1 part Mario Kart, 1 parts Geometry Wars, 3 parts Project Gotham Racing. That's the recipe for Bizarre Creations latest Arcade Racer Blur. Labeled as "Powered-Up Racing", it's clear that Blur is the result of a very experienced racing game development team. The racing aspect of the game, is pretty much what you'd expect from a race made by Bizarre Creations, not too sim-like, but far from over-the-top arcade driving where you can just bounce off of walls, cars and drift around corners without consequence. Hit the wall or go off the track and you're gonna pay for it.
The first thing you'll notice in Blur is just how great it looks. The cars, the tracks, the background looks great, and it makes for a perfect backdrop to the racing, and that's where the Geometry Wars comes in, also a Bizarre Creation game. Projectiles, attacks, bombs, crashes, all scream Geometry Wars bright and colourful nature. They did an awesome job of contrasting the real places and cars with the over the top weapons that make for an on screen party of colours. I find that blowing your opponent away, or shooting at him from a distance is so much more gratifying when the mayhem you produce is shiny! Especially when he's driving a BMW or a Dodge Viper!
The single player game is a mixture of racing types, which I'll get to in a second, all of which have different objectives you have to meet in order to get "lights" which are the key to unlock further levels, tracks etc. Each level is a series of events, dominated by one "Rival" which requires you to clear events as well as meeting a set list of demands in order to go one-on-one against them. The demands are in-event goals such as wrecking a certain number of cars, winning x amount of races or completing any number of a vast array of objectives based on the Rival's personality. The event types range from straight up racing, to demolition events or flat out time trials. Beat the Rival and get their car, and their special mod that you can now apply to the cars in your collection.
Every event also has two secondary goals. A set number of Fans you must acquire from the race, and a "Fan Run" which are a set of gates you have to drive through without missing any in order to make the fans happy. Fans are a secondary currency, if you will, in the game. The more fans you get, the more cars you unlock. Fans are also the "score" in which the game uses to compare results with your friends over leaderboards on each event. You can can even pick a certain friend to be your "rival" and you get a more heads-up look at that friend's scores, times and so on, while you progress through the game. Completing each of these extra goals grants you a light that again help you unlock further levels and events in the game.
Fans are gathered through pretty much every action you accomplish in a race. Drifting, passing, jumping and straight up dominating a race will score you more and more fans! Nothing however will score you more fans, than using power-ups that are found all over the track ( hello!? Mario Kart ) to blast your competitors into next Tuesday! Ok well, maybe not, but at least into last place! The power-ups are what make Blur what it is. It take the game from being a decent, but tedious racing game and turns it into all out Armageddon, especially on the first few corners of a race with 20 plus cars in it. Look out! You get your classic combat racing power-ups like Nitros, bombs ( Mines ), red-shells ( Shunts ) and they've come up with a number of others like pillars of lightning in front of the leader or a shield to help protect you from the carnage. The game defiantly encourages you to have some strategy with the power-ups as most of them can be used not only as an offensive weapon, but also as a counter to another attack you're trying to avoid. The well balanced rock-paper-scissors aspect of the power-ups introduces a skill and strategy aspect into the use and conservation of them. You can only have three at a time, so chose wisely! As previously mentioned, the bright and colourful graphics introduced by the mayhem, and the power-ups themselves definitely is a welcome addition to the game, and quite frankly turns Blur into a more grown up Kart racer that I know you spent hours playing with your friends!
Now it's clear that Blur was designed to be a game of competition and combat with friends, strangers and anyone who picks up a controller. Both the single player, and the multiplayer. I've already mentioned the leaderboards, and friend-rival features, so let me hit on the actual multiplayer aspect. Blur features a "perks & loadouts" system, along the lines of Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer, wherein the more you drive and the better you do, the more cars and modifications you unlock. Things like extra shields, extra strength or an extra power-up to start the race. All of which you can tune and re-tune before each race begins. Like the single player, the multiplayer works on collecting fans and while the goal is obviously to rack up wins, not winning can still net you a lot of fans, which can further your level online.
If I had one complaint to levy, it's the way progression through the single player starts to plateau and the difficulty ramps up. It got hard to keep doing the same races over and over again with the only real different being the intelligence of the AI, and the speed of the cars. It's definitely a common issue with a lot of racers, and while Blur doesn't do it worse, it doesn't do it much better. Unfortunately infinite tracks, infinite configurations, and infinite cars just isn't possible. That being said, it takes very little away from a game that gives a ton of value, and load of enjoyment, plus luckily you have some multiplayer action to freshen things up a bit, then you can head back in to show those Rivals who's boss!
The Way I See It: A fun, challenging, "grown up" Kart racer that looks great, sounds great and plays great too! Pick it up!