Reviews// Blur

Posted 25 May 2010 12:00 by
I live in Southend-on-Sea. There are many boy-racers. Some like to hop into their little Ford Fiestas and race along the seafront at night time. To be honest, I don't see the appeal ? not just because the road's almost-triangular speed humps will shred any suspension to bits, but for the simple fact that in a real-world environment, racing is simply dull. Give me NASCAR or F1 over a strip of road along a seafront any day.

For any boy racers who may tire of the same, Bizarre Creations' Blur looks to be just the remedy. Sure, it's not exactly real life, but then who can say no to darting around in souped up Volkswagen Sciroccos in exaggerated versions of English, American and Japanese cities? With power-ups? Yeah, thought you couldn't.

Blur is essentially a game for the rude boys, right down to the presentation. Neon lighting shoots around the menu screens, while a faceless 'chick' explains your mission in the Career mode ? to topple the leaders of various racing gangs. As you dart around the winding tracks of Tokyo, LA and... erm, Hackney, a Drum'n'Bass soundtrack continuously pumps out of the speakers with relentless disregard for noise pollution. Normally I'd hate it, but you know what? It works rather well. Seems Dreamcast-era-ish.

There's plenty of racing content to unlock as well, with several vehicles to access ranging from classes A to D. You earn all of these rides if you play the game enough times ? in each race you build up a number of 'fans,' through which you achieve new ranks on your profile and add more driving options to your showroom. There are various ways to win more fans; driving through specific 'fan gates,' completing fan challenges littered about the track, or by drifting like a badman and attacking your rivals with sheer ferocity.

Attacks are made available by power-ups that bounce about the tarmac, and the execution of these is very... I don't want to say Mario Kart, but... 'Mario Kart' in style. The Bolt gives you three small projectiles to fire ahead or behind you to jerk an opponent off-course, while the Barge sends a shockwave around you to fend off a ram attack. Shocks pepper the track with three panels of electricity that slow down rivals ahead of you, and Shunts are homing missiles. You can also use mines, shields and nitros to your advantage.

Your car has a few bars of green energy ? every time it's hit, it loses a bar, and if you lose them all you get wiped out. It's useful to use the HUD's rear-view mirror to defend yourself against oncoming assaults, while using a Repair power-up to reverse any damage if you're on critical. Up to three power-ups can be held at a time, which adds an interesting element of advance-tactics to prepare yourself for inevitable pain ? most races will have you start at 20th.

Bizarre has a lot of past experience, in Project Gotham Racing and Metropolis Street Racer, to call upon to make Blur a treat to play. And for the most part, it is a treat ? if you crash or spin out of control, the game doesn't take long to automatically reposition you on the track with minimal loss of position. If you get hit by a power-up, you go flying forwards and land on your wheels, ready to exact revenge. It's a game that keeps the action going at all costs, keeping the monotony of racing down to a minimum.

Despite the game's distancing from the aforementioned Mario Kart, it can't be denied that Blur happens to have a lot of parallels ? whether that is intentional or not is another matter. Unfortunately, this also means that Blur suffers some similar problems in regards to rubber-banding AI. It's not so obvious in the initial stages of Career mode, but as you progress you'll be leaving the competition for dust one second, only for them to return en masse eight seconds later. It's the result of a mis-tweaked catchup system and a side effect of the 'ongoing action' mantra mentioned earlier.
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