Blur Review (PS3)

In the world of kart racing, one game has stood king for nearly as long as the genre existed: Mario Kart. Or so most people believe, and thus associate the name kart racing to Nintendo’s famed franchise. This year offered new competition on three fronts: Sony’s ModNation Racers (reviewed here), Disney’s Split/Second, and Activision’s Blur. Blur, compared to these and all previous kart racers, is the grittiest and heaviest of its kind.

Ironically, Bizarre Creation’s latest racing title is curiously in between too many genres, pitting one too many ideals and styles of gaming into a single game. Indeed the lines are blurred constantly and consistently, which is often confusing when playing the game. To be clear, Blur is a kart racer, but unless you played through a significant portion of the game, you wouldn’t know it.

Where realism stops and kart racing starts is hard to tell...until a floating power-up comes into sight

The cars in the game are real, not make-believe like those found in so many other games, thanks to Bizarre’s working relationships they’ve kept since the acclaimed Project Gotham Racing series. The driving is realistic as well, for the most part, until a serious drift comes into play or power-ups are used. But most importantly, the weight of driving feels just like it does in more simulator-type racers like Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo. When you push down on the gas, the car doesn’t simply fly off; acceleration takes time, turns are hard and when driving you will feel the weight of the car.

And then you get hit with a ball of orange lightning and do a flip, landing perfectly. I could be mistaken, but this seems absolutely preposterous.

When I first saw Blur at E3 last year, I was confused. I’d hoped for an upgrade to Project Gotham Racing, since Activision had recently scooped up Bizarre Creations but not the series, which I quite enjoyed. After a brief 15 minute demo before the day’s end, I walked away stumped. What had I just played? It felt like a pseudo racing simulator, but had all the elements of a kart racer. At the time, Blur was much less complete than the final version is today, but little has changed in this respect. I am still stumped.

Vehicle damage isn't that realistic, but be aware of how close your car is to going caput

Yet, even with the added weight previously unknown to kart racing fans, Blur is a poignant competitor. A fairly slow campaign gives players the opportunity to earn more cars to race with while attuning them to the available maps, cars and power-ups. Lights, or points totaled for each group of races, are earned based on finish line placement and fans (or currency) earned. Each grouping has a racing leader who must be defeated in a one-on-one race, and beating them earns their car and a new special power-up.

Some will find the campaign horribly slow. Races are long, averaging 3-5 minutes in length, and it isn’t uncommon to lose the race due to the smallest of errors. Where other kart racers limit player options to ensure a level playing field, allowing for even the very last racer to make a huge comeback and win first, Blur doesn’t. Like any true simulator, one almost insignificant mistake can be the difference between first and twentieth place. For kart racing, this adds a significant amount of frustration, especially when playing against the game AI.

Then again, like all kart racers, the true potency of Blur is in its multiplayer. On the one hand, having a vast number of vehicles and personalized power-up bonuses at your disposal is entertaining, especially when playing with friends and using only select cars. Alternatively, all the things which make Blur unique as a kart racer may make more casual gamers stay away from the heavy-set title and stick with friendlier and more competitive kart racers like ModNation Racers or Mario Kart Wii.

Built atop a stunning and utterly simple and perfect menu system, Blur uses a very casual tutorial system which teaches players all the nuances of the game. This tutorial system is much larger than I’ve seen in any racing title, kart or otherwise, and it unfortunately does not teach players what they need to know soon enough. One tutorial is had prior to almost every first-section race, and more are dispersed in later races, though for the most part players will learn more in-game, through trial and error, instead of through the late tutorials.

Special challenges appear on most maps, which earn more fans if properly completed, earning new cars

The cars and tracks available are enjoyable and often filled with many a grim death trap, though there are few shortcuts or true better paths to take. Besides for often driving on gravel, Blur’s tracks are more akin to those in MotorStorm or Dirt than standard racing tracks. The given power-ups are similar to what you'd find in Mario Kart, but the grittier feel behind them makes all the difference. Shells are replaced with mines and homing missiles, lightning lays traps for all players instead of striking everyone, speed boosts are short bursts. Up to three power-ups can be stored at a time, though interestingly most don't have the same weight of the game. They're lighter, more fun, even though each has two modes (to attack enemies ahead or behind usually) and the effects are generous on the attacker's car. Damage may be accumulated, but in Blur it's so hard to fall from a wave of power-up attacks.

All of these pieces combined, once again, leaves us with an odd result. Aptly named, Blur tries to unclear the line between kart and sim, but in the process may leave many racing enthusiasts of both sorts uncomfortable. The large number of options available does not take into account the more casual demographic, but likewise gives the “hardcore” more room to play with. Clean to the whistle and most elegantly designed, Blur will undoubtedly leave many players bewildered, and frankly my suggestion to try the demo may not cure any doubts. What I can say with certainty is this: if you play Blur online, the experience is one of a kind.

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By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 05, 2010
At least the cars in this one are real. S/S sucked at that point :)