Game Review: Blur
Release: May 25, 2010
Developer: Bizarre Creations
Avaliable Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows
Players: 1-4 local, system link, online multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E10+
Blur, in it’s most simplest description, can be seen as a combination of Super Mario Kart and Burnout, combining the items and attacks from the former with the speed and style of the latter. Racers must take down their opponents with attacks to damage them, and do it in style, with fashionable tactics and speedy skills garnering fans, which allow the player to unlock new cars, attacks, and the like. Take down the boss of a certain circuit, you get their car and a mod that affects how you race.
Bizarre Creations have realized that the gameplay is the true heart of any game, and has focused solely on that for this title. The standard “career” mode offers multiple races per area, with different goals; some are standard races where getting first place takes priority, while more destructive tasks have you taking out opponents with a variety of weapons. On top of these single player modes, gamers can go online and hop into these with up to 20 players, or even some team tasks and the like; each mode garners extras and unlockables with wins and fans gained.
The game is undoubtedly fun, bringing both an insistence on local multiplayer (with the rarely seen System Link available, alongside a return to four-player split screen) and an expansive online multiplayer mode, thriving in these high-speed challenges with 20 cars on the track. Single player mode, while seemingly unbalanced at times (sometimes you’ll never see first place, other times you’ll dominate), is expansive enough to offer a few hours of gameplay, but you’ll quickly return to the online battles.
Blur does manage to get an insane amount of integration with the social features inherent to modern day gamers; there’s both Facebook and Twitter notices available, players can win Awards for their Avatars, and Xbox Live allows opponents to send challenges to their friends on the Leaderboards. Presumably, the PlayStation 3 and Windows versions feature comparable connections.
If anything, the biggest scathing criticism of the game is how it effectively brings nothing new to the genre. Calling the game a combination of Super Mario Kart and Burnout is almost too apt; racing dynamics are almost a less-destructive Burnout (but still, keeping the intent to ram people off the road and total their cars), and many of the items are straight from the Nintendo racing franchise. Shunts are Red Shells, Nitros are Super Mushrooms, Bolts are Green Shells, and Mines are more explosive Bananas. Repair, Barge, Shock, and Shield are all effectively new, but for the most part unimaginative; Repair fixes your ride (even then, that can be compared to reacquiring balloons in any of Mario‘s battle modes), Barge shoves nearby opponents off your tail, Shield takes the Super Star and removes it’s offensive capabilities, and Shock sets up three lightning traps on the field… which tends to be a problem as much for the triggerman as the intended targets.
Additionally, there’s a weird set of designs and features that don’t seem to mesh well. There are real cars, which can take damage, which automatically puts this above other racing franchises that prevent damage (to show that the brands associated will never, ever have dents, obviously)… and then fictional characters challenging you. While these “boss characters” have their own goals and styles (some demanding you get fans before challenging them, others wanting to see destruction on a massive level), outside of a quick bio, these characters have no definition. Even the player gets no actual characterization; your model seems to change with each car you get into (and given the title’s incredible reliance on Awards, customization, and social interaction, it’s surprising that your Avatar can’t get behind the steering wheel).
Finally, the game lacks an iconic style. The Tron-like effects seen in the promotional videos rarely show up in gameplay. Tracks could have come from any number of racing titles, the icons for items could have been seen in any OS, and sound, while effective, has no notable tracks or exceptional effects. It’s solid and quality, but there’s nothing that stands out… the game honestly blends into the background of the field.
Blur is readily enjoyable and a great racer for those who don’t like the seriousness of a Gran Turismo, but can’t be seen with the visuals of the various Kart titles. At worst, it’s derivative, but much like how Shadow Complex is a wholesale ripoff of Super Metroid, sometimes imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery. If anything, we can hold out hope for a sequel that lets the franchise find it’s own voice, but until then, we’ll be firing Shunts at anyone ahead of us.