This week Activision is holding a Beta event for Blur. A racing game that I can simply describe as a mix of Need for Speed Underground in terms of graphic design and the way the cars drive, and Mario Kart where players can pick up powerups through out that can affect the outcome of races.
I am not a huge fan of racing games it actually is one of my least favorite genres. Simply because every racing game I have ever played except for arcade type like Full Auto turns into a big brawl off the start and then the player would fight to get into first and would basically just race himself over the finish line after the initial scrum.
Blur appears to be a bit different though. The whole time playing it no player is ever more than 5 seconds ahead of the next and the races are short enough where you aren’t discouraged to stay in the race because it is impossible to come back. Plus for not being a racing fan I managed to place top 3 in 14 races and won 7 of them and have raced in a total of 23 so the math says I am awesome…or everyone invited to the Beta are even worse than me.
Activision and Bizzare Creations have tried to add depth to the multiplayer scene with Blur. This is very refreshing seeing as racing was very straight forward for multiplayer and pretty generic. The only thing you truly fought for was leaderboard position. (Hey EA take note that 1v1 in Madden isn’t revolutionary anymore when games are being created that support more and more players). With Blur you get a very user friendly and Call of Duty approach to the racing scene. Players start of with one car unlocked for A,B,C, and D class racing in which you get to color from an expansive color selection and although not offered in the beta you can even choose the paint style.
Then each player has a mod shop (unlocked at level 3) where the player chooses a racing style that suits them best. I used the aggressive style where I did more damaged to cars if I rammed them,gained a random powerup off the start, and the ability convert hits from other players into a usable powerup .The beta offers 4 different styles but there are bound to be more maybe even customization for mods when you get even higher up.
Then they have Challenges almost identical to the Call of Duty screen. You do certain tasks like “place top 3 in 10 races” and you are given a bonus points towards your level up. Then you hit the next level of that challenge and have to place top 3 in 50 races. Things like that which add a little something to the multiplayer experience.
The last big feature you find on the multiplayer menu is the ability to start a party. This is one of the coolest features for a racing game where you and your xbox live party can join races together and even come and leave fluently where you don’t have to re-invite or join back up. With a feature this cool I found it odd that there was no team racing in the game. Regardless a friend and I painted our cars an obnoxious color to recognize each other and ended two races with a one-two finish like Will Ferrel and John C. Reilly in Talladega Nights(Shake N’ Bake was said a number of times).
Now for the racing. You are given a matchmaking type system, you aren’t really put in depending on your rank but rather there are various playlists that you can decide to hop into. The modes are 2-10 player racing,4-20 player racing,Motor Mash, and Supercar Racing. Other race types that aren’t available in the beta can be seen but their are only 2 that I understand one being One on One racing and the other is Community Events which could be cool.
The racing is pretty smooth and realistic for the most part. It is not crazy realistic where you can’t turn your car or you spin out constantly like racing games where they have pushed for more and more realistic driving but more of a user friendly experience. The powerups truly make the racing fun though. With the powerups I have seen you have Nitro boost(Speed burst),Pulse(shoots a pulse from under your car and any car near you gets shocked and thrown),Mine(drop a mine in front/behind you),Bolt(shoot three ninja star type objects that really spin out cars),Shunt(homing missile attack that can be dodged and is quit the adventure trying to do so),Shield(obvious),Repair(obvious),and Shock(lightning storm shot on parts of the street where zig-zagging patterns are a must). Now all these powerups can be used to help you win the race or take someone out of the race. The projectile abilities can even be shot forward or backward very similar to Mario Kart. Last night my friend and I even had the chance to sandwich a racer between us. He was in first I was in third and we both shot a Shunt and literally tossed his car through the sky and he was unable to recover. (increasing my want for team racing)
Like I said in the beginning the races are shorter than typical racing games and it could just be the Beta but it was for the best in my opinion. Frustration didn’t really set in for me because the race was over before I noticed I had no chance and you almost always had a chance for a comeback regardless.
The last feature worth mentioning is the leveling system. The points system is FANS where the more fans you earn the better. Basically they are experience I do not know if you can lose fans or not but to earn to them things like evading homing missiles,ramming opponents,top 3 finishes,fastest player in the game,etc. (like Call of Duty’s accolades) will earn you more fans and level you up quicker.
In the beta at level 8 you unlocked the Motor Mash playlist which plays like Vigilante 8 and Twisted Metal. One big demolition derby where points are awarded for ramming enemies and hitting them with powerups (bonus points for destroying their car). This nice addition to the playlists was really cool in adding even more to the racing game and a nice way to chill out with constant collisions and explosions all from the comfort of your driver seat.
Graphically the game looks amazing. Car models are clean and damage as races unfold. The particle system looks great and runs smoothly even in the online only environment we’ve seen. Cars kick up dirt and dust as they fly across the tracks, and the various energy ripples and lighting off the power-ups are great.
The game is fun and doesn’t have any real flaws with gameplay or graphics, and with the addition of an experience/leveling system it is bound to add more replay value for the big racing fans.