crunchbitejr's Blur (Xbox 360) review

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Mario Kart meets Wipeout meets Lady Luck

Blur is a game which should have been the end of Bizarre Creations. After the disappointment of PGR 4 and the rise of the Forza Motorsport brand most were expecting another simulation racing game aimed at taking Forza down a peg or two. Blur is a kart racer set in a real world setting...when you put it like that the enormous risk Bizarre have embarked on becomes clear. Not only is this a market very squarely owned by Mario Kart but the developer is risking it's enthusiast fan base by changing direction. No mistakes can be made, no missteps and luckily they have produced a very accomplished title.  

Barge being used
Barge being used
Blur's a game that catches the eye from the off. Sleek black neon stylings and a low key electro soundtrack brings back memories of Wipeout clones and an early millennium aesthetic lost to the Apple revolution and regained slightly by Geometry Wars. Real world cars look as sleek as is to be expected from the PGR devs with the neon lights bouncing off the deformed body work pushing the game up to an impressive level of visuals. Underneath this exterior lies a humbler foundation with Mario Kart providing most of the backbone of the game. At it's core is the mushroom kingdom, tracks littered with balanced power-ups and a mix of fighting and racing. Track variety is impressive with on and off road tracks, winding and long straights, downhill runs and uphill slogs set across the most incredible cities in the world. Tokyo, Barcelona...Brighton. Navigating these tracks will be familiar to any fan of PGR as the cars still have that grippy yet drifty feel to them. The game gets that good balance between blinding speed down the straights into drifting carnage in a tight corner perfectly and is complimented perfectly by a well balanced battle system. The power-ups are standard fare from the nitro boost (mushroom) to the shunt which homes in on an enemy (red shell). Weapons can be fired backwards to destroy incoming threats and there is true variety to what gameplay style you choose due through the weapons. The shunt is very much a fire and forget weapon whilst the bolt gives you 3 purple bullets to fire manually but can go long distances and can seriously damage an opponents driving line. What this all combines to create is a race made up of several smaller battles. There's no artificial rubber-banding (last place is slightly easier naturally due to the lack of attacks you'll face) and as such the most important part of the race is getting past the next driver. Flying down straights in mini dogfights is an exhilarating experience and one which never tires. 
Bolt being used
Bolt being used
Gameplay modes are reasonably extensive with a challenging single player mode offering a nice variety of challenges. Destruction has you destroying players to add time to an ever decreasing clock, with checkpoint having you racing between checkpoints keeping that clock topped up with time. Progress is determined by winning races and gaining fans through aggressive, flamboyant and successful racing which in turn apes progress in multiplayer. The single-player truth be told is a linear experience designed to educate you for the multiplayer. Multiplayer Blur takes the unlock and perk system from Modern Warfare bringing a brilliant "just one more go" system to proceedings. Proceeding up levels isn't linked to victory but to fan number and you will still find yourself unlocking new cars and perks (sorry, mods) with regularity making online a less frustrating experience than expected when you aren't winning. Throw friends into the mix, daily challenges which yield fans and a healthy roster of cars and you have a highly playable online game. 
There's so much more which rounds off the package. Facebook, Twitter and integration with the Blur website, a screenshot feature, true old school 4 player split-screen and custom game creation all augment what is a highly playable online kart racer. Sure it has a few niggles. It's not entirely consistent in the way cars react to hits and the speed with which you can fly from first to last can be disheartening but in a way it's randomness is an endearing characteristic. Races are never the same twice and when you see a high level player you never have the same sinking feeling you do in an FPS. It's an even playing field and that may turn off people seeking a high level technical racer but for those wanting hectic kart racing with friends of an evening Blur will certainly satisfy.     

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