Xbox blur-hands-on

Published on May 23rd, 2010 | by prime


Blur – Hands On

It’s rare that you’re surprised by a racing game. Maybe Burnout’s first foray into car-crushing takedowns or the first time you nailed a red shell in Mario Kart, but these days you pretty much know what to expect. So imagine the smile that stretched across this previewer’s face when confronted with a track based in his own home town.

Yes, hammering around the Brighton seafront in a souped-up supercar was a fairly revelatory experience. Hammering our opponents with all manner of neon fireworks was another. You see, we’ve played plenty of Blur’s online Beta, but only after spending time with the single-player does the chaos begin to make any sense. The single-player ‘campaign’ is divided into nine scenarios, with seven challenges in each. Fairly standard stuff for a racing game, but as with everything that Bizarre has a hand in, there’s a degree of choice. You don’t have to play every single one of the challenges to progress, so if you favor racing over the elimination-style Destruction mode, then you can keep hitting the same challenge with different cars in order to move on.

Finishing a single-player scenario isn’t going to be easy, as each ‘chapter’ is run by a boss character who you have to defeat in a very tricky one-on-one race. Power-ups are still activated, but if you make more than a couple of mistakes, you’re toast. Beating the boss, though, means you take their custom mod, and you can attach it to your motor and move onwards and upwards.

You can publish your lap times through Xbox Live, Twitter and another famous social networking site

Bizarre really likes to reward players, so there’s rarely a moment when you’re not being told how well you’re doing or how many fans you’re picking up along the way. It’s gratifying of course, but it also introduces you to another mechanic that Bizarre has shoehorned into the single-player races.

Driving through the yellow ‘waving man’ icons activates a fan challenge, usually a slalom of gates to drive through, and completing this successfully adds to your overall fans, your overall score and your overall ability as a driver in Blur’s world. It’s a metagame within the game itself, and a credit to Bizarre’s need to force as much game as possible into its products.

This is complimented by the achievements, which have their own sticker book. Some achievements require multiple stages to complete, but you’re always aware of what you’re doing and how to achieve it. We shouldn’t be surprised though, these are the guys who made Geometry Wars after all.

Clever tricks and behind-the-game machinations are all well and good, but without a fundamentally sound engine, they’d all be worthless. Well, thankfully, Blur has that in spades. Compared to other modern arcade racers, it’s probably not as immediate. It doesn’t have the visceral growl of Burnout or the ‘holy sh**’ moments of Split/Second, but where it may lack in pizzazz, it makes up for it in depth.

Blur isn’t just Mario Kart with real cars. It’s more than that. There’s real skill to how you drive, how you avoid and use the power-ups. It’s why the most skilful driver will normally always win; it’s not hampered by aggressive rubber-banding or scripting. You know that you can drive an entire race without taking a hit if you collect sensible power-ups and pay attention to the ‘incoming missile’ meter.

Its part of the reason that Blur will likely still be on rotation in drives long after some of the competition has disappeared. Those who take the time – and it isn’t that much time – to get into its subtleties and understand what makes Blur tick will likely stick with it for a long, long time.

Not to undersell it, though. It’s not Forza or Gran Turismo; this is still absolute carnage on the race track. When you have 20 cars driving bumper to bumper, all firing off screen-searing power-ups and battling for every single inch of space, you know you’re in a fight. Bizarre has used a fighting game analogy when describing blur before, and it’s a fair comparison. Not only does it have the violence of fighting, but it also demands that you use tricks, feints and mind games to really achieve greatness. Just don’t try using a stick.

Brilliantly, Bizarre is also acutely aware of the bragging and bravado that comes with online gaming, and has focused it on your own friends list. You can publish your lap times through Xbox Live, Twitter and another famous social networking site, and even issue challenges. If they’re beaten, the game will tell you. It’s the kind of online play that’ll keep you hooked in.

So, as it roars towards the finishing line, Blur is looking ever more the finished article. There’s been hiccups along the way, bumps in the road, but now the final product is taking shape and looking pretty while it does it. Let the arcade racing battle commence!

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