Full Disclosure: Activision provided me with roundtrip airfare and three days of hotel accommodations in Liverpool to attend a media event for Blur. They also paid for one of my meals along with the other attendees at the hotel restaurant. I wasn't asked to make an agreement on the amount of coverage I would provide, and I didn't receive any restrictions on what I can or can't say about the game.
is the latest racing game from Bizarre Creations (best known for the Project Gotham Racing
and Geometry Wars
series). The game received a mixed reaction from the press when it was shown at E3 last year, so my expectations weren't especially high going into the recent multiplayer event in Liverpool.
Listen to the clip below to hear Lead Designer Gareth Wilson's thoughts on Blur's E3 showing:
I spent a few hours playing the game and came away pleasantly surprised with Blur's mix of racing and vehicular combat. Read on to learn more about this racing game that plays like a combination of Project Gotham, Burnout
, and the non-crappy parts of Full Auto
Like any racing game worth its salt, Blur has a dedicated single-player mode. But what Bizarre and Activision seem to be most excited about is the game's unique multiplayer angle. Up to 20 people can race over 50 different licensed vehicles on 30+ tracks based on real-world locations like San Francisco, Barcelona, Los Angeles, Japan, and more. Yes, 20-player racing gets hectic – and that's before you factor in the whole "car combat" angle.
Blur is equal parts "Find the fastest line around the track," and "Forget the fastest line, I'm just going to shoot this dude." Both offensive and defensive power-ups are spread throughout each course. Think modernized takes on the weapons you'd find in Mario Kart
for a rough sense of the tools at your disposal. Click on the above screen for a better look at what the different power-ups are, and how they work.
When you use a power-up, you'll not only get the obvious benefit of blowing someone away - or saving your own hide – you'll also earn fans, which is how you rank-up. If you perform a particularly complicated feat, you'll earn even more fans. As your rank increases, you'll earn new vehicles and improved weaponry. It's kind of like Modern Warfare
's online model, but with cars.
Blur's racing/combat combination was a bit overwhelming for a race or two, but once I got used to the chaos and destruction, it wasn't long before I could hold my own in a 20-player race. After a few more races I began to discover the game's hidden depth. To start with, you can pick a series of pre-determined offensive or defensive mods before each race, or you can mix and match a total of three from either category. These mods will do things like give you more health when you wreck an opponent, or improve a weapon's effectiveness. I found that the offensive mods helped me the most, but I noticed several of the other writers favored different settings.
Strategy also comes into play when it comes to choosing a vehicle. You need to take into account the track and your driving style, or else you'll end up with a rear-wheel drive speed-burner on a dirt track, or a lumbering SUV on Japan's narrow city streets. It's also a bad idea to pick a sports car if you're someone who enjoys ramming opponents off the road.
Blur's weapons also offer a surprising amount of depth. You can only carry three power-ups at a time (though you can earn an extra slot), so it's important to be mindful of your situation. If you're in last place, it doesn't do much good to carry around mines; if you're in first, you'll want to stock-up on defensive power-ups to fend off any pending attacks. You don't need to worry about these additional layers of strategy to have fun and blow fools away, but you'll need any advantage you can get if you aspire to regularly find yourself in a position to win races.
Continue to page two for more on Blur.
So blah, blah, blah… is Blur fun? I had a very enjoyable time with both the split-screen (up to four players) and online multiplayer. The races were always hotly contested, and the fact that there were 20 people on the track at once ensured that there was always someone to swap paint with, even if you were near the back of the pack. Lots of developers tout extra layers of depth during preview events, but very few games actually deliver on that promise. Even after two-dozen races I could tell that I needed to learn the tracks better and really tweak my car's options if I wanted to win. What's more, I wanted to do those things – they didn't feel like a chore.
Listen to the clip below to hear Gareth Wilson explain why Blur has split-screen multiplayer:
While I enjoyed most aspects of Blur, there were a few things I wasn't particularly crazy about. I found it very difficult to make sharp turns, regardless of the car I was driving. It was also far too easy to turn your car around 180 degrees when making big, sweeping turns. The game was quick to reset you in the proper position (like when you press select in a lot of racing games), but I still felt that this was a problem.
My last concern: Twitter integration. You can choose from a pre-determined list of topics, add additional custom text, and then send a tweet directly from the game. When the developer demonstrated the feature he chose a message about achieving a new level, and then added "lol" to it. He did this because he was in front of a large group of people and wanted to keep things moving, but the message was indicative of the types of messages I expect most people will send.
Lead Designer Geb Talbot discusses Blur's social-networking features:
Despite those few concerns, my overall impression of Blur was very positive. For what it's worth, I spoke to a number of members of the media in attendance, and they seemed to have enjoyed their time with the game as well. I'm not trying to sell you a copy of the game, but very few hands-on previews actually mention whether or not people had a good time with the game, and I'm all for bucking the trend.
Blur hits stores on May 25 in the US, and May 28 in the UK for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. A semi-public multiplayer beta goes live on March 8. Keep an eye on Bitmob.com for your chance to win a beta key.