“Race like a big boy,” tease Activision in Blur’s Mario Kart-baiting TV spot for the powered-up racer. While some publishers may shy away from direct comparison with a more established competitor, Activision’s self-assurance is not misplaced.
If anything Blur’s crackling exchanges of neon carnage owe more to the futurist design school of Sony’s Wipeout series than Nintendo’s genre-birthing classic, but that’s not where the cribbing stops. Following the trend seen in a growing number of post-Modern Warfare online-focused games, Blur’s multi-player progress is driven by gaining fans (XP) to ascend through 50 ranks through equipping mods (perks) to be given the option of going Legend (Prestiging) where you can repeat the process once again in souped-up vehicle.
Quite literally advertising its inspirations for both off-road and online, it would be easy for Bizarre Creations’ brawling racer to lack that unique spark of identity to stand out from the pack, but it has attacked the project with such gusto and robust inclusiveness, that it’s hard to pick fault with its concept, and to give it its due, it even finds some space to bring some innovations to the starting grid too.
In a swirl of leaves and tail-light trails, Blur greets us at the Golden Gate Bridge to the gongs of Ennio Morricone’s Ecstasy of Gold with vehicular massacre not seen since the opening sequence of the A-Team. As Bizarre’s Ged Talbot told us back in March, Blur is not a racing game – it’s an action game, and appreciating that 25% to 75% racing to combat ratio is a critical to success. Familiarity with Blur’s eight deceptively varied power-ups is crucial, and not purely in the aggressive pursuit of destruction. Learning to defend yourself effectively is the only way to stay out in front and with up to 19 opponents holding up to three power-ups at once, you will find yourself under constant assault.
Weapon balance remarkably tight, with power-up’s secondary functions drawing on a player’s situational awareness, expanding beyond a simple scissor/paper/stone priority giving you freedom to attack with defensive items and vice versa. Do you use barge’s offensive powers to clear out a crowded narrow and deal huge damage or save it for use as well-timed shield against a shunt (Blur’s red shell). While on the subject of shells, shock (ignore the icon – it’s essentially Mario Kart’s lead-cutting blue shell) is justly realised, targeting the front of the pack even-handedly, and can be skilfully avoided by accomplished players. Take note Nintendo!