By pickassoreborn 5 Comments
I don't know if any of you have worked in a videogame development studio, but it's a bit like The Matrix. There's a dreamlike sense of wonder, a feeling of being encapsulated in a protective bubble along with your eager co-workers. You mostly love playing videogames in varied capacities, have heated discussions about them and know that your love of videogames motivates you to accomplish great things in your heart. One day you'll spot a black cat meowing. You'll think nothing of it until the same cat repeats that same meow, and then you realise that something isn't right. Before you know it, a bald-headed idiot who loves virtua-steak more than cereal slop will grab the cable from the back of your head and yank you out of one reality and into a much more horrible one.
This could be the impending fate of Bizarre Creations, and it breaks my gaming heart.
Activision are all about business, all about pleasing their shareholders and all about profit. They have no cares for heritage and gaming history; it's all business to them. They don't have a secondary thought of shuttering studios which the very livelihoods of developers and their families rely on. They are the Skeletor of the gaming world, a title once held by EA. The thing is that there is emotion and then there is a cold, hard fact; the emotion is that Bizarre have been around since many of you were still in daipers/nappies and produced some truly brilliant games involving fast cars and recreated cityscapes. The cold, hard fact is that since PGR4, Bizarre haven't been as successful as they should have been and far less gamers are buying Bizarre-developed titles. This is even more tragic when you consider that games released after PGR4 had a larger multi-format audience.
The acquisition of Bizarre Creations would have made more sense if Blur had been released straight after PGR4. Bizarre are great at racing games. Truly great - they took what was usual about the genre and added to it. What followed was The Club - a third person over-the-shoulder shooter which relied heavily on combos and high scores. Where were the fast and shiny cars? The satisfying click of Kudos accumulation? I think the Bizarre fan base gathered from the Project Gotham Racing franchise were both confused and disappointed there wasn't another Project Gotham Racing game. When Blur eventually materialised, it could have been too little, too late - a title which returned to the roots of the PGR franchise with a vengeance. James Bond 007 : Blood Stone was the last nail in Bizarre's coffin - a world away from what the public were used to. It could be argued that Bizarre had lost its identity through Activision's acquisition, their focus re-directed by ill-advised suited goons a world away.
I found Blur to be a truly addictive and very playable game - once you drop down that devilish default difficulty - and it has the spirit of Project Gotham Racing running all the way through it. That's the real tragedy here - more Project Gotham Racing fans didn't give the game the chance it deserved because the Mario Kart comparisons could have put them off. When you play the game on the default difficulty, you will begin to hate it. Opponents will constantly haze you into submission and challenges seem to be won sometimes through sheer luck of not being at the receiving end of two shunts at once. The dope who reviewed Blur for IGN did mention that difficulty, not realised it could be dropped to a more manageable and playable level. I'm so, so glad I did that. I may have felt less of a man for doing so, but fuck it. The game was 100% more enjoyable, 100% less frustrating, 100% more addictive.
I mentioned that Blur has a lot of Project Gotham Racing heritage in its digital bones which the brightly-coloured neon power-ups distract from; Kudos has been replaced by "fans", fan runs are very reminiscent of cone gates (the game's Sticker section even hints at these roots) and there is that selection of real-world locations, although these locations appear to have their own personality which adds to the game's unique look and feel. The power-ups are only the icing on the cake - there's a lot of strategy which only becomes apparent through continued play and experience from Blur's excellent Multiplayer. We're all suckers for achievements too, and Blur expertly handles these through their aforementioned Sticker section - the game will constantly throw up pop-ups of your micro-achievements which add towards those actual achievements and trophies. Multiplayer goes even more crazy with micro-achievements, which adds to the game's addictive qualities - ranking up unlocks more of these as well as more modes. On top of all this, the handling of vehicles is sublime and there's also a strategy in choosing the right vehicle for certain events.
There is a lot of depth and replayability to the game which some reviewers may have missed. It is truly a revelation and one I sadly came too late to the party for. The game is out there for a bargain price now, and I urge you to pick it up and give it a chance. Bizarre Creations still exist, though time is running out. Their fate appears to be inevitable and not at all pleasant in any way, shape or form. I really hope the essence of Bizarre lives on in some form - they have a unique feel and personality in their games which is a rare thing these days. They've been in my gaming life since Metropolis Street Racer on the Dreamcast, and it'll be a horrible waste to see them ruthlessly yanked from their idyllic developy existence.