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Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
Genre: Racing
Developer: Targem Games
Release Date: Dec. 16, 2015

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PS4 Review - 'BlazeRush'

by Brian Dumlao on May 11, 2016 @ 6:00 a.m. PDT

BlazeRush is a fast-paced, top-down racing combat title.

Despite the vocal fan base calling for more of them, there isn't exactly a plethora of isometric racers on the market. People may grow nostalgic for the likes of Rock 'n Roll Racing, but all we have to show for that adoration is a remake of Death Rally. BlazeRush is an attempt to tap into that fan base and give it what it's craving, and the title does that well, even if it gets a few things wrong along the way.

You're part of a small group of racers that use high-powered vehicles and weapons to muscle into first place and bask in the glory of victory. Amazingly, no one dies in these bouts since the cars regenerate on the track once anyone is close to death. Still, the corporation that rules the galaxy is trying its best to ban the activity, forcing you and your group to hop from planet to planet to get their kicks. Admittedly, the story plays a small part in the game, but there's a token effort to let you know that it exists when a new environment or item is encountered.

If you're unfamiliar with the likes of Death Rally or Rock 'n Roll Racing, BlazeRush is an isometric racer infused with combat elements. The racing is simplified, with acceleration performed by pointing your left analog stick in the direction you want to go. There are no button commands for braking, so mastering cornering and drifting are less complicated than what you'd find in more traditional racing titles. You have access to several different boost types, but you can only carry one at a time. The same goes for the weapons, which include a simple machine gun, a sonic blast and a buzzsaw, just to name a few. As alluded to earlier, direct contact with the weapons doesn't kill a driver, but it causes them to get pushed around and lose control for a few moments, hopefully providing you with enough time to take the lead or move up in the racing order. Flying off the track counts as a kill for the sake of statistics, but those racers get warped to the end of the racing pack and lose valuable position and seconds.

The racing is solid once you factor in the physics system. Whether you're driving a light or heavy vehicle (or one that hovers), gliding on the tracks is quite effortless. The stats of the different racers actually matter, as you can sense the differences between a speedy car and one built like a tank. Hitting the guardrails might not matter much, but getting bumped by a car or weapon feels significant, even if you recover pretty gracefully. At the very least, it's amusing to see all those cars bounce around after a big missile hit. The physics system also plays a part when it comes to the acquisition of power-ups, since they rain down from the sky instead of materializing at specific spots on the track. Sometimes the power-ups bounce into the guardrails, so they're impossible to reach, and there are a few times you'll see them bounce away from the track and into the environment below. If you already have a boost and a weapon, you can't acquire another one, but you can push those power-ups away from other racers to make things harder on them. That works out a little better here since you can identify the power-ups beforehand.

There is one annoying part of the racing: the camera. The default settings have it so that every racer is in view at all times, so the camera adjusts its zoom accordingly to fulfill that obligation. It works fine if every racer is together in a tight group, but it falters when the gap between racers widens. It becomes difficult to tell where you are if you're in the rear of the pack, and if you're in the front, you're at a handicap since you can't immediately tell what's in front of you. The game tries to compensate if you're falling too far behind by warping you closer to the pack, but that is more disorienting than helpful. You have the option to restrict the camera view to local players only, but it doesn't help much, as the warping mechanic is still in effect, making the default a much better option despite its setbacks.

BlzzeRush offers four different race types. Time trials are pretty self-explanatory, while the standard races have you go through three laps before a victor is declared. King of the Hill races have you trying to get to the head of the pack and stay there for the allotted time in order to win. Only the leader can score, so staying closely behind in second place nets you nothing. Finally, there's the Survival-style matches, where the group is being chased down by a large spiked steamroller. Everyone is guaranteed to get run over, and the round starts anew when this happens, but you'll be given points based on how long you survived in relation to the competition. This goes on until someone reaches the required point quota and everyone gets steamrolled one last time. All in all, there's nothing too complicated here, but Survival races tend to go on longer than all of the other types.

When it comes to modes, the game is quite sparse, as the main campaign is pretty much the only mode you'll play. At the very least, the mode is packed with all of the race types in various configurations, with a slow rollout of new tools to use and characters to unlock. There are also plenty of races, each one unlocked with the various trophies you earn per race. Most of them give you three, based on your top three placement at the end, while a few of those races have bonus trophies for reaching a point or kill threshold. With 209 possible trophies to earn, the mode lasts for quite some time, but it feels well paced so you never view it as a slog. The difficulty ramps up at a good pace, so it isn't punishing right off the bat.

On the multiplayer side, local multiplayer for up to four people is supported in the campaign, and everyone shares the same screen instead of splitting things up. You'll need this if you want to play against other humans, since the online mode is completely dead. That was the case when the game launched on the PS3, and it might be that way on the PC too, since it launched before the first console iteration. Unless you can plan things ahead of time, you'll never get a chance to use some of the characters that seem to be unlocked for multiplayer use only.

Graphically, BlazeRush is fine. Compared to the PS3 release, the only differences are an increased resolution and better frame rate, but otherwise, everything remains the same. Other than that, the environments look nice, even if they go through the same types you see in other similarly themed racing games, like ice, jungle, and a toxic wasteland. Cars look distinct, even if you can't zoom in to see them in better detail, and the particle effects add to the overall look without becoming too distracting. By comparison, the sound works well enough. The dubstep creates a racing mood, and the tracks are varied enough that you aren't going to hear the same one play for quite some time. The effects are pretty solid but not overwhelming, and the roar of jet engines and splat of goo on cars sound as expected.

It may not be the second coming of the isometric racer, but BlazeRush is fun nonetheless. The core combat and racing systems are pretty easy to pick up and master, and the physics system is a nice addition. The weapons and power-ups are quite good, and the length of the campaign means that the game has a good bit of life to it, which is essential since the online multiplayer is dead. If you don't mind going solo or have a bunch of friends who want to play locally and don't mind the quirky camera, then this is worth a shot.

Score: 7.5/10

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