Blur Preview 2
When it comes to racing games, there's not many studios that can match the style and pedigree of Bizarre Creations. With critically acclaimed franchises such as Project Gotham Racing and Metropolis Street Racer under their belts, they certainly know how to craft an entertaining and realistic game for gearheads. It comes as a surprise then, that Blur takes a step away from simulation in favor of an adrenaline rush like no other. Opting for an adult-styled Mario Kart formula, Blur may be the hint of flavor needed to spice up a genre that is currently mundane due to an overdose of well-crafted, yet ultimately stale racing simulators.
We were invited to Liverpool (England), to get our hands on Bizarre's latest creation. After a brief introduction and high-octane trailer, it was time for us to settle down with the multiplayer beta. Instantly a huge improvement over the first time Blur was shown last year, it seems Bizarre's decision to delay the release of this game is already a beneficial one. With pleasantries exchanged and coffee whizzing around our bodies, we strapped ourselves in for the first race.
It must be said, Blur's trailers don't do the action justice. Running at high-speed, this game is an absolute feast on the eyes. Within seconds of starting there were cars crashing against barriers, flipping out of control and creating mass carnage at the first turn, all with the stylized neon tint of racers such as Need for Speed Underground. Baring in mind up to twenty players can race at the same time, the first few seconds of the race provides an intensity and excitement that most racers fail to deliver throughout the entire dash from A to B. Once things spread out though the real tactics of Blur appear, as this deceptively complex racer proves itself to have enough strategic value for those who want to invest time in becoming the best.
If you hadn't guessed, the whole game centers around the use of power-ups. Much like Mario Kart, these appear in groups at certain points of each track. These have been designed to ensure each race is full of energy, and to give the impression you can never have the same outcome twice. You're quickly forced to decide which power-up you want to used, and can store three at any one time. Initially very simple, Blur quickly begins to test your decision-making skills. Do you rush to the nitros and head into the lead in an attempt to break away from the pack? Will you need a shield when you get there? Or do you hang back, pick up three homing missiles and begin wrecking those who seek an early break? In our races, it was easy to see when other players were calculating their next move, as they may evade to the side of the track in order to stay out of the line of fire, or begin throwing their vehicle's weight around in order to overcome the threat of opponents.
Although there are only eight power-ups, the range is excellent. They are so finely balanced that firing one too early or using the wrong boost at the wrong time can have a major baring on your result. The Shunt is the most obvious threat; an energy-sapping homing missile that lets your peers know when it's creeping up behind them. If you see one of these bad boys in your rear mirror, it's time to start evading until it either passes or sends you scuttling towards the barriers with a lack of pace. The Barge is effective in a different way, and should be used when you're alongside opponents, as it emits an explosion that seeps from your vehicle's chassis and into the core of any close competitors.
Of course, there's the usual array of nitrous, repairs and shields to deploy, but it's the aggressive weapons that have the most explosive result. The Bolt allows players to fire three shots at their opponent manually: pick up three of these in a row and you have nine chances to shunt any pesky cars into trouble. Each power-up can be utilized either forward or backwards, providing a tactical element that is always evolving depending on your position. The real challenge comes when every player has a power-up and it's your task to make it out of the skirmish with four wheels still planted on the ground. It comes with little hesitation that we announce the Shock power-up will make you feel like a stuntman evading an electrical storm, if you make it out alive that is.
Alongside the twenty-player races skirmishes, there is also the opportunity to take part in a destruction derby, team matches and even hardcore races with no power-ups. Although these aren't available in the beta, there is enough to show gamers why Blur should be considered seriously. The option for four player split screen racing will be available upon release too, and is an absolute dream to play. The game runs incredibly well on the downgraded scale, as you still get the burst of color from each power-up, and the air of extreme speed and undeniable style. Sitting next to your opponent also provides the ultimate opportunity for trash-talking, especially as you send their Land Rover hurtling out of control with your banged up classic motor.
In order to keep the Blur multiplayer section feeling alive, Bizarre have incorporated a ranking up system similar to many FPS games. Here you'll earn fans for finishing races, completing challenges and generally performing well on track. With fifty levels to rank up through, you'll unlock new mods that can be adapted to your driving style. This may allow you to gain a nitro boost from any drift you pull off, or convert any power-up into a mine that can be dropped in track. Alternatively, you may be able to disable opponents' power-ups, or even creep along track within an invisible field. The best mod we've seen has been dubbed 'Vampire Wreck,' a cheeky addition that allows you to suck the life from opponents who have succumbed to the pressure and wrecked out on track.
At the beta stage, Blur is offering a sneak peak of what's to come. There's four game modes, six tracks, fourteen licensed vehicles, over thirty challenges and nine mods to get to grips with in a generous offering from Bizarre. Although the tracks we tested were predictable and uninspired, it certainly is a race worth jumping into, as already Blur has provided us with the kind of addictive gameplay that has been missing from racers this generation. The 'one more go' ethos hasn't been so true in a long time, and is a testimony to Bizarre's hard work at creating a compelling, thrilling, and insanely fun mix of real vehicles racing in outlandish situations.