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Reviewed: Blur
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: June 29th, 2010
Page: 2

If there's been one major backlash in racing game history, it's the history of the blue shell in Mario Kart. Originally nonexistent, it's gotten worse and worse with every iteration, and is widely regarded for destroying what was left of any semblance of necessary skill for the series. So it's understandable that players might be a little worried about a far more simulation-style, or at least arcade-style, racing game that includes weapons to be picked up. That's the nature of Blur, wandering out the door from Bizarre Creations through Activision. The good news for players is that Bizarre Creations obviously was watching to make sure that they didn't include anything too cheesy or overpowered - if anything, they did almost too good of a job with minimizing the effect of some of the weaponry.

The basics of the game are simple. Drive race courses, force your opponents to crash and/or destroy them yourself, and try to be the first to finish the race.

Where most games would use money, or some equivalent, Blur combines the idea of "lights." Five "Lights" are available directly for finishing a race in first, second, or third place from each mission, two more for accumulating "fans" up to a certain number and completing in-race minigames, and one extra light for beating the one-on-one boss races. The fan part makes the game a tad quirky; in order to really unlock everything, players can't simply run away with the game, but have to hang back to cause damage to opponents for a while (though this doesn't really translate to multiplayer mode).

If anything, it's the "fans" feature that makes the game interesting. Most games either accept that one breakout player can easily win a race, or else give a speed boost to cars that fall behind and "help" them catch up. Blur instead combines the weapons with the fan gimmick to force players to moderate their own speed; a player too far out ahead can lay mines or catch Nitro to go further ahead, but do very little else to harass their opponents.

For weaponry, players pick up boxes left in strategic points in the course. Unlike most games using the pickup mechanic, the boxes aren't random, and so a knowledgeable player can (absent interference by other players) pick and choose quite deliberately. Cars can carry up to three weapons at a time, so holding one or two back is also a great possibility. The two defensive weapons are a repair option - useful for a glancing blow from weapons or a partial scrape on a wall - and a shield which protects from other weapons for a limited time. On offense, players are armed with seeking missiles, mines, a close-range explosive blast, an attack shot with three rounds of ammunition called "bolt", and a nitro boost for putting on some extra speed and either catching up to, or pulling away from, the pack.

A bit of good news for many players is that despite the focus on online gameplay, Blur actually retains an important mode - the friendly, 4-player split screen race. It's a great way to teach new players the game, without requiring them to take the risk on buying it first. In addition, 5 identical machines (Xbox360 or PS3; sadly there isn't cross-platform play) will allow for 20 shoulder-to-shoulder players to compete, should someone set up a LAN and hook them up together to do so.

The final bonus for the game, or detraction depending on how players feel about it, is the impressive amount of statistical tracking, information, and social networking integration that Blur supports - it can hook into twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, and sync data from an Xbox Live or PS3 account with Activision's own website for the game, to provide updates about player achievements. On Activision's website, linked players can look themselves up and track their best times and performances in just about any track from the single-player mode, as well as their multiplayer rankings and sharing of their own favorite game screenshots. In the rankings mode, even Xbox Live Silver members can participate, though they still can't play online against anyone directly (PS3 owners, on the other hand, can play against each other online for free... but don't get to play directly against the larger Xbox Live Gold player base either).

Ultimately, is Blur worth it? As a pure racing simulation, perhaps not. As an interesting twist to the genre, it's at least worth a rental and a trial run with a few friends around.

Added:  Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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