If Project Gotham and Mario Kart had a baby…

Well it’s been awhile fellow readers, but I am finally back to my editor duties, and I come back in fantastic fashion with this review of the combat racer Blur. While we here at ZTGD have been getting ready for E3 I still found time to sink a lot of hours into this title, is this the next big thing, or a good idea gone bad?

Blur for those of you who are unaware is Bizarre Creations first racing title since leaving behind the Project Gotham Racing franchise. But when creating something new you don’t just leave behind what your good at, and Blur is the result. Blur combines the arcade racing that you’re accustomed to from this studio and mixes it together with combat elements ala Mario Kart.

Let me first get it out of the way that Blur DOES have its list of problems, some are worse than others but it’s a game that while flawed still delivers an enjoyable experience. In the single player element of the game there are a series of characters that you must defeat to advance. Each of these characters has their own set of race tracks and challenges for you to accomplish. Some of them are merely challenges, there to give you a goal to work towards. You must complete a certain number of these challenges to get a chance at a one on one with said character.

Visually the game is a bundle of highs and lows. The cars and power ups look fantastic, the shockwave and shunt power up are a couple of my visual favorites. However there are some really poor looking presentation elements and generally the tracks themselves are nowhere near as detailed as the cars. So much so that it looks like the cars and tracks are from two different games. Musically the game is solid, explosions sound great, all the power ups have very cool sound effects and the music is perfectly matched to the game.

There are three basic race types. The easiest to get is just a basic race, it’s you and 10 to 20 other racers competing for first in sexy cars (actually scratch that, you can get some REAL heaps) shooting bolts of lighting, giant balls of death and shockwaves. The next round of fun and death is the destruction game type. This ball of joy sees you chasing a never ending fleet of cars trying to shoot them with the bolt power up. Each one you get is a point and adds a little bit of time to your clock, when you become to damaged or run out of time the run is done! The last is checkpoint, this is a rather easy one to grasp, you’re trying to get from point A to point B as fast as possible, but the twist comes in the power ups, you either choose to have a speed boost or to freeze time for two seconds.

Throughout your time in the single player you’ll gradually have to deal with harder and harder situations. Out of the three I would say that Destruction becomes less and less fun as it becomes harder, you’re constantly trying to stay behind a big pack while dealing with larger jeeps that can take a barrage of hits to destroy.

Each map also has sub goals to do. The first is getting a high placement (if your racing) or getting a high score in the other types. Hitting a fan score, which is a score you get for being in the top three, completing mini challenges in the race, attacking other racers and so on. Finally there is the gate challenge which you can activate so you can attempt to get through 12 gates while racing. Again none of them are mind blowing but they add some extra spice.

The single player is fun and the different types of races make sure that you don’t get burned out too quickly on a particular one. In addition unlocking all the cars and mods make great carrots to chase as the hours tick past. There is of course the standard assembled cast of single races you can choose from but that’s not something to yammer on about.

If there is one major flaw with the entire single player experience it’s that the AI is either really easy or punishingly hard. There were very few instances where I felt like I was competing in a close fought race. The other minor issue I had is if you’re really good and get into first place it becomes borderline impossible to hit the fan target for a race. Since most of the challenges are offensive ones, like hitting someone with a mine if you’re in first there really isn’t anyone to fight with.

The combat elements are balanced and fun, there are a myriad of options to pick up as you zoom down the tracks, passive ones like nitro or repair, defensive, like a shield, and offensive like bolts, mines, and shockwaves. Each has a different ability and each is effective in its own way.

The best part of Blur is its multiplayer though. This game is one that becomes a hundred times better with smack talk and with the ability to race with up to 20 people it can get pretty chaotic. You rank up as is traditional in most games now and you unlock cars and mods that boost your style of racing as you rank up. You also unlock other game play types like racing without any power ups. It runs smoothly even with 20 crazy drivers and I was shocked to find that you can play 4 player split screen on both the console and the PC, a nice treat for all involved!

Again though there is a flaw, there really isn’t a ranking system so you can find yourself going up against high end players right from the start. Thankfully this isn’t COD and you can have fun and do well even with the starting stuff.

A lot of Blur’s flaws are present because good ideas just didn’t pan out very well. As I discussed earlier about the uneven level of detail, each race begins with this really poorly created entry where a stilled darkened background takes up a large portion of the screen with your car starting out in the small part that’s really in game. The look, looks cheap and poorly placed as it will break through the actually map and pop out the other side.

Another well intended idea that did work and easily, the one that irked me more than anything was the attempted cinematic tutorial videos. These videos played as soon as you were on a new map or new game play type forcing you to sit through a montage video. It got rather annoying when I was just praying that doing the next race wasn’t going to start up the videos again.

As its been echoed many times in this review Blur has its flaws, and a lot of them are the result of good ideas not working out, this however doesn’t deter from the fun factor that the game produces. It’s a blast to play with friends and online as the smack talk is always great, the addition of split screen in the PC version was also a welcomed surprised and one that it beyond rare.

Review copy provided by publisher.