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Where Blur Ranks Next to Gran Turismo and F-Zero

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Posted by: Louis Bedigian

By Louis Bedigian GameZone.com

As we speak, thousand gamers are flooding Activision’s servers to play the multiplayer of Blur, the long-awaited racing/vehicular combat hybrid that has been dubbed the “Call of Duty of racing games.” Whether that assessment will prove to be true remains to be seen, but from a technical standpoint, Blur is one of the most engaging PS3/Xbox 360 racing games out there.

With Blur now in stores, we decided to look back on all the super-fast racing games that have come before it. In doing so, it became quite clear that while there have been several solid releases, only three of them were truly groundbreaking. Let’s take a look at those games and how they compare to today's standards.

The One That Started It All

Long before hovercrafts and aerial racing flew to PSone, Nintendo released an unlikely racer for the 16-bit SNES: F-Zero. Up until this point, no one expected Nintendo to develop a racing game, nor did anyone expect a 2D console to power one properly. At the time, racing was barely a genre – there were a few hits here and there, but none of them were able to hold the world’s attention.

F-Zero changed all that with unprecedented speed, controls and graphics. The game wasn’t perfect; without a thumbstick (which hadn’t been invented yet) to steer properly, the controls were on the clunky side. But with fast-moving visuals, a consistent frame rate and a behind-the-vehicle camera perspective, F-Zero instantly became one of the SNES’ most beloved exclusives.

The One That Brought a Revolution

Gran Turismo is typically the racer people mention when describing the innovation brought on by the PSone. But that game (which is a simulator and thus excluded from this list) arrived a few years into the PSone’s lifecycle. The actual revolution – not only for arcade-style racing games but for the entire genre – started with the release of Wipeout.

In terms of coolness and originality, Wipeout didn’t have to fight to be successful. Other than F-Zero, where else can you drive futuristic-looking vehicles that hover in the air? But it wasn’t the cool factor alone that carried this game to victory. Upon testing the game for the first time, players were greeted by the most awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping effects they had ever seen. The game literally soared, delivering a sense of speed that is all but quantifiable; when hearts start to race because of a video game, you know the developers are on to something big.

The level design was unreal. Sharp turns and winding paths weren’t too uncommon (Daytona USA helped bring many such elements to the forefront), but Wipeout didn’t stop there. The terrain was constantly changing, and when cruising at speeds that felt fast enough to fly into orbit, it became very difficult to maneuver safely through the race. Some might call this a component of frustration, but those who toughened it out realized that the developers had just created something we weren’t used to seeing in racing games: challenge.

The One That Blew Minds

It’s weird to think that we have Acclaim to thank for publishing one of the world’s greatest racing games. But it’s true: before EA picked up Criterion, the publisher known for Turok and Extreme-G released the first two games in what would become a highly acclaimed franchise: Burnout.

Burnout gave birth to a new form of high-speed racing. It was the first to break record speeds while providing precise, easy-to-grasp mechanics that allowed players to steer through the most challenging scenarios. The real world-inspired roadways were jam-packed with interfering traffic that could make your life miserable.

As we sailed by vehicles with only inches to spare, Burnout showed us what it means to execute a near-miss. When we crashed, Burnout presented the most eye-popping, vehicle-crushing effects ever conceived. Even today, with PS3 and Xbox 360 well into their lifespan, no one has been able to create a series on the same level as Burnout.

And The Fourth Game Is…

Will Blur earn the coveted fourth spot in the very short list of super-fast, landmark racing games? It certainly has the potential to do so, but that wasn’t the focus of the beta. Instead, Activision used the beta to introduce gamers to Blur’s brand of Burnout-meets-Mario-Kart racing. With power-ups galore, modes that feature varying levels of speed, and Twisted Metal-style combat arenas, Blur is attempting to cram a wide variety of gameplay into one package.

But will its speedy content be enough to satisfy F-Zero, Wipeout and Burnout-loving gamers? If the beta is any indication, the vehicles in Blur will drive the fastest when using speed-boost power-ups; without them, the game is quick and intense but won’t break any mph records.

Still, as important as speed is, racing games need more than that to survive. Could the final version surprise us all? We’ll know soon enough – until then, stay with GameZone for all the latest on Blur.

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