As a kid, I slipped into the car and pretended to cruise the highways while activating imaginary weapons. Invisible missiles decimated opponents as I zipped past fiery wreckage. I activated my nitrous – cruise-control – and watched the competition fade in the mirror. While that fantasy will never become a reality, barring a stint in a prison with televised death-races, Blur comes dangerously close to fulfilling the childhood dream.
Blur bears more in common with the precision of the Wipeout series than the machine guns, exploding buildings, and magical turtle shells in other games of vehicular combat. Yes, Blur has its own set of unrealistic power-ups to launch up the opposition’s muffler, but it takes racing seriously. It isn’t a full-on simulator, ala Forza Motorsport 3 or Gran Turismo 5, but don’t expect to drift around hairpin turns at 300mph and bounce happily off the barriers without consequences.
There are five offensive power-ups to throw at the competition, including homing shots, direct shots, and mines, which can be launched forwards and backwards, while shields, repair-kits, and nitros help keep your car driving fast and safe. The power-ups are so well balanced – no blue-shell race-killer – that Blur has a surprising amount of tactical depth. You always have to ask yourself whether it’s best to keep hammering the leader of the pack, or protect your position from the onslaught approaching from the rear.
Progressing through the single-player career is equally unique and antagonizing. Points are awarded for winning and unlock further races, fans are awarded for showmanship and unlock new cars, and there are crossovers where you have to get so many fans to receive lights. Qualifying for the one-on-one boss races requires far more specific actions, such as pushing an opponent into the water with the Barge power-up, which wouldn’t be so aggravating if there were more than one specific spot to perform the maneuver.
Most asinine is that side-accomplishments, such as gaining the prerequisite number of fans, count for squat unless you place third or higher. Many of the races are painfully difficult to beat. Replicating that success while slaloming through gates and performing requested maneuvers to please the fans can be excruciating. Then there is the catch-22: How do you gain fans when you’re so far ahead that you have no one to battle?
Hands-down, Blur has the most impressive selection of cars outside of pure simulators. Blur boasts 69 cars in the garage, including low-level wannabes such as the Ford Focus and an incredibly rusty VW Beetle, mid-level contenders such as the Nissan 350Z, and up to the new Chevrolet Camaro SS and Audi R8. If big and burly is your thing, try the Hummer H2, a supercharged Ford F100, or the Ford Transit Supervan.
Each car has distinctive driving characteristics, although the menu does a poor job of explaining the differences. There are sleek cars that have high meters for top-speeds, but feel slower than beaters with better acceleration, and cars with high grip-ratings that drift too readily. I suspect that unseen physics for weight, suspension, etc. running under the hood are to blame. It’s a minor grievance, but compensating with basic options for adjusting drift vs. grip, top-speed vs. acceleration, and turning-tightness would be extremely welcome.
Call of Duty’s influence knows no bounds, and Blur is the latest adopter of ranked multiplayer. Cars that have been unlocked in single-player don’t carry over. You have to earn the right to drive them by building a fanbase. You can also customize a load-out of three mods, including a fan-multiplier and a mod that siphons health from fallen foes. None are game-breakers. At level 50, a player can plateau or enter Legend-mode, up to ten times, which resets all accomplishments and cars, but grants a Legend-class car.
Blur has four-player split-screen available, but the 20-player, online matches are too insane to miss. You will be unavoidably manhandled and thrown from first to last in seconds, but it’s hard to care when the entire track is enveloped in the chaos of crashes and explosions. Besides, you can still get plenty of fans and rank up by doing damage at the rear. For Twisted Metal fans, Blur shows its love for arena-combat with team and free-for-all modes, and dedicated maps, including the roof of a skyscraper.
On single-player, Blur is an average racing game with a powered-up twist. Repeating races and receiving beautiful cars that remain untouched due to the lack of customization gets old fast. The outdated rave-vibe, including the music and menus, don’t do the presentation any favors either. As a multiplayer title, Blur is absolutely exhilarating. I cheered in victory, yelled in anger, was called names I’ve never heard, and I loved every moment of it.
Seriously though, what is a slurp-wad?