Due for release in the UK on May 28th 2010, Blur is a new high-octane racer from Bizarre Creations, the developers who brought us the fabulous Project Gotham Racing series. With the multi-player beta released last week, I donned my driving gloves to see if Bizarre is once again set to deliver the goods.
At its core, Blur is a classic arcade racer in every sense of the word. Bold, vibrant visuals; a thumping soundtrack offset by the roar of powerful engines from some of the world’s best known vehicles; races set in the most exotic locations from around the globe in which you hurl your ride around at breakneck speeds – all the ingredients are there. Add into the mix the ability to outwit, outmanoeuvre and destroy your opponents with homing missiles, speed boosts, shockwaves, mines, and force blasts, and what you have is the vengeful offspring between a union of Burnout and Wipeout. And it’s not taking any prisoners.
There’s more to Blur than just driving really fast and blowing up your opponents, though. Scratch away at its seemingly simple premise and beneath you’ll find all the hallmarks of Bizarre’s award winning talent when it comes to engaging their audience with hidden depth and character.
After a few plays it becomes apparent that races are, in fact, very tactical. Each vehicle can carry up to three power-ups at a time, which are displayed just below the rear bumper with each one being added to your arsenal as you blast around anyone of the well designed race courses. These power-ups are dispensed in the order in which you obtained them so careful planning is needed if you’re to survive the race, let alone garner a podium finish. Manage to bag first place and there’s still another lap to go? Then perhaps the best option would be to pick up a ‘Repair’ power-up to fix any damage inflicted upon your car, followed by a ‘Homing Missile’ to take out anybody who gets the jump on you, and finally a ‘Speed Boost’ to make sure you can secure first place once again? Or maybe you just want to leave a trail of mines on every blind corner? The choices are yours, just make sure they’re good ones if you want to secure victory.
Like PGR, Blur also has a Kudos system, although this time it comes in the form of a fanbase. The cooler you drive, the longer power slides you perform, the bigger the jumps and the more wrath you unleash upon your rivals, the more Fans you gain. The more Fans you gain, the quicker you advance in the rankings and thus open up new cars and modifications to take into the combat zone.
Most interesting of these upgrades is the ability to bolt on packages to your current vehicle of choice. Packages that not only improve your vehicles resistance, speed and overall attack prowess, but also enhance the many power-ups found scattered across each course. For example, if you choose a more defensive package, not only can your car withstand a lot more battering but shields suddenly become these huge sponges that can suck up any incoming missiles (something that would have normally sent your car spinning upwards, chunks being literally torn off its once pristine chassis) and then spew them back out to devastating effect. Not only does it even the odds should you find yourself in a race with better equipped cars than your own, but it’s immensely satisfying to see in your rear view mirror the very player who was intent on ending your race flip into the air with a huge explosion fom his very own homing missile. Yes, very satisfying.
While a single player story will come with the finished game, it will be interesting to see how much more Blur has under the hood and whether or not it can hold its own against the depth and breadth of many other racers currently on the market – including PGR. But that’s something we won’t discover until later in May. Having said that, with up to 20 players in any given online battle, custom teams for players who want to design unique races and 4-player split-screen, it’s abundantly clear that the multi-player is at the centre of Blur’s beating heart.
With the PGR series, Bizarre Creations have proven time and again that they’re more than capable of delivering beautifully crafted racers into what is an oversaturated market, and while Blur may, in terms of design and execution, be accelerating in the other direction it looks like Bizarre may have very well delivered once again on their promises.