Monday, July 5, 2010

Blur Review

Blur, one of the newest action-packed racing games, takes the Mario Kart formula, and adds in a dose of adrenaline and realism to turn things up a bit for kart battling fans. Instead of cartoony graphics and racing karts, you have realistic environments and real, licensed vehicles. Blur kicks things up a notch, and it’s a pretty killer ride.

Blur doesn’t feature too much of a storyline, aside from the fact that you are some new racer on the scene, and must fight for fans and reputation. Through the campaign, there are 9 sections, each of which feature a head racer whom you must compete against in the end. Each of these sections houses 7 events, through which you can gain lights, fans, and new cars. The game is fairly streamlined, so there is no driving around a huge map to find the next event. You simply select it and you’re there.

Lights are the main unit of points, through which you can unlock new sections to play through. You can gain 5 lights from placing first, 4 for second, and 3 for third. You can gain two additional lights by getting enough fans and by completing the fan run. The fan run is triggered by driving through a special item and then going through numerous gates. If you miss a single gate, you fail the fan run, but can try again the next lap. Fans can be gained by driving well, and using your weapons in a variety of ways. Do enough tricks, and you can gain some serious fans, which are also used to unlock new vehicles.

Luckily, Blur keeps things fresh, and you aren’t simply racing again and again, exactly. The first obvious deviation is the fact that there are race, checkpoint, and destruction events. Races are self explanatory, while checkpoint pits you against the clock alone. Get those boosts and time additions, and see if you have the skill and speed to finish fast enough. Destruction is a bit different, and has you racing around a track, taking out cars with bolts as best you can. The more cars you destroy, the higher your score.

Another way in which the game keeps you engaged, is by having a different set of requirements for duking it out with a section’s main “boss”. These are one-on-one races, in which you can either beat your opponent, or destroy him. Doing so, will net you 8 lights, as well as his car and mod, which is a special power-up. To be able to race these guys, you have to satisfy multiple requirements, which change each section. These could be “get 5 backwards shunts,” or “dodge 3 lighting strikes”. They are all different, but add a nice variety to the game and give you something different to try to achieve each section.

One final little addition, is in fan demands. These are triggered the same as fan runs, by driving through a small indicator. When acquired, you are given a little prompt and an item to achieve the request. These range from “get a long-range bolt hit,” to “get a reverse shunt hit while drifting”. The faster you complete the request, the more fans you’ll net.

The weapon set in Blur covers all the basics. You have a homing missile, non-tracking bolts, mines, super lighting to attack the head of the pack, a shield, a repair, boost, and one or two more. Most of the weapons, at least the ones that make sense, can be fired both forward and backward, and they can even be used to block incoming attacks. You can hold three at a time, and use or dispose of them as you wish. Figuring out how to use these weapons is key to success, especially on harder difficulties as the AI is relentless. You will have to use all of your skills to stay in first, and it is by far, no easy task. By the third section in campaign, I had to scale back the difficulty to easy because I couldn’t win any events. Those guys are ridiculous, but luckily, easy will still give you some challenge further down the road. Overall though, I think medium is a bit too hard, and easy is a bit too easy. I wish there was something in between.

Multiplayer is another big factor in Blur. Like so many other games, Blur features a fully fledged ranking system, complete with 50 ranks, as well as a “prestige” mode, where you can reset your rank to 1 and get a bonus in a Legend car. You rank up by getting fans, which is done in the same way, by using weapons well and getting a good placing. Luckily, even if you don’t do too well in a race, you’ll still net some fans, so you progress no matter what. As you rank up, you unlock new cars and mods, which will make you more successful. With multiplayer, the variety of mods is increased dramatically, and you can set up to 3 mods, which give you a variety of perks, so playing around with them and finding a good set is important.

Multiplayer also features a variety of lobbies to play in, some with 10 or so cars, while others can support up to 20, which can get pretty crazy, with bombs flying all over the place. Staying in first will definitely be a challenge. And like old school FPSs, you can even get a cool little award after the race, for most weapons used, or best accuracy, etc, so it’s always neat to see if you’ll be spotlighted for your skill, or lack thereof.

Another interesting feature Blur has is its connectivity. Not only is there online multiplayer and 4-player split-screen, but you can even post your progress on Twitter or Facebook. Personally, I find such things a bit pointless, but its definitely a cool thing to have for those interested. You can even pause a single player game at any time and take a picture, changing colors and tints, with a free roaming camera. Something I find a bit cooler, is that you can have a rival, which is a selected friend whom you can compete with. Once selected, you’ll get updates on your rival’s scores and times in campaign and all of their progress, so you can try to beat their times. It’s pretty nifty, and something that will keep you coming back and trying to get better scores.

Overall, Blur is a solid package. There are over 50 licensed vehicles to unlock and drive, from BMWs to Hummers, which you can paint and customize, to an extent. The single player campaign is fun and challenging, and the multiplayer will keep you busy for a long time, with 50 ranks and 10 Legend prestiges to go through. There are even a ton of challenges to achieve, for you completionists. This is by no means a simulation racer, but if you like Mario Kart and other weaponized racers, then you’ll enjoy this one. The driving is solid and requires skill, but is basic enough for a less hardcore crowd. Those looking for a challenge though, will definitely find it in Hard mode and with the online competitors.

Overall Score: 7.7/10

This review was based on the PlayStation 3 version of the game, however, most of which has been stated should also be applied to the Xbox 360 and PC versions of the game.

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