One of Blur
's greatest strengths lies in its treatment of power-ups. There are eight of these, and each of them serves at least one vital purpose. Some of them are self-explanatory: Mine, Shield, Nitro, and Repair do exactly what you would expect them to do. Barge unleashes a localized shockwave on whoever is in close proximity to your vehicle. Shunt is the homing "Red Shell" power-up. Bolt is a three-shot weapon that destablizes and slows down vehicles. Shock is essentially Blur
's version of the infamous Blue Shell, but unlike the Mario Kart
power-up, it doesn't break the difficulty level. Shock sends three pools of lightning near the leader of the pack. They are fairly easy to avoid, but they slow down anyone unfortunate enough to drive through them.
Blur's power-ups are well-designed and balanced. First off, all of the offensive power-ups (save for the Barge, for obvious reasons) can be fired backwards. The rear-view mirror at the top of the screen does a fantastic job of letting you know when someone's in your rear line of fire. Power-ups also have interesting defensive applications. If you see a Shunt barreling towards your vehicle, deploy a Mine behind it. No Mine? No problem. Shunts, Bolts, Barges, and Shields work just fine too. You can also outrun most power-ups with Nitro. When you're playing defensively, it's important to get the timing right.
As I mentioned earlier, power-ups are not randomized. Furthermore, their locations on the track never change. You'll be able to identify each of them well before you actually reach them. This adds yet another layer of strategy to the gameplay.
Mod loadouts make the multiplayer experience even deeper. You can equip mods that give your cars special abilities. For example, Adaptive Shielding allows your Shield to convert an absorbed enemy power-up into a power-up of your own. Some mods affect how much damage you take from certain attacks, while others make certain attacks easier to avoid. And, of course, what Dodge Viper would be complete without a laser sight?
Bizarre Creations has found a way to integrate social networking into Blur. You can share your accomplishments via Facebook and Twitter if you want. If you pull off something spectacular, you can dare your friends to beat you at your own game with Friend Challenges. I don't see many people actually getting into this stuff, but it's there for anyone who's interested.
Blur is a balls-to-the-wall experience that will absolutely please online competitive gamers. It fills a void that has existed in the kart racing space for far too long. However, it doesn't offer quite enough for the offline crowd. I hope Bizarre Creations learns from its mistakes and delivers a more well-rounded package the next time around, but this is still a very good start.