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14:2315/06/2010Posted by Sean Evans29 Comments

Alongside its other more recent deviations, Bizarre Creations is typically labelled as a company that has always carried a loving torch for the racing genre. Assuredly, their appreciation for this ever-popular branch of gaming means they know a thing or two about how to make an enjoyable racing title. With Blur, the Liverpool-based studio has created an amalgamation of its own efforts – namely the developer’s wheelhouse series Project Gotham Racing – with the familiar arcade trappings of classic Nintendo franchise Mario Kart.

That latter comparison is by no means a slight against Blur as a separate entity, however. In conjunction with fusing absurd power-up abilities with sophisticated and modern design, much of the heralded aspects of Bizarre’s previous works have also been suitably worked into Blur, resulting in a striking balance of things both old and new.

To that end, the widest gap between Blur and Mario Kart is indeed the art direction. Blur is dominated by neon lights and bright sparks of light and glimmer: it’s a fantastic stylistic convergence between both PGR and its dual-stick shooter spin-off Geometry Wars. Thankfully, this harshly-toned futuristic aesthetic is appropriately weighed against the continuous frantic action of Blur in exciting fashion, delivering a style that never over-laps with substance to negative effect. Everything also sounds great, as an abundance of collisional sounds ripped straight from any good sci-fi flick lend pulsating auditory pleasure that also makes listening to the game’s cues a crucial method to gaining the upper-hand.

All of the included cars in Blur are officially licensed by real-world manufacturers, each handling with varying degrees of weight and versatility – something that was always a constant factor in the more straight-forward PGR games. Acclimating to each car’s handling behaviours and then re-acclimating to new cars as class upgrades are unlocked is a standard racing game measure that is firmly intact here, but Blur twists the convention by applying the sensibilities found within the quintessential kart racer and layering it on top of the usual racing game career progression.

Power-ups are placed throughout Blur’s real-world tracks (locations are more inspired by their namesakes as opposed to being 1:1 geographical recreations), fulfilling the kart racing stock list of power-ups, including red-shell and banana skin equivalents. Being able to ferry around three power-ups of any differing or doubled types results in a very tactile and considerate level of forward-thinking, making for an absolute blast of on-the-fly management during manic twenty-player races.

Also unlike PGR, having to effortlessly drift around tight corners and earn necessary amounts of said game’s ‘Kudos’ is not a focus of Blur at all. Instead, there are ‘Fan’ requirements that can be activated on specific spots of reach track, which are essentially gate-to-gate checkpoints that need to be passed in order to meet specific career requirements. Ultimately however, despite it being a different enough mechanic from Kudos to be somewhat fresh, its presence fails to make waves over the vast contrast between Blur and its forebearer quite like the inclusion of power-ups.

What really makes Blur’s inclusion of these familiar kart racer tropes is the wealth of well-made tracks complimented by a thoroughly solid driving mechanic. In many ways, the objective at hand is overwhelmingly apparent to anyone who has merely dabbled in any Mario Kart iteration before, but Blur changes the playing field by making it a much different game to actually play. Comparisons to Sony’s Wipeout are similarly just in terms of Blur’s vehicle control – easy to pick-up and difficult to master, but consistently fun.

That is, if played on easy difficulty or purely online. In the single-player career, any option above the easy difficulty is incredibly brutal and maddening by extension, even in the early events. Savvy players should head straight for the online multi-player instead. The long list of playlists and unlockable mods and customizable load-outs to equip pre-game means it’s a lot easier to enjoy Blur’s finer points without having to battle against the punishing A.I. opponents. Instead of offering a good challenge to those thirsty for completion, it just makes the career seem strangely broken by default. It suppresses what is an otherwise enjoyable career mode and is an unfortunate price to pay as a training ground for jumping online.

On the whole however, it’s hard to resist the basic level of fun that Blur’s overall design attributes bring about. The transparency of Blur’s derivative nature and blatant copying of the tried and true kart racer formula may prove a difficult hurdle for its intended audience to overcome, but such mild and derisive comparison does nothing to prevent Blur from being a fun and chaotic experience that comes alive best when played online.

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