The racing market is a tough one to break into. The last gen was dominated by the titans of Gran Turismo and Forza, with more specialized thrills covered by games such as Grid. This is a harsh environment where the weak don’t survive, they are eaten by the competition and Blur was a victim of this competitive genre. In this contributors humble opinion, this represents a huge shame as Blur is one of the best racers you may have never played.
From the outset, Blur’s pedigree smacked of quality; made by Bizarre Creations, the makers of the excellent Project Gotham Racing series and published by corporate gold hoarders Actvision in 2010, the game promised an addictive blend of real life racing and Mario Kart style power-ups. It more than delivered on these promises.
….Blur is one of the best racers you have never played.
Like the work of an insane scientist determined to graft toasted-sandwich makers onto a wolf, the combination of the real world environment with a ludicrous kart racer is something with the huge potential to fail, given the polar opposites in which the genres sit. However Bizarre Creations (RIP, they closed shortly after this game came out) made it sing.
It helps to start with that the racing mechanics use a slightly more arcade-y approach and far from being Outrun, the game plays a little like the tremendously well balanced Project Gotham Racing 4. Then there is the power-up system which was pretty much nicked wholesale off Mario Kart but was sleekly represented here with different colour tabs. Weapons are of course more styled representations of the kart counterparts; straight line energy bursts (green shell), energy mines (bananas) speed boosts (mushrooms) and weapons which seek out the person in first place (like the blue shells), amongst others. There’s even a weighting of the better power-ups towards the back of the pack, so although there isn’t quite as much rubber-banding as a kart game, even if you are last you are still in the race….figuratively speaking.
Blur is something which can be played after you’ve mistakenly drunk the beetroot liquor at the back of the cupboard during a house party.
The racing itself is realistic and weighty enough to satisfy pretty much any racer of varying experience, being easy to pick up and well balanced with an intuitive weapon system. I cannot say enough about how accessible and fun Blur is to play; its tough to master of course, especially in later levels. Its a game which can be enjoyed by a range of different abilities and also in split screen up-to 4 players, which is always a very welcome bonus. Sure, if you are a super serious Grid-style fan, you may find it a little casual but it does a great job of covering a range of demographics without compromising the product. Overall, the whole experience feels fresh and yet instantly familiar.
There are a range of races on offer here too; standard racing, elimination, destruction levels where you have to wreck opponents vehicles, there’s even a straight racing mode with no power-ups to appease the more hardcore audience. In single player a set of races usually concludes with a boss-race against a particular opponent during which you can win their car if you prevail. Fair enough, most of the racers are the usual suspects of cocky skater cretins and blow-hard stereotypes that have been foisted on us through the years but the structure of the game and the rewards available does make it addictive.
The multiplayer has a set of play-lists too which come across like a FPS menu, with straight racing, mixed racing types and power-up heavy. I have no idea if the servers are still going for this, and if they are, they are surely occupied by wizened level 50 racing gods who never make a single mistake, but its worth a go all the same.
You can level up through the game and unlock new cars by gaining fans, a system which the Forza Horizon series wisely pinched. The cars themselves are divided into groups depending on their function and how ‘drifty’ they are, and includes everything from VW Beetles, to Audi R8s to Humvees. The amount of cars on offer and perhaps their fidelity to real life is admittedly nowhere near as impressive as the likes of Gran Trismo and Forza, and the customization options are really only limited to a basic set of colours and the perk style system for base power-ups. This will not be to the tastes of serial car tinkerers but Blur isn’t trying to be that game, it’s something which can be played after you’ve mistakenly drunk the beetroot liquor at the back of the cupboard during a house party. Make no mistake, with it’s approachable controls and split screen Blur is a great party game.
Overall, the whole experience feels fresh and yet instantly familiar.
The set of locations for the tracks are varied both geographically and aesthetically, from the a hilly San Francisco, a rainy Brighton beach, and a twisty-turny neon-lit Toyko. The wide roads of Barcelona are my particular favourite but you will find much to love here whatever your tastes.
Graphically Blur though a little dated (natch) is pretty impressive and the cars , tracks and power up effects are all sparkling and sleek. Even the presentation is top notch and you can tell a lot of money was spent on it; for instance light writing which sweeps across the screen to announce your placing in the race is very swish.
It also sounds pretty good, though I’m not Jeremy Clarkson so I wouldn’t be able to tell you how accurate they are. Its probably safe to assume that the petrol head element may find fault with this; but as some who isn’t really into cars, the fact they make a brum noise and sounds nice and powerful is enough for me.
Blur is a quality product and is completely out of place in its bargain bin. Its merging of street and kart racer is almost seamless and it manages to occupy the middle ground between the two without ever feeling awkward. The easy to pick up controls, the varied game types and split screen make this an unmissable racer for anyone with a few pads under their TV. Grab a copy for a bargain, collar a few mates, drink that left over Ouzo (if you’re old enough, stick to pop if you’re too young kids…plus stay in school) and enjoy. You will thank me later (hopefully).