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Popping the hood on Blur and checking to see what influenced the games mechanics

March 10, 2010

Popping the hood on Blur and checking to see what influenced the game’s mechanics
By Nick Akerman

Activision’s pending title may have drawn inspiration from a variety of sources

After spending a considerable amount of time getting to grips with the Blur multiplayer beta over the last week, it's fair to announce the game has taken inspiration from a host of influential gaming products, and even the film industry. We've narrowed down the list to bring you the best of Blur's influences, and possibly one or two that may have slipped the radar.

Mario Kart

At the press event we attended last week in Liverpool, it was nearly impossible to have a conversation without someone mentioning how Blur 'feels like an adult Mario Kart.' This is true to a certain extent, as the game incorporates a similar power-up system and frantic dash to the finish. However, there are huge differences to be found. Not only does Blur feature a fully-licensed roster of cars, it forces you to make decisions.

As power-ups can be identified by their color, you know exactly what you're going to get when you pick it up. This brings a tactical element into proceedings that Mario Kart has never created, due to each power-up appearing randomly. Of course, knowing when to use your blue shell or kart-tipping banana separates the good players from the Dads who only play it with their children, but Bizarre's game should feel hard done by if it's continued to be labelled as a mature clone for Nintendo's racer. Within minutes of playing you'll be deciphering a plan to overcome your opponents, and when there's 20 vehicles on track, which are making decisions in the blink of an eye, it gets pretty damn hectic.

Modern Warfare 2

Today's gamer is no stranger to ranking up in order to earn better weapons, greater armor and many other boosts, and now it seems the craze is taking over the racing genre. Blur unashamedly winks towards the Modern Warfare series by incorporating a number of car challenges (the hardest forcing you to wreck five cars in three seconds!), all of which allow you to rank up faster when completed. To make this worthwhile, Bizarre have also added their own 'perk' system to the game, in a move that proves no matter where you turn, the Call of Duty franchise is watching. Billed as the 'mod' system, this will allow players to assign three special abilities that aid the quest for victory.

If you're a defensive player, you may want your loadout to include a shield which converts power-ups into health, allowing you to form a barrier many players tend to overlook. For the less feint-hearted, an aggressive approach may be in order, as you allow your car to deal out greater damage when colliding with others. Each loadout allows you to utilize three mods that can be used in-game, so there are hundreds of choices and variations to match your driving style.

Thankfully, once you've wrecked a car, it's not going to lay silently on the floor, ready to take your head off with a single bullet, as Bizarre knew when to draw the line on their cheeky homage to Activision's leading franchise.

Project Gotham Racing/Metropolis Street Racer

It's little surprise that Bizarre's two most successful racing franchises have held great influence over Blur. With tracks confirmed in London, Tokyo and San Francisco, Dreamcast fans will be reminiscing about MSR right up until release, while those who took longer to jump aboard Bizarre's racing ship will see similarities in PGR. Although the Kudos system doesn't appear in Blur (at the time of writing), there is a similar way of leveling up and progressing through your online career. Blur rewards those who drive skillfully at high-speed, and who pull off deft-defying maneuvers to evade an incoming missile by giving them 'fans'. Manage to hit the same vehicle three times in a row, but still finish in last place? Don't worry, you'll be rewarded. Finish the race without a scrape? That's rewarded too. It seems Bizarre wants to reward everyone playing Blur for their own style; a unique standpoint in a genre that's usually dominated by the notion that faster means better.

Halo

Although it's easy to spot where most power-ups have been influenced from, the Bolt may pass  by without getting noticed. This pink colored, three shot blast allows you to manually fire towards an opponent in the hope of sapping their momentum away. Pick three of these up in a row, and you have nine shots to unleash like a swarm of neon-tinted killer bees. Or more to the point, like Halo's inescapable Needler. There's no doubt the fan-favourite gun had a baring on Blur's deadly Bolt design, as it induces the kind of heart-stopping gameplay that many have succumbed to in Microsoft's trilogy. Rewarding accurate bursts of small fire, the Bolt never fails to reveal a snarling grin on the face of it's master.

Geometry Wars

The first thing that struck us about Blur was the vivid burst of color that engulfs the entire screen. With 20 cars crashing together, firing power-ups and generally creating a nuisance of themselves, it's no secret that Bizarre have their excellent arcade and handheld series in mind. Geometry Wars' explosive fireworks display is replicated in Blur on track, except this time being outnumbered isn't the threat. Particularly in four-player split-screen, Blur's visuals are akin to the craziness that made Geometry Wars such a success, and such a blast to play.

Hollywood

During our behind the scenes look at Bizarre's studio, there was constant reference to Hollywood and it's influence over Blur. Despite watching a number of blockbusters to create the 'feel' of the game, it was Ironman that got labeled as the main inspiration from lead audio designers Mike DeBelle and Nick Wiswell. In particular, the “air-rippling” distortion effect when an incoming missile passes your vehicle was inspired by Robert Downey Jr's battles in the famous suit.

It doesn't stop there, though, as the deeper you sink into Blur the more movie references can be spotted. The crashing together of two hideously over-shiny behemoths nods towards the conflict between Optimus Prime and Megatron, while many of the power-up effects wouldn't be out of place in Star Wars. To round it off, it's almost impossible to escape a comparison with Too Fast Too Furious, albeit without the gruff antics of Vin Diesel corrupting screen time for the majority.

Social Networking  

Details on Blur's single-player campaign are scarce, but the title is known to be including an e-mail system and social networking parody Web site for you to manage your races. During our time with Bizarre, they were pleased to announced that Blur supports full Twitter integration, which can be accessed at any time in the game. You can also send challenges to three players at a time, and then have them repay the favor with tougher terms if they manage to beat your test. This appears as a dashboard message on the Xbox 360, and in your PS3 inbox on Sony's console.

Bizarre's generosity for multiplayer carnage doesn't end there though, as the team announced that challenges allow early access to the best cars (if your friend has already unlocked them), and are also free to play on an Xbox Live Silver account. This is sure to be a big hit for those who want to drop in and out of real-world competition without the stress of having to pay to play against their friends, and is a welcomed move by the English studio.

* * *

Be sure to check out the rest of our Blur coverage (here), and check back soon for a full review. The game releases on May 25 in the US, and May 28 in Europe.

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