Developer: Bizarre Creations
In 2007, Bizarre Creations was one of the world’s most coveted developers of racing games – and with a back catalogue that included Formula 1, Metropolis Street Racer and the Project Gotham Racing series, it’s not hard to see why. At the same time, Activision had been steadily growing for many years and was becoming particularly well-known for acquiring studios. Flush with cash thanks to its recent successes with the Guitar Hero and Call Of Duty series, the publisher was able to part with the considerable sum of $107.4 million in order to acquire the Liverpool-based studio with the goal of creating a brand new racing franchise.
When announced in 2009, Blur was a strange hybrid of approaches. The game was to feature the real-world cars and locations that were the staple of the Project Gotham Racing series, but with a combative twist – players could utilise weaponry, a feature more in keeping with fantasy racers like WipEout and Mario Kart.
As the game’s 2010 release approached, it became clear that Blur would have a strong focus on multiplayer gaming. As well as integrating social networking features, the game’s online functions incorporated the loadouts and perks that had proven popular in the Call Of Duty series. Bizarre Creations had hoped that these features would differentiate the game from rival arcade racers such as Split/Second: Velocity, which were launching at the same time.
Often positioned as “Mario Kart for adults,” we’d also describe Blur as “Burnout with projectiles” as it further develops upon many of the core strengths of both classic series while remaining true to Bizarre Creations’ past output. Real-world cars and locations are used as in the Project Gotham Racing series, but there’s a less realistic style of gameplay here. The game has a classic arcade handling model – it offers depth without sacrificing accessibility, and is grounded enough that you’ll feel like you’re steering actual cars but still exaggerated to enable some truly stunning cornering. It also has a finely tuned combat system which offers players three slots to carry weapons, including quick but weak Bolts, powerful Shunts and hazardous Mines. Most weapons offer both offensive and defensive options, and vehicles are noticeably affected by damage from them. The offensive weaponry, packed fields, and winding tracks make for chaotic races with constant action.
In the single-player campaign mode players work their way towards one-on-one showdowns with nine boss characters. This is done by gaining lights, which are awarded for completing races, and fans which are gained by achieving secondary objectives. To add some welcome variety between the regular races, players also get to beat the clock in Checkpoint races and shoot down drone vehicles in Destruction races. After each boss is beaten, you’ll gain a car mod that provides benefits such as additional shielding or more Bolt ammo. While you’ll rarely be bored due to the intensity of the races and the ferociousness of the AI, single-player is a fairly straightforward affair.
However, if you only play Blur in single-player mode you’ll miss the game at its best, as multiplayer is the real heart of the game. Unlike most racers which incorporate weaponry, Blur’s weapon system isn’t designed to keep races close – it’s meant to be just as skill-intensive as the racing. This means you won’t find any autopilot catch-up items or anything like Mario Kart’s dreaded blue shell, and every weapon can be blocked or evaded. The game also adds an extra layer of strategy by making the non-randomised weapon icons visible on track, enabling players to choose what they’re picking up, and with three weapon slots players can elect to store defensive items for when they’re needed.
The result is a truly competitive racing game, which goes beyond the standard racing template and scratches a more aggressive itch. When skilled players face off against one another in Blur, you can expect to see some incredibly tense races in which the only thing more impressive than the speed on display is the frequency with which attacks are made and thwarted. Victory doesn’t come easily, but you’ll relish it when it does as you’ll have fought hard to earn it.
Why It’s A Future Classic
Ultimately, Blur failed to meet Activision’s sales expectations and within a year of release, Bizarre Creations was closed by the publisher – but that shouldn’t put you off, because Blur ranks as one of the finest multiplayer racing games ever made.
Even when every online server is closed and Facebook has become the kind of punchline that Myspace is today, Blur’s strong range of local multiplayer options ensures that you’ll be able to enjoy it at its best for years to come. Friends can huddle around a TV for some classic four-way split screen action, or if you’re feeling fancy you can get up to 20 players competing together on a local network.
It’s a good job too, because no game does combat racing as well as Blur. It has a level of strategy that is missing from Burnout’s simple slam-and-shunt combat, and the respect for skill that is missing from Mario Kart’s party-friendly weapon system. There are no fluke wins or losses here – if you reckon yourself a racing champion, Blur is the game for you.