Giant Bomb News

33 Comments

Shifting Gears With Blur

We catch up with Bizarre Creations on its home turf to see how its powered-up racer is coming along.


 If you think this looks dense, wait until you see all 20 cars on the track at once.
It's been nine long months since we last saw Blur at E3 2009, and at the time, it wasn't looking... great. It hadn't quite found its equilibrium, and it lacked the kind of clarity and finesse that has defined Bizarre Creations at its finest. Originally slated for a late 2009 release, the developer was granted an additional six months of development time--time that was, based on what we saw of the multiplayer portion of Blur during our recent trip to its Liverpool headquarters, well-spent.
 
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of Blur, I think it's important to talk about the kinds of expectations you might have for a new racing game from Bizarre Creations. This is a game that, in a pinch, could be quickly described as a dark Mario Kart, or as some kind of retconned progenitor of the Wipeout series--something that sheds some of the simulation-inspired technicality of Project Gotham Racing in favor of neon-washed roads littered with momentum-swinging power-ups. In a sense, this is a game that feels informed as much by Bizarre Creations' non-racing games like Geometry Wars and The Club as it does anything the developer's done featuring four wheels.
 
That said, there's still a sturdy technical base underneath all the sliding and shooting and flipping and generalized chaos that have defined my experience with Blur thus far. The game isn't completely free of reality, with tracks that recall specific real-world locations like sections of Tokyo, Los Angeles, and, in a move that caught our attention pretty specifically, Giant Bomb's hometown of Sausalito. Similarly, there will be a wealth of licensed cars in the final game--more than 50--which Bizarre Creations gathered a quantity of real-world performance data on before tweaking each vehicle's handling profile to make them more approachable. With both the tracks and the cars, Blur seems more interested in evoking the player's perception of these places and these machines rather than their reality.
 
 Yeah, Blur seems like an apt title.
It became apparent to me after just a few multiplayer races that different tracks favor different types of cars. I found that my performance on wide, dirt-cornered tracks flourished with more drift-prone cars, while narrow, urban tracks with lots of hard 90-degree turns benefitted from something with a little more grip. The folks at Bizarre suggested that a lot of that comes down to personal preference, though one thing is for sure--the trucks, SUVs, and other heavy-hitters were never really contenders in a straight race, and will instead be better suited for a demolition-derby-style mode that wasn't being shown during our visit. Another factor to consider will be Blur's mod system, which can tweak a variety of your vehicle's performance stats.
 
But what seemed to decide the majority of the races I participated in--be it the fully chaotic 20-player battle royales or the surprisingly peppy four-player split-screen games that, while not part of the multiplayer beta, will be featured in the final game--were the power-ups. This is where Blur makes its clean break from reality, letting you drop explosive mines, generate small, 360-degree blasts of concussive energy to knock around nearby contenders, trip up the first-place racer with serpentine gauntlets of ball-lightning, shoot homing missiles, or just nitro boost your way past the competition.
 
These are, for the most part, pretty common ideas for combat racing games, but what I found interesting in Blur is the way almost any offensive power-up can be countered with another power-up, or if you're good enough, dodged completely. Getting the right power-up rarely meant an automatic win, but it can certainly help. The way the power-ups handle, as well as the way they interact with one another, was one of the areas that seemed most improved over what I saw of Blur back at E3 2009. The power-ups are also a source of much of Blur's visual flair, which tends towards a high-contrast mix of dark, wet streets and over-saturated colors. There were some highly specific touches to Blur's look that really left an impression on me, like the way your car's taillights will bleed out into the environment, or the slick color-separation and video-compression artifacts that crop up when you take a particularly brutal hit, suggesting that you're watching the game through some kind of car-mounted video camera.
 
Copping its multiplayer progression structure from the Modern Warfare games, you'll unlock access to more mods and more cars in Blur as you level up, though, surprisingly, I found that winning races wasn't necessarily the fastest way to level up. Your progression will be governed by how many fans you have. Fans are kind of like kudos in PGR, and you're rewarded more for mixing it up with other racers than staying ahead of the pack. Hitting an enemy with a power-up will net you a certain number of fans, but hitting them while drifting around a corner or while sailing through a jump will earn you much more.
 
 More bedlam, please.
The importance of style is an idea that seems to permeate Blur, which is a big part of what I find interesting about this game. I've still got significant questions about how the single-player experience will pan out--after all, there's always been a considerable disparity between the way AI opponents and real, live racers behave on the track, which can fundamentally alter the race experience. I have no doubt that there will be plenty of Project Gotham fans out there who will be at least a little cool towards the direction that Bizarre Creations has gone with Blur, but, if nothing else, it seems that now the developer is poised to deliver a game that it's satisfied with.
 
EDITOR'S NOTE: In the spirit of full disclosure, all airfare and hotel expenses for Giant Bomb's trip to Bizarre Creations' Liverpool headquarters were furnished by Activision, publisher of Blur.
33 Comments
Posted by Ryan

 If you think this looks dense, wait until you see all 20 cars on the track at once.
It's been nine long months since we last saw Blur at E3 2009, and at the time, it wasn't looking... great. It hadn't quite found its equilibrium, and it lacked the kind of clarity and finesse that has defined Bizarre Creations at its finest. Originally slated for a late 2009 release, the developer was granted an additional six months of development time--time that was, based on what we saw of the multiplayer portion of Blur during our recent trip to its Liverpool headquarters, well-spent.
 
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of Blur, I think it's important to talk about the kinds of expectations you might have for a new racing game from Bizarre Creations. This is a game that, in a pinch, could be quickly described as a dark Mario Kart, or as some kind of retconned progenitor of the Wipeout series--something that sheds some of the simulation-inspired technicality of Project Gotham Racing in favor of neon-washed roads littered with momentum-swinging power-ups. In a sense, this is a game that feels informed as much by Bizarre Creations' non-racing games like Geometry Wars and The Club as it does anything the developer's done featuring four wheels.
 
That said, there's still a sturdy technical base underneath all the sliding and shooting and flipping and generalized chaos that have defined my experience with Blur thus far. The game isn't completely free of reality, with tracks that recall specific real-world locations like sections of Tokyo, Los Angeles, and, in a move that caught our attention pretty specifically, Giant Bomb's hometown of Sausalito. Similarly, there will be a wealth of licensed cars in the final game--more than 50--which Bizarre Creations gathered a quantity of real-world performance data on before tweaking each vehicle's handling profile to make them more approachable. With both the tracks and the cars, Blur seems more interested in evoking the player's perception of these places and these machines rather than their reality.
 
 Yeah, Blur seems like an apt title.
It became apparent to me after just a few multiplayer races that different tracks favor different types of cars. I found that my performance on wide, dirt-cornered tracks flourished with more drift-prone cars, while narrow, urban tracks with lots of hard 90-degree turns benefitted from something with a little more grip. The folks at Bizarre suggested that a lot of that comes down to personal preference, though one thing is for sure--the trucks, SUVs, and other heavy-hitters were never really contenders in a straight race, and will instead be better suited for a demolition-derby-style mode that wasn't being shown during our visit. Another factor to consider will be Blur's mod system, which can tweak a variety of your vehicle's performance stats.
 
But what seemed to decide the majority of the races I participated in--be it the fully chaotic 20-player battle royales or the surprisingly peppy four-player split-screen games that, while not part of the multiplayer beta, will be featured in the final game--were the power-ups. This is where Blur makes its clean break from reality, letting you drop explosive mines, generate small, 360-degree blasts of concussive energy to knock around nearby contenders, trip up the first-place racer with serpentine gauntlets of ball-lightning, shoot homing missiles, or just nitro boost your way past the competition.
 
These are, for the most part, pretty common ideas for combat racing games, but what I found interesting in Blur is the way almost any offensive power-up can be countered with another power-up, or if you're good enough, dodged completely. Getting the right power-up rarely meant an automatic win, but it can certainly help. The way the power-ups handle, as well as the way they interact with one another, was one of the areas that seemed most improved over what I saw of Blur back at E3 2009. The power-ups are also a source of much of Blur's visual flair, which tends towards a high-contrast mix of dark, wet streets and over-saturated colors. There were some highly specific touches to Blur's look that really left an impression on me, like the way your car's taillights will bleed out into the environment, or the slick color-separation and video-compression artifacts that crop up when you take a particularly brutal hit, suggesting that you're watching the game through some kind of car-mounted video camera.
 
Copping its multiplayer progression structure from the Modern Warfare games, you'll unlock access to more mods and more cars in Blur as you level up, though, surprisingly, I found that winning races wasn't necessarily the fastest way to level up. Your progression will be governed by how many fans you have. Fans are kind of like kudos in PGR, and you're rewarded more for mixing it up with other racers than staying ahead of the pack. Hitting an enemy with a power-up will net you a certain number of fans, but hitting them while drifting around a corner or while sailing through a jump will earn you much more.
 
 More bedlam, please.
The importance of style is an idea that seems to permeate Blur, which is a big part of what I find interesting about this game. I've still got significant questions about how the single-player experience will pan out--after all, there's always been a considerable disparity between the way AI opponents and real, live racers behave on the track, which can fundamentally alter the race experience. I have no doubt that there will be plenty of Project Gotham fans out there who will be at least a little cool towards the direction that Bizarre Creations has gone with Blur, but, if nothing else, it seems that now the developer is poised to deliver a game that it's satisfied with.
 
EDITOR'S NOTE: In the spirit of full disclosure, all airfare and hotel expenses for Giant Bomb's trip to Bizarre Creations' Liverpool headquarters were furnished by Activision, publisher of Blur.
Posted by bluesun

No more beta keys. :(

Posted by fishmicmuffin

I was wondering who paid for the trip. The various videos of the game and this have me very interested in it. It's a game to keep an eye on, that's for sure.

Posted by KingOfIceland

I got my key, thanks Giantbomb. 
 
Game is now put firmly on my "Must buy" list.

Posted by Woodroez

does "well-spent" really need to be hyphenated? You always seemed to be something of a linguist, Mr. Davis; drop some wisdom.

Posted by shaun832
@bluesun: There are still some other websites that are giving away beta codes *cough* GameSpot *cough*
Posted by GamesWarden

I have always been a huge fan of Bizarre creations work, going right back to Formula 1 on the Playstation. I thought PGR3 and 4 were amazing and underrated experiences, but despite that, I'm actually happy to see them take a new direction with this. Here's hoping they can pull it off - I'll probably get it regardless.

Edited by bluesun
@shaun832: I won't tell if you won't...
Posted by jonnyboy

Balls to disclosure Ryan, you're a journalist and you covered an event relevant to your readers. And not only was it informative and critical was entertaining to boot. Top job. 
 
Plus I just want to see as many games covered by you guys as possible, GB WORLDWIDE!

Posted by Jumpify

Beta keys ran out SO FAST!

Posted by DrWhat
@jonnyboy said:
" Balls to disclosure Ryan, you're a journalist and you covered an event relevant to your readers. And not only was it informative and critical was entertaining to boot. Top job.   Plus I just want to see as many games covered by you guys as possible, GB WORLDWIDE! "
Are you trying to say that you'd rather they didn't disclose the fact that a publisher paid for them to go halfway around the world to a city they've never been to check out a new game at an event? If you don't want to know, just close your eyes for that paragraph.
Posted by Scooper

It's cool you got a free trip. It just means that the awesome content was even better.

Edited by ProjektGill
Posted by Red12b
@Ryan said:
EDITOR'S NOTE: In the spirit of full disclosure, all airfare and hotel expenses for Giant Bomb's trip to Bizarre Creations' Liverpool headquarters were furnished by Activision, publisher of Blur. "
Good on you for putting this in, I actually wondered why you would go there, as you guys have said multiple times that you will only go to somewhere if it is in all of your main interests, But, who wouldn't want to go to cherry old Liverpool... 
 
Should've been Manchester.  
 
I hope that New Zealand gets picked as a developer hot spot, Come down here, WE ARE UPSIDE DOWN!!!
Posted by Daftasabat

Got my Beta key all set up ;)

Posted by mythrol

Oh CRAP!  I didn't realize Activision was developing this game. I was totally interested in purchasing it, well now, F* that.

Posted by JoelTGM

Oh, Avtivision paid for that trip?  Awesome.  I love the geometry wars neon look to a lot of the menus and powerups. 

Posted by Andre
@ProjektGill: Thanks for the tip, I had given up on getting one.
Posted by mikenam

Anyone read the title and think it said "shitting gears with blur"  the way the f looked with the t also looked like another t.

Posted by sarahsdad
@ProjektGill: Thanks for the heads-up. I haven't been there in so long, didn't even think to check.
Posted by sarahsdad

As to the game, I like that Ryan mentioned Wipeout, since that's exactly the thing I was thinking, watching all the powerups, crashes, etc. I only ever played the psp version(s), but that was a really fun time.

Posted by Artanas

Game looks pretty good. 

Posted by monster9999

Thx for the editors notes cause i was questing whether GB payed for all this. Well kudos to activision for pennying up for this, now we wait till Monday for the beta to start...it cant come soon enough

Posted by jonnyboy
@DrWhat said:
" @jonnyboy said:
" Balls to disclosure Ryan, you're a journalist and you covered an event relevant to your readers. And not only was it informative and critical was entertaining to boot. Top job.   Plus I just want to see as many games covered by you guys as possible, GB WORLDWIDE! "
Are you trying to say that you'd rather they didn't disclose the fact that a publisher paid for them to go halfway around the world to a city they've never been to check out a new game at an event? If you don't want to know, just close your eyes for that paragraph. "
No I'm saying 'why should they?' The same thing happens for movies, sports events etc all the time. Honestly if anyone is worried that GB's review may be swayed by this press event then the they really shouldn't. I think the track record of these guys saying exactly what they think of a game in a review regardless of how much money the developer has put into the site is very well documented. 
Posted by alternate

Kudos on these disclaimers you add - everyone assumes them but nobody else seems to make such a point of declaring them like that.  Can you imagine if old print mags had to write "Our cover story was bought and paid for by our advertisers" - might have helped keep them honest.

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

Excited for the beta.

Posted by Milkman

It took me listening to the podcast last time to finally realize that this and Spilt/Second are two different games and that Blur is the much less interesting looking one. Cool, nonetheless!

Posted by Skald

It's like Mario Kart, but instead of Mario, you have Kudos. 
 
This makes no sense to me.

Posted by Xeiphyer

Mariokart + Need for Speed + Burnout.
 
Looks awesome, and those super stylized effects are sick looking!
 
Can't wait for the 'beata'

Posted by JJWeatherman

Cool report on Blur the last few days Ryan. Seems weird to go all the way to Liverpool just to see one game though.

Posted by GoodKn1ght
@jonnyboy said:
" @DrWhat said:
" @jonnyboy said:
" Balls to disclosure Ryan, you're a journalist and you covered an event relevant to your readers. And not only was it informative and critical was entertaining to boot. Top job.   Plus I just want to see as many games covered by you guys as possible, GB WORLDWIDE! "
Are you trying to say that you'd rather they didn't disclose the fact that a publisher paid for them to go halfway around the world to a city they've never been to check out a new game at an event? If you don't want to know, just close your eyes for that paragraph. "
No I'm saying 'why should they?' The same thing happens for movies, sports events etc all the time. Honestly if anyone is worried that GB's review may be swayed by this press event then the they really shouldn't. I think the track record of these guys saying exactly what they think of a game in a review regardless of how much money the developer has put into the site is very well documented.  "
i like that its disclosed, mostly because i was wondering why the hell would they pay for a trip to liverpool for one game? now it make sense plus the fact that they aren't afraid to admit it shows there integrity.
Posted by Brendan
@mythrol said:
"Oh CRAP!  I didn't realize Activision was developing this game. I was totally interested in purchasing it, well now, F* that. "

Activision isn't developing it, Bizarre Creations is.  Point noticed though.
Posted by DystopiaX
@jonnyboy said:
" @DrWhat said:
" @jonnyboy said:
" Balls to disclosure Ryan, you're a journalist and you covered an event relevant to your readers. And not only was it informative and critical was entertaining to boot. Top job.   Plus I just want to see as many games covered by you guys as possible, GB WORLDWIDE! "
Are you trying to say that you'd rather they didn't disclose the fact that a publisher paid for them to go halfway around the world to a city they've never been to check out a new game at an event? If you don't want to know, just close your eyes for that paragraph. "
No I'm saying 'why should they?' The same thing happens for movies, sports events etc all the time. Honestly if anyone is worried that GB's review may be swayed by this press event then the they really shouldn't. I think the track record of these guys saying exactly what they think of a game in a review regardless of how much money the developer has put into the site is very well documented.  "
especially given the way this site was founded.