March 13, 2010

Impressions: Blur

I can sum up Blur in a sentence: It's pretty damn fun. For those of you unaware, Blur is the next big game from Bizarre Creations, developers of Project Gotham Racing and Geometry Wars. It can best be described as a more mature Mario Kart. The parallels are uncanny, in fact. You pick a car and race around on a track filled with power-ups used to deter the other cars from passing the finish line before you. At it's current beta stage, it's quite a fun, though slightly flawed, title.

The gameplay itself is solid. Since you're racing with real, licensed cars and not karts, they handle like, well, real cars. Each car has various stats ranging from strength to speed and so on, but most importantly they handle differently. Personally, I can't drive but the default car but, apparently, the more you play the better you'll get with the expert handling cars. It's nice to have the option, I suppose.

The power-ups are very much Mario Kart-y, but more balanced in my opinion. You can hold up to three at a time (they appear as glowing icons on the back of your car) and switch between them with a press of the 'x' button, or drop the selected one with 'y.' The 'a' button triggers the selected item. There's a boost that does just what it says, a radial blast attack that takes out cars in close proximity, needle-like projectles that come in threes and can be shot one at a time, mines that can be dropped on the track, a red orb-thing that shoots out and flys along the track, shield, repair, and an EMP blast that creates a minefield of EMP bubbles for the players up front. For the most part, these items are more balanced than the ones in other kart racers. The fact that you know what you're picking up and can switch between the items you have gives the game a more strategic feel. The only item that is curious to me is the red orb, which I believe is known as "shunt." It seems to randomly track the car in front or behind (depending on which direction you deploy it) with no rhyme or reason. Other times, it simply shoots off in front and bounces around. Not sure if this is intentional or a glitch. Oh, and one more intersting tidbit about power-ups: they don't disappear when you crash.

You can also power up your car using loadouts you gain from race experience, which can give you an edge in the race by applying various affects to your car (you get a random item at the beginning of the race, for example). The game utilizes a leveling system based on number of fans. The better you do in a race, the more fans you get. When you reach a certain number you level up, and leveling unlocks new loadouts, cars, modes, etc. The cap in the beta is 10, at which point everything unlockable is unlocked. Getting up to this point unlocks two new modes: one where you gain points for dealing damage, and one where you race with the fast, class A cars. The battle mode is not what I expected. It played like Twisted Metal. I was expecting a regular race course except that winner would be chosen by points instead of position. As it is, it's pretty fun, though I would prefer it the other way. Racing with class A cars, on the other hand, is the most intense racing experience I've ever had. The sense of speed is unmatched, the cars handled like butter (though there were only two to choose from), and action was extreme.

Now for the not so good stuff, which mostly has to do with non-gameplay. First, when you begin you're given two game modes: one for 2-10 players and another for 4-20. That's way to large of a gap. Often I'd hop into a game for up to twenty and race with four or five people. This defeats the purpose of this mode. It should be 10 minimum. Second, car class selection seems to be completely at random. There were four or five levels and each time you race on them it could be with any given car class. I'm not crazy about this. The levels should at least be class-specific (as a side note, the battle mode had two separate stages). It seems like all these game modes can be consolidated. They could make it so that you pick a standard race, then large or small, and then car class. That would make things a lot neater. One problem I had could be a balancing issue, or it could just be me. I would always start out in the front of the pack, then something would happen and I'd end up in the back never to catch up again. I feel like it's a bit unbalanced that the game gets to a point where the people in the back have no hope of catching up. Iv'e never had this problem with a kart racer.

As it stands, Blur is definitely a game to look out for. I went from not being excited to must buy. The retail version even promises four player split-screen! Blur releases May 25th.

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