier gear, you'll have to put on a show as well.
While the mechanics and gameplay of Blur are absolutely top-shelf, the title's single-player campaign is a chore and little else. The game features several stages, each of which is divided into six events. Players must face the same three game modes over and over again (Checkpoint, Destruction and Race) in the hopes of performing well enough to face each stage's boss, take him down in a race and win your rivals' cars and mods.
Unfortunately, getting to each level's big shot is not merely a case of winning all of the previous races; certain criteria must be fulfilled before you get your shot at the big time. While many conditions are easy to meet by simply playing the stages (i.e., wreck 50 cars, gain 2,000 fans), others are so insanely specific that they require grinding one particular event over and over again in the hopes of hitting it big either through perfect planning or sheer dumb luck. Ultimately, it's hard to stay interested beyond the first few boss battles, especially once the challenge level starts climbing and the special requirements become more ludicrous. There is good challenge in a game and bad challenge, and the structure of the single-player portion falls squarely in the latter camp.
Thankfully, a lot of the troubles of single-player segment are more than offset in Blur's multiplayer mode, which will hook a whole lot of people. Similar fan challenges pop up in multiplayer, and just like the single-player experience, performing well leads to more impressive cars and better mods. What really sells the experience is that new items are unlocked at a steady clip, providing players with plenty of incentive to stick around for one more race or head back in for yet another session in order to see what will become available next. This method of drawing in gamers and keeping them attached has worked well in the shooter genre recently, and it may be a stroke of genius that Bizarre is bringing it to the racing genre. If you're the type who likes to hop online and race other human beings, then Blur is going to feel like heaven on earth.
Blur ultimately ends up as the sort of game everyone should experience but not everyone will love. The game's unique method of pairing semirealistic racing with kart-themed chaos works incredibly well, making for a fun experience that feels different from those that came before. The game's online multiplayer also shines, hooking gamers quickly and then reeling them in for repeat visits. The single-player portion is a bit of a downer, so folks who don't plan on doing much online gaming may not find a whole lot to hold their interest beyond the first few hours. No matter which camp you personally sit in, big-time props must be given to the Bizarre Creations crew for what it has managed to put together. Now get to work on that inevitable sequel!
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