Giant Bomb Review

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Blur Review

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Bizarre Creations has found a game worthy of the developer's namesake in Blur, a game that finds something fun in the peculiar pairing of weighty, quietly technical real-world racing and over-the-top kart combat.


Real cars, unreal abilities.
Blur is a game that seems to embody a convergence of the two franchises that developer Bizarre Creations has become most synonymous with over the past nine years: Project Gotham Racing and Geometry Wars. The crossover racing game pedigree established by Project Gotham Racing--and, to a similar degree, the Metropolis Street Racer series that came before it--is apparent in the real-world-plus environments and the weight with which the bevy of licensed cars handle in Blur. It's also hard to ignore the black-lit neon glow that both Blur and Geometry Wars share, but there's a third game that's owed its due here, and that's Mario Kart. Blur calls it "powered up racing," but it's basically putting a more sophisticated face on a genre of racing game that has seen peaks in popularity, but has never really broken out of its casual, kid-friendly ghetto. The parts are familiar, but the pairing makes for a unique, if not necessarily transcendental, kind of chaotic fun.

If you've played one of Bizarre Creations' past racing games, you'll be coming into Blur with a pretty good idea of how the cars will handle. BC has rarely aimed for 100% simulation-style authenticity with its racing games, but Blur steers well clear of any arcade-style comparisons simply by demanding that you not barrel full-throttle into ever turn, expecting to effortlessly drift your way through. You'll (hopefully) learn early that such behavior will almost invariably end in a disappointing spin-out, and that each car has a fairly specific handling profile. There are multiple classes of cars, but it's not always a clear-cut case of better-than/worse-than, with some flourishing on the game's slippery dirt tracks, while others are better equipped for the narrow urban corridors and hard turns of the street courses. There's just a huge number of cars in Blur, and they cover a wide range of makes, models, and vintages, from high-whining European super-cars to knobby-tired 4x4 off-roaders. Cars will occasionally bump awkwardly up into the air upon impact, and there can be some squirreliness when you don't expect it, but there's a general sense of sturdiness to the core driving in Blur.

The power-ups sound as sci-fi as they look.
It's a sense that is then completely up-ended by the game's power-up system, which litters the tracks with icons that you can pick up and store up to three of. It's a good thing, too, because otherwise Blur would be a competent racer, but one that's not nearly as noteworthy or as visually striking. The incandescent power-ups, and the light-writer aesthetic that they lend to the rest of the game, are absolutely key to the experience here. The game trades in its own unique power-up patois, which, despite some exotic names, tend to do the kinds of things you expect from combative racing games. You've got common shield, nitrous, and mine-dropping abilities, as well as the barge, which sends out a localized shockwave; the bolt, which arms you with three, small, long-range-capable projectiles; the shock, which lays a gauntlet of lightning columns out in front of the first-place racer; and the shunt, the heavy-hitter of the lot, which allows you to lock onto a nearby opponent and send them flipping into the air. 

Most of the offensive weapons will at least slow you down and do some damage that, if allowed to go unchecked, will leave you a smoldering wreck, at least for a few precious seconds while you wait for a new car to spawn. But what makes the power-up system in Blur so strategically interesting is the way you can counter most offensive attacks with other offensives or alternate fires. If someone locks onto you with a shunt, you can fire a shunt or a series of bolts back, drop a mine, or trigger a barge to neutralize it. It's a system that requires good situational awareness, smart power-up management, and a firm understanding of the rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock dynamics of the power-ups, and it's responsible for much of Blur's chaotic charm. Exacerbating that chaos is the fact that Blur tends to trade in high-volume races, often putting twenty cars on the track at once. This can make the first lap particularly volatile, but the power-ups ensure that you're bound to experience hard swings in any lap.

Racing like a jerk is always more fun with friends!
Save for the simulation-style games that put more emphasis on time trials than live opponents, most racing games tend to benefit from live competition, and this is especially so for kart racers. So I wasn't too surprised to find that the single-player portion of Blur wasn't really the main draw of this package, though I was still a little surprised at how simple and, due to some balancing issues, fairly inessential it ended up being. The progression is simple and linear, presenting you with a series of brackets, each anchored by a unique named driver. Complete enough races and meet all of that driver's conditions, and you'll unlock the next bracket. You'll unlock new cars along the way, as well the bracket leaders' custom ride along with a unique power-up enhancement with each bracket win. The problem with the career, aside from its relative simplicity, is that it's freakin' hard, with the computer-controlled drivers giving no quarter almost from the get-go. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that I didn't make it through the whole single-player campaign, partially because I found myself frustrated with repeating the same races over and over again, and partially because I felt like, after the first few brackets, I wasn't really seeing anything new, just stiffer competition. 

But really, what pulled me away from the career was the draw of Blur's online multiplayer, which adopts the increasingly familiar carrot-on-a-stick persistence popularized by Modern Warfare, rewarding you with access to new cars, performance-enhancing mods, and different online playlists for your performance. The beauty of this, and what sets it so far apart from the single-player game, is that you don't need to win every race to earn experience towards your rank--heck, you don't even have to place, so long as you drive with a little panache and make smart, or at least frequent use of the power-up system. There are a hundred little ways that you can earn points towards your rank, and I found regular satisfaction finishing in the middle of the pack, but still cashing in plenty of points from some performance-based challenge. It took me a good six hours of time logged in the multiplayer to climb about halfway up the online ranking system, though I get the sense that your progression grows exponentially slower with each additional level.

  I suppose it's also worth mentioning that Blur is the most socially networked game I've personally seen, with hooks for both Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to bug the everliving hell out of your friends and followers with weird automated messages. It's kind of dumb, and it's all completely optional, though it seems like a portent of bad things to come in other, future games. What makes the social underpinnings of Blur meaningful, though, is the way it lets you tag a buddy as your arch rival, adding the objective of beating their performance in specific races.

If you step back and look at the parts, there's a weird dissonance to Blur, and it doesn't seem like it should work as well as it does, even if it can be an imperfect experience. Bizarre Creations has always danced along the line between simulation and style, and this game only serves to further blur that line.
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Edited by Trnck

Nice review Ryan!
 
Blur is not my game though...

Edited by DystopiaX

YAY. 
Late night review post... 
I played the beta, was semi-interested, but idk if I want to buy it/play it for any length of time. Will rent whenever my library gets it. 
also, Ryan's 4 star review graphic is awesome.

Posted by lilman1101

hey cool, im here pretty early...

Edited by Sil3n7

I find it hard to believe that Split second is as good as Blur from what I've played of both...

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Posted by adri4n

neat

Posted by armaan8014

Hmm... So split/second or Blur?

Posted by DystopiaX
@Sil3n7 said:
" I find it hard to believe that Split second is a better game than Blur from what I've played of both... "
from what I've seen/heard of both, Split/Second will give a more impressive first impression, what with the graphics and buildings blowing up and all, but Blur will have more replay value due to the fact that Split/Second's power plays would get old after awhile.
Posted by Undeadpool

Two racing games within a month of each other...the plot thickens...if I liked racing games...

Posted by adamdorsey

Good review. I really liked the beta. I'm a big Burnout fan, and so I'm looking for a game to tide me over until Criterion's Need for Speed. Looks like Blur might be that game.

Posted by Yummylee

I'd probably prefer this over split/second. Should make for a fun TNT too.

Posted by TheLawnWrangler

I'll end up checking both racing games... but this one first ;)

Posted by sfighter21

Can't wait for TNT.  Gonna be Tight!!

Posted by scuttlebu345

loooks awesome

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

might give it a rent
Edited by Bionicicide

The demo/beta was a blast... but what's the car, track, mod (perk) count? Funny how reviews never count them.

Posted by EgoCheck616

Really looking forward to picking up the PS3 version next week!

Posted by GiveUpNed

Whoo. This looks really interesting. I am all for a online multi-player thats good. I can finally pull out my steering wheel, peddles and gearbox, connect them to a race chair and get something going.

Posted by Tordah

Seems really solid. Glad to see that Bizarre Creations still delivers quality products.

Posted by Shirogane

Insanely hard single player? So in that sense opposite of Mario Kart games huh? 
 
That last sentence of the review was awesome, even if it was kinda horrible.
Posted by Slax

I played the beta. It was great fun and the persistent progression definitely made it feel more addictive. 
But with such a seemingly mediocre single player, I don't think I will probably pick this up at full price.

Posted by Y2Ken

Been torn between this and Split Second, the latter seems glorious at times but I think I prefer what this is doing. Also, been playing a lot of ModNation and that is awesome also.

Edited by Droop

Man Ryan has been busy! Blur, Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Split/Second reviews. Well done, sir.

Posted by chem

great review. I really enjoyed it, especially the ending.

Posted by Toxin066

From your review, Ryan, I take it that the demo was a pretty great reflection of the game in its entirety? 
 
Well written and well said as always. And thanks.

Posted by MachoFantastico

Can't wait, the multiplayer beta was the most fun I've had online with a racer since Burnout: Takedown. 

Edited by abdo

I have a question Ryan:
 
Is unlocking new cars in the single player separate from unlocking them in multiplayer? Are they different cars? Not sure I understand how it works.
 
Great review by the way.

Posted by lockwoodx

Not a bad review. Blur on the other hand tainted itself with the tasteless mario kart slam commercial.

Posted by Spookie
@abdo said:
" Is unlocking new cars in the single player separate from unlocking them in multiplayer? "
Yes and no. You can use some of the cars from the SP 'bosses' in multiplayer. But otherwise you need to separately unlock them.
Posted by Battsey

I never got the beta to work, but I picked this game up as soon as it it hit the back office and man was I blown away. Came across some bugs playing online last night but this was most probably due to bad server connections. Everything about this game has (so far) been rock-solid. 
 
Five thumbs up.

Posted by ZanzibarBreeze

Good review. So essentially it's Wipeout except with real cars? Sure, why not?

Posted by BergDK

Good Review.. very informative :) This game just isn't for me, hate randomness in my racing games.

Funny that BC instead of fixing the problems in Pgr (shift glitching, wallriding and takeout's) just take away shifting and make dirty racing the focus :) 

I do however think that any game that becomes too frustrating to complete should severely affect the Score! especially for people like me that needs  to complete games to get any kind of closure :(

Posted by Sunjammer

So, considering Vinny is playing a back catalog (Damnation? What the hey), Brad is lost in SC2 beta and Jeff is always out and about, i take it Ryan is the only one actually producing any reviews these days? Every day is a slow news day these days. 
 
But hey Ryan, great job on the reviews :)

Posted by darkjester74

Very nice finale there, Mr. Davis.  =D
 
Great review, I played the MP beta so I know exactly how addicting that is, its excellent!  The SP portion however, is very disappointing.  Ill wait until the price drops on the 360 version to be more inline with the PC version.  After hearing about the SP portion $40 seems like a fair price.

Posted by U2NUMB

I am really enjoying the game. Something totally fresh and you can tell the multiplayer was really thought out and designed to last.

Posted by SodiumFree

Lol, "This game only serves to further BLUR that line." Ryan Davis, you make a good pun, and a bad joke. PROPS. Also great review and I agree, Great game.

Posted by FMinus

Both this and Split/Second get rather boring after a while. Thought his one has more replay value due to dynamic (weaponry) as opposed to static in Split/Second. That said, Split/Second so far impressed me more as this, considering both are racing games, and really get no sense of speed from Blur at all. The single player in Blur is laughable at best and on the default settings it seems way to easy, leaving everyone behind you a full lap and so forth and then having to wait for the pack to actually get some action done (note, I played on the default difficulty), but I haven't played through the whole game yet so we'll see.  Split/Second offers a bigger challenge in single player, at least there I'm not first the whole time.  But as said, both games get dull after spending a few hours with them, but that's just my experience. 
 
Haven't tried multiplayer yet on neither of those games, so can't comment on that.  

Posted by Willy105

Sounds like a great substitute for Mario Kart for the HD consoles. I should try this game out some time.

Posted by Nidzumi

Hang your head in shame. Awful pun in the last line.

Posted by dvorak

"  Bizarre Creations has always danced along the line between simulation and style, and this game only serves to further blur that line." 
 
Damn. That's so bad it's good.

Posted by RYNO9881

That last sentence was money.

Edited by ThatFrood

Uaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaauuuauauauaagh....

that pun. 
 
If there's one thing I can count on for a Ryan review, it's a really good pun.

Edited by sixpin

Ryan, between "rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock dynamics" and that Blur pun at the end I must say that your reviews are becoming some of my favorites. I'd like to think this means that I have rather discerning tastes.

Posted by DukeTogo

The fact that this game has dirt tracks and 4x4s is surprising, especially coming from Bizarre Creations.

Posted by kevlar907

Heads up, there's a typo: 
"barrel full-throttle into ever turn" 
Just wanted to let ya know.

Posted by Microshock

I'm not happy that there was a beta ONLY on the Xbox and pretty much nothing on the PS3. Thanks guys!  
And I wanted to actually try this..

Posted by RandomInternetUser

Definitely picking this up, but I already knew that from all the hours I put into the beta.  Good review!

Posted by Maxszy

Is there couch multiplayer, split-screen racing in this?  I read at one point or another that there was but haven't heard anything since. That would be a major draw for me as not many racing games seem to have that anymore.
 
If anyone could let me know that would be awesome!

Posted by mosdl
@DystopiaX said:
" YAY. Late night review post... I played the beta, was semi-interested, but idk if I want to buy it/play it for any length of time. Will rent whenever my library gets it. also, Ryan's 4 star review graphic is awesome. "
Your library rents out games?  That is cool
Posted by Birdman_LIVE
@RYNO9881:  One of the best reviews on this game, good job.  I picked Blur up last night and enjoyed the online quite a bit.  I'm afraid Ryan may be right about the single player which sort of sucks.  Could they do a patch to add another difficulty level between normal & easy? 
Posted by Rio

as soon as I finish red dead I plan on grabbing this.  It is awesome to see licensed cars in a game like this.

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