Bizarre Creations is perhaps best known for one of two things in recent years: the Project Gotham series and / or the Geometry Wars games. One of those is a sim-style, realistic racer with an arcade feel; the other is an over the top, powered up shooter. What happens when you mix the two together? I will tell you what happens: you get Blur.
The definition of Blur’s genre is the perfect explanation of the game: sim racing with power ups traditionally used in arcade / kart-style racing games. On its own without those special powers and bonuses, Blur would be a more than adequate sim racer. The 55+ licensed cars drive and handle as you would expect them to; each car is rated on their acceleration, speed, handling, and stability… all of which factor into their performance on the track(s). The game also includes some specially design and equipped original car creations from the crew at Bizarre Creations as well. Most of them will look very familiar and again, control as you would expect. There ARE power ups and bonuses though, which takes the game to a whole new level.
Scattered throughout the various tracks racers will find one of eight power ups that the player can pick up and use to give them an edge in the race. There are 6 offensive power ups and 2 defensive; most of the offensive weapons, such as the bolts and shunts can be used for defensive purchases. Aside from the shield and repair powers, which I classify as the two defensive powers, all of the other items and be triggered either forward or backwards at the will of the player. You will need to mix up the methods in which you use them in order to survive and get ahead on every course. For example, boost / nitro powers can be used to either propel yourself forward, ahead of the competition or shot backwards in order to bring your car to a halt, useful on particularly hard turns. Bolts can be either fired forward or backwards at other racers or used to fend off incoming attacks. These are the perfect example of how each power up can be used for two purposes, which is truly the key to mastery with Blur.
Aside from the power ups, the game also uses a fan system which it utilizes to rate your performance on the course; success isn’t just categorized as finishing first in a race but also “how” you perform and compete on the track. In a manner similar to the now traditional Project Gotham Racing kudos system, Blur awards you a certain number of fans depending on different actions taken in the course of a race. Passing a competitor, landing an offensive attack, pulling off a stylish drift, and avoiding an opponent’s attack(s) all award you different amounts of “fans”. Accumulating fans allows you to level up your fan status, which will unlock additional cars and bonuses to help you advance in the rankings. Fans are also awarded depending on how you place at the end of a race and through fan challenges that can be triggered during a race.
Fan challenges can be triggered by running through markers on the course and will give you a “goal” to accomplish before a counter runs out. This goal could be as simple as pulling off a drift or perhaps nailing a set amount of opponents with a specific attack. The quicker you complete the goal, the more fans will be added to your fan count. Fan runs can also be triggered throughout your race(s) and actually appear on every single track in the single player mode. Fan runs require you to basically drive through a series of arches over a portion of the track, and upon completion will award you with additional fans for your fan count. Completing a fan run will also award you a light, which is the main goal of Blur’s “campaign”.
The ultimate goal of the single player portion of Blur is to collect lights. Lights are awarded by placing in the top 3 positions in a race (out of 20, players will earn 3 lights for third, 4 for second, and 5 for first), completing fan runs, and finishing a race under the target time. As you accumulate lights, you will open up new “levels” and challengers, with each one culminating in a one-on-one race with the boss of that area. The boss races are simple you versus them races which will end in either you winning the race or destroying your opponent using power ups. Those races are worth 8 lights all by their selves, but you have to met 4, preset requirements to gain access to them which varies per level. Needless to say, there is a lot to do. Some levels focus on strategic racing, others on destruction and carnage, some on time trial style runs… the gameplay is ever-changing throughout the course of the game.Blur also offers an assortment of multiplayer options. The game offers full, 4-player split screen support, but the bulk of the material can be found online. The online offering of Blur is as robust as any game available in the market today. Bizarre is offering players numerous playlists, full online leveling and ranking, meta-achievements for both general racing and for specific vehicles. There is a TON to do. You will have to build up a completely separate fan count for your online career versus your offline career. Online, fans will give you access to the same treats that you get offline as in new cars and bonuses. The fan count also relates to your general online rank as well, which will allow you to climb the worldwide leaderboards.
Just like the single player mode, online races support up to 20 racers, which can create an extremely chaotic and exciting racing environment. Even though the track does feel congested at times, it ensures that you have an exciting race from start to finish. The developers have said all along that their goal with the game was to eliminate that sinking feeling that most games give you when you are in last place… goal accomplished. Usually the last place racer feels completely lost in other games but in Blur you are never really out of the race. You will find yourself moving from the top, to the bottom, and back to the top numerous times throughout each race. The game creates a roller coaster ride that I grew to appreciate a ton over the course of my time with the game.
Bizarre Creations has also made an attempt to incorporate a bit of social networking into the Blur experience. The game will allow you to link both your Twitter and Facebook accounts to the game and you can send updates to each at the touch of a button. The networking is done tastefully though and Blur won’t be spamming your account(s) like various farming or mafia games. Updates are not sent automatically; you will choose when and if you are going to provide an update to either service. The option to do so appears at various points in the game, such as following the completion of a race and when you are viewing newly unlocked cars within your garage. If you happen to have accomplished something that you want to share, you simply need to press the left bumper and choose which service you want to update.
Blur also incorporates a photo mode that can be accessed in the single player mode of the game. All that you have to do is pause the game at any time and select the option from the sub menu that appears. Within the photo mode you can spin the camera around your vehicle and take a picture from any angle that you choose. There are some simple image alterations that you can do on the fly such as adjusting the saturation and brightness levels as well as aperture. Pictures can then be saved to your hard drive and ultimately uploaded to your Facebook account from within the photo viewer mode in the main menu. This is one feature that I thoroughly enjoy and wish that more games would incorporate. I could do this all day long and will likely be compiling extensive photo collections on my personal Facebook account for as long as I play the game.
All of these features and modes add up to an incredibly fun and enjoyable game; Blur has kept me coming back for more time and time again and I am extremely excited to see the online servers fill up once the game hits the public this week. This isn’t to say that I don’t have some concerns with the game. My number one concern is the sudden ramping of difficulty after the second group of courses in the single player mode. The game runs you into a brick wall with the third class of courses in terms of the difficulty. It gets really hard, really fast. Many players will be turned off by this as I know I came very close to quitting out of frustration after a while. Fortunately, the game allows the player to make some progress even in their failure through the game’s fan system. When you loose a race you will still be able to add your collected fans to your fan status count and allow you to level up fan-wise. Leveling up your fans will give you access to new cars which could ultimately make the difference in those races that could be giving you a little (or a lot) of trouble. This is the one thing that kept me going; I got hope in my losses which kept me interested in the game.
The other issues I had were a few random glitches that I ran across on numerous occasions. Some of the glitches I have issue with are already being addressed by Bizarre Creations but still rear their ugly head on a rare occasion. The main one is an issue with the drifting system in the game. When you spin out in Blur, or get your car turned around in a particularly nasty crash, the game will “reset” your car in the middle of the track. This is helpful for the most part, but the game will occasionally register a severe drift as a spin out and reset your car, costing you a few places in the race. This is usually pretty easy to overcome in the remainder of the race but can be REALLY frustrating as drifting is a necessity on most tracks. There was already an update released for the game and the issue seems to have been addressed; hopefully you will not have the same issues.