Developer: Bizarre Creations / Publisher: Activision / ESRB: Everyone 10+ (Mild Violence) / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $49.99
This Video Game Review on Machinima.com is coming to you from Anthony Rogers a.k.a Shorewarz. I’m lacing up some lead boots and buckling my seat belt to bring you a high speed review of Bizarre Creations’ new arcade racing title Blur. I’ll let you know if this powered up racer is more than “Mario Kart for adults” and you’ll see if it has what it takes to pull away from the pack. Check it out.
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Everything about the look and feel of Blur bleeds speed. Up to twenty players can hop into caricatures of real-world cars and litter the streets with unique power-ups that allow players to Barge, Bolt and Shunt their way to the finish line. Despite the consistent onscreen mayhem, Blur’s supercharged game engine provides plenty of eye candy while sustaining a silky smooth framerate.
Bizarre Creations, the celebrated developer behind Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, are again able to master the use of neon lighting. By carefully highlighting items of importance with an attractive neon color palette, players can focus on what’s really important, keeping the pedal to the metal.
All of the game’s real-world car models shine at the starting line before suffering numerous supersonic shockwaves, windshield shattering projectile attacks and mind numbing electrical shocks. Veteran racing fans might see room for improvement in the use of more detailed textures in areas of the track, but overall, Blur excels at maintaining a highly polished look across both single and multiplayer modes.
Behind the strategic glow of neon lighting, Blur offers a nice blend of familiar arcade and kart racing gameplay mechanics. Up to sixty real-world vehicles can be unlocked throughout Career mode. Eight distinctive “power-ups” are designed to give players an offensive or defensive edge. Each player can hold up to three power-ups including Shunt, Mine, Barge, Bolt, Shock, Shield, Nitro and Repair. Most of these items can be fired in front or behind your car and all are fun, easy to use and rewarding.
In theory, Shock is a great power-up when you’re in last place or whenever you’re behind another car because it will drop three EMP fields in front of the lead racer. But Shock can be a hazardous pick-up if you are in the lead and the item is deployed by mistake.
In Career mode, players progress through by entering races, earning fans and winning “lights.” Placing first, second or third nets you five, four or three lights per race respectively. The more lights you earn the more races and events you unlock.
Players can also level up in rank by drifting, pulling off clean Nitro boosts, leading a race or hitting opponents with power-ups. This system of progression is rewarding and provides numerous unlocks to the player in a relatively short amount of time.
Instead of using relentless rubber band AI to keep races close, Blur rewards skillful drivers with a well deserved lead. If you can maintain your lead and pull off a win you’ll also receive additional fans (XP) and net five lights for a win. By meeting a list of requirements and earning enough lights in races, you’ll open boss races that reward winning drivers with a special Mod Loadout upgrade.
Akin to the “Perks” system found in today’s popular FPS titles, Mods Loadouts give regular item pick-ups an extra ability like increased shield, an extra bolt shot or additional collision damage. Mods are fantastic new features that actually play an important role in both the game’s single and multiplayer modes.
As expected, online play is fast and frenetic. A seemingly endless ranking system and the ability to customize cars with up to four Mod Loadouts add an impressive amount of depth to Blur’s multiplayer. Players will earn fans (XP) by taking a spin through one of eight different multiplayer modes. Some of these modes are available from the start and others are unlocked by reaching higher levels of rank.
Another interesting feature, independent of gameplay, involves a photo mode and social networking system built directly into the game that allows players to connect and post updates to their Facebook, Twitter, Xbox LIVE, PSN or PC message accounts. Whether or not this will help build a lasting community remains to be seen but the options are nice.
The variety of available multiplayer modes is a welcomed feature that proves racing games can and should support a wide variety of gameplay types. Blur includes everything from an introductory Driving School mode, a destruction derby style event called Motor Mash and a World Tour mode that acts as a grab bag of all event types.
Advanced drivers will no doubt gravitate toward the game’s Skirmish, Hardcore Racing, World Tour and Team Racing modes, all of which cater to varying levels of player skill and become available at different levels of rank. Multiplayer adds a lot of value to the product and is an overall success. Rather than being another addition to Bizarre Creations’ growing library of Xbox LIVE Arcade titles, Blur’s Multiplayer completes the experience and warrants a full retail release for this title.
Blur’s controls are tight, simple and responsive. This is a widely accessible racing game that rewards skillful driving and the strategic use of power-ups. Power-ups are mapped out to face-buttons in a way that even the most simple minded gamer would quickly find familiar.
Multiple versions of vehicles give players the option to choose between responsive “Race” cars and wide sliding “Drift” cars. “Off-road” “Drag” “Rat” and a few “Concept” cars round out the vehicle selection options. Each option handles in slightly different ways and drivers will notice a difference when pairing the appropriate car for a particular course layout or track surface.
There’s nothing more irritating than hearing the same exact tire screech or engine sound effect every time you apply the brakes or make a sharp turn in a racing game. I’m happy to report that Blur does not suffer these faults. Engine whines and growls are just as varied as the sound effects used to audibly describe the game’s unique power-ups. The same can be said for all of the crashing and slamming sound design.
Anyone who enjoyed or who is familiar with the Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved soundtracks will also enjoy Blur’s soundtrack of electronic and futuristic background beats.
8 unique power-ups, 60 distinctive cars to unlock, 8 multiplayer modes and a deep and rewarding Career Mode make this a must-have racing game and a worthy addition to any casual or hardcode gamer’s library.
Yes, there are a few punishing turns. Yes, your car will explode multiple times in one race. Yes, you will, eventually, just barely miss one of your power-up shots and end up taking second place by the difference of .01 seconds in an online race to unlock an achievement or trophy. These are the types of promises that hold true for anyone and everyone who plays Blur and it’s all a part of what makes this a great arcade racing experience.
Blur is both literally and figuratively a blast to play.