Reviewed: May 25, 2010
Released: May 25, 2010
May is shaping up to be the biggest month of the year for game releasesÖso far. There are at least six major titles coming out all within weeks of each other and Blur is just one of many games competing for your attention and your dollar in the stores this month. At least the game has one of the more humorous TV ads running right now. Blur is just one of three racing titles competing with games like ModNation Racers (releasing today) and Split/Second that released last week. Itís bad enough when you have to compete with titles like Red Dead Redemption and Prince of Persia, but having so much competition within your own genre is disastrous unless you have a really solid game.|
From the guys who brought us Project Gotham Racing, Blur is a high-tech, glowing neon version of Mario Kart. The similarities are obvious to the point where the TV ads even poke fun at the pre-school racer. This is definitely daddyís kart racer, both in looks, style, and difficulty. Yeah, how about that difficulty? I used to think I was a pretty darn good racer but Blur strapped me to its bumper and took me on the road rash ride of my life Ė and Iím talking Normal skill level here. The only thing I hate worse than not having a first place finish in every career race is having to suck it up and switch it down to Easy just to get through the later chapters in the game. Itís obvious this game was designed with multiplayer in mind.
With so many racing games available what does Blur bring to the table? Split/Second is all about using the environments as your weapon, but Blur keeps it traditional with an array of power-ups that spread across the track at frequent intervals. Just drive through the one you want. You can stockpile up to three and cycle through them or even drop the ones you donít want. Power-ups are pretty much what youíd expect; weapons like a line-of-sight bolt cannon, guided plasma ball, or an EMP shock field that deploys at the front of the pack. You also have shields, mines, nitro, and repair kits. There is definitely a lot of strategy in knowing what to pick up and when to use it.
The Career mode is divided into several chapters/cities and you must earn the right to advance to new cities and participate in new events and challenge new competitors in one-on-one races for their car. The scoring system is based on lights; the higher your finishing position, the more lights you earn. There are also two additional lights per race; one for meeting the Fan challenge and one for hitting all the gates in a Fan Run. While lights help you advance through the various cities and races, fans are the currency used to unlock new and better vehicles. You earn fans by driving well and chaining together lots of exciting combat. The bigger the spectacle, the more fans you attract. There are also specific Fan Demands that appear as icons on the track. Drive through one of these and complete the mini-objective within the time limit to earn bonus fans.
There are several events in each city as well as a final boss race, but you must first meet all of the Boss Demands in that city. These change from boss to boss and are usually acquired throughout the normal course of completing the earlier events within that city, but sometimes you might have to go back and put in some special effort. You have standard races where you use all power-ups at your disposal to cross the finish line first. Checkpoint races have you speeding through gates to add seconds to the clock with your final time determining your overall success. Destruction is one of the harder modes in that you must damage and destroy cars to keep the clock alive as long as possible to earn the required score.
Keep in mind that all of these modes have Fan Run and Fan Point challenges as well if you want to get all the lights for an event. At least you arenít required to complete everything in a single race, so you can always come back and do the Fan stuff later, but you must still Pass the event by finishing in the top three. Fan Gates are brutally hard in Destruction mode.
Blur is the first videogame to integrate with popular social networking destinations like Facebook and Twitter. Once you sync the game to your accounts you can post all sorts of stats and accomplishments quite easily for a single race or the entire game. This was fun for the first few races then I quickly realized I was about to become as annoying as those people who do nothing but share their Farmville status. Use sharing in moderation if you use at all. The one social feature I did enjoy and do encourage is the Friend Challenge. After each race you can create a challenge based on your previous stats as well as one condition, then send that challenge to anyone on your Xbox friends list. Youíll be notified if they ever beat your challenge.
Beyond the 4-player split-screen local multiplayer you can take the racing action online with support for up to 20 players in some modes, although these prove to be virtually unplayable due to the constant and chaotic combat. It becomes an exercise in survival rather than any type of race. If you think the career mode is hard just wait until you play with 19 other trigger-happy humans. Things mellow out and become more fun when you cut back to the 10-player games or check out any of the team-based races and battle modes.
Graphically, Blur looks pretty good, at least when it comes to the slick realistic car designs; all of which are licensed real-world vehicles. Beyond the cars we have graphics that look like you might have slipped in a game from Rockstar Ė GTA, Midnight Club, take your pick. Everything is crisp and colorful but there isnít a lot of textures or details. I guess they have to keep it simple if you want to maintain a playable framerate with 20 cars battling it out. The HUD is clever in that it attaches to the rear bumper if you play from the chase cam.
The sound package is mostly a lot of weapons fire and resulting explosions with a bit of engine whine and fender-crunching metallic sounds and some underlying music that starts to get repetitive after a few hours. The Dolby mix is excellent and lets you locate potential threats in a virtual 3D space. Overall, the sound is as frantic as the visuals.
Blur is aggravating; both as a game and as something I have to review. I so much wanted to like this Ė I love racing, but I totally despised Mario Kart on the Wii, and simply putting licensed cars and some Midnight Club quality graphics on that design concept only fooled me for about 2-3 hours. I donít care to have my butt kicked online, but judging from the brutal AI in the career mode, I might need to head there if I ever want to win a race. The four-player split-screen will certainly make this a hit at your next party, and the social networking is a cool idea as long as you donít annoy friends who donít care that you just earned 1400 new fans in your last race.
Blur will certainly appeal to a certain type of racing fan, but for me, I prefer the more visceral thrills of a game like Split/Second where even when I lose a race I look forward to replaying it over and over until I win because there is always something exciting and new happening on the screen. Blur just got way too frustrating too fast and I hate being forced to compromise the gameís ability to challenge me by having to lower the difficulty just to advance.
If Blur had come out at any other time I might be more forgiving, but there are better games out there right now, and not just in the racing genre. Give it a rental but wait for a sale or price drop before making this a permanent addition to your collection.