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Blur: Why Didn't Someone Think of This Sooner?

Company: Activision

Great racing games come and go. They range from simulations (Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport) to unrealistic adrenaline fantasies (Burnout, PURE) to games that fall somewhere between the former two. Blur doesn't really fit into any of those categories. It brings us back to a genre we don't see much from these days: the weaponized racer. Sure, we get periodic installments of Mario Kart and Wipeout, but when's the last time we've seen something truly unique from this genre? Bizarre Creations' Blur is attempting to bring together the high-speed insanity of Burnout and the strategic weapon management of Wipeout. I forgot to mention: this game uses actual cars. I was only able to get a taste of the game's multiplayer component, but that was all it took to get me excited.

Though there will be several modes to choose from in the final release, the core premise of the game seems to be consistent throughout. Tracks are littered with eight different kinds of power-ups, and each car can stock up to three of them at once. These power-ups have different purposes, the effectiveness of one of them (the shockwave-producing barge) varies with regards to proximity. You can choose to play the game like any other racer, but you won't really get anywhere if you don't fight dirty. Getting to the nitro pickups is extremely important, but it's equally necessary to grab homing shunts, damage-absorbing shields, and deployable mines. You'll have to make good use of your rear-view mirror in order to know what's coming, as well as how to keep encroaching opponents at bay. Each situation calls for a different power-up, and it's extremely satisfying to develop a winning strategy. Deflecting an opponent's shunt with a barge and then dropping a mine in the jerk's path is instantly gratifying, no matter how many times you do it.

The team at Bizarre Creations has some big ideas for Blur's multiplayer component, and if what I played is any indication, it's going to be very addictive. The player progression systems and persistence of games like Modern Warfare 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 have been applied to Blur. This is a risky move for a racing game, but it looks like it might pay off. Your performance, be it good or bad, nets you a certain number of "fans" at the end of each event. If you dominated the track while laying waste to your opponents, you'll find yourself rising through the ranks rather quickly. Ranking up earns you new vehicles and mods. The Blur beta only allows players to progress to level 10, but the final release will feature a cap of 50.

Blur will feature extensive customization options and challenges, as well. First off, you can mod your vehicle with special abilities. You can put your own mod loadout together, again, taking a cue from recent first-person shooters. Mod effects vary; one causes your shield power-ups to convert enemy attacks into usable weapons, while another makes T-boning a viable battle tactic. Completing skill shots (bolting someone from long distance or mining someone who's right behind you) will earn you extra fans and speed you up on your way to level 50.

Most of my time with Blur was spent in Skirmish races. These are the go-to matches for most of the players participating in the beta. Skirmish races pit ten drivers against each other on closed-circuit tracks. Some of the tracks in the beta are straightforward street tracks, while others are off-road tears full of secrets just begging to be exploited. It's rare when a single racer is able to maintain a comfortable lead, but it doesn't punish skill and reward failure (looking at you, Mario Kart). The cars don't handle realistically, but it's not likely that gamers will confuse Blur with Forza Motorsport 3. It also doesn't change the fact that drifting in Blur is quite satisfying.

If you don't want to test your mettle on the track, Motor Mash might sound more appealing. This mode is pretty much what you'd expect, given the name. This is Blur's version of Mario Kart's Battle Mode. It's a destruction derby featuring high-speed and the aforementioned power-ups.

If you're a casual racing fan or an adrenaline junkie looking for something fresh, Blur is primed to deliver a unique experience to the racing space in late May.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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