Bizarre Creations knows how to make a killer racing game. With games like Metropolis Street Racer and Project Gotham Racing, this Liverpool-based game developer knows a thing or two about making a worthwhile racing game. After a three year break, Bizarre Creations is back to doing what they do best. Blur is a fast-paced racing game that is equal parts Burnout and Super Mario Kart. It's a winning combination that adds something new to the racing genre, even if it never feels as deep or polished as Project Gotham Racing.
I don't make the Super Mario Kart comparison out of hand. Ever since the game was first announced, the developers and the general game press have been trumpeting the similarities. Like Super Mario Kart, Blur is a competitive racing game featuring a whole bevy of cool multi-use weapons. This is the type of game where racing skills alone won't get you over that finish line, you're going to need to blow up your competition or die trying.
The good news is you'll find eight different items littering the race course, each with its own pros and cons. The shunt, for example, is a slow-moving homing projectile. The barge, on the other hand, is a cool item that pushes away all of the cars around you. There's a shock icon that showers the race course with EMP fields. Racers will also pick up mines (which you lay anywhere on the track), shields (to protect you front others), nitro (to make you go faster) and the repair kit (to nurse you back to health). Unlike Super Mario Kart (and other similar weapons-bases racers) Blur allows you to hold more than one item at once, your car can carry up to three weapons at any given time.
Blur is not interested in telling you a fancy story. This is a traditional racing game with very little filler. When you press "start" you'll be treated to a brief tutorial, but outside of that cinema there is literally nothing in the way of story. All you know is that you're competing in a number of cool events trying to earn 450 fans. The single-player offers nine different areas (Proving Grounds, City Slickers, Ruthless Aggression, etc.) each with seven events. Each area will have a nice smattering of modes, including races, checkpoint matches, destruction events and the always popular one-on-one boss battle.
For the most part none of these modes stray too far from the Burnout/Super Mario Kart formula. Races are filled with 10 - 20 cars shooting projectiles and dropping mines all in the name of coming in first. It's a violent free-for-all across the planet. In the checkpoint events you are racing against the clock, picking up icons that boost your time and speed you up. The destruction mode, on the other hand, has you firing the bolt cannons into reappearing enemy cars. The object of this mode is to earn enough points to advance.
Just to add a little more insanity, Blur ratchets up the crazy by giving you optional fan requests. As you race around the tracks you'll notice a small orange icon, this will open up one of several fan demands. The idea is simple, you pull off the demand (such as performing a perfect drift or driving through a dozen gates) and you'll earn a bunch of extra fans. While these demands are optional, you'll need to complete them to unlock certain boss characters and earn all 450 points.It's easy to get sucked into Blur. The game is constantly throwing new cars and areas at you, even before you're ready to advance. Unfortunately some of this comes at a price. There's an abrupt difficulty shift after the first couple areas. While I was compelled to keep going, there comes a point where the computer-controlled racers were just a little too cheap for their own good. Still, I never found that the difficulty got in the way of me having fun with Blur.
Blur's single-player mode is sadly short lived. The game offers you more than sixty events, but you'll find yourself racing the same tracks over and over. Not that the level designs are bad, there are a few that are breathtaking. The problem I had was that it never felt like Blur had the same level of variety as Burnout, wipEout and even the other Bizarre Creations titles. The single-player portions held my interest for only so long, which is disappointing given the developer's pedigree.
Of course, nobody is going to buy this game for the single-player career. The reason this game is on everybody's radar is because of its stellar online multiplayer modes. It's here that the game comes alive and all of my complaints about depth get thrown out the window. Taking a page out of the Call of Duty handbook, Blur features a leveling system complete with experience points and unlockables. The game only starts with a couple of modes open to you and a limited selection of cars. However, with each race you're earning new mods, upgrades, modes and more. That means that even if you came in dead last, you'll still earn a few points and be that much closer to the next level.
The online modes are similar to what you saw offline, only with a few added twists here and there. Early in your career you'll be racing in the Driving School, where there are only 10 people racing and everybody is lower than level 10. From there you'll compete against 20 people in the Powered-Up Racing room, lock horns in the arena-style Motor Mash room, race with all power-ups turned off in the Hardcore Racing room, and much, much more. There's a little something for everybody in the online mode.
The game's performance is generally pretty good, the action is fast and the graphics look good. The soundtrack isn't always my taste, but there's nothing completely objectionable about the way the game sounds. After playing so much wipEout HD, I couldn't help but be disappointing by Blur's wimpy weapons. In wipEout there's a weapon that causes an earthquake wave to ripple through the course, all we get in this game are some lousy EMP fields. Yawn.
There's a lot to like about this racer, especially if you plan on taking it online. I may have some concerns about the limited single-player experience and the inconsistent difficulty, but none of those problems kept me from having a great time with this grown-up Super Mario Kart clone. It's a game full of exciting finishes, explosive action and great online moments, but as good as it is, I could never shake the notion that Blur wasn't quite as good as Project Gotham Racing and Metropolis Street Racing.