Review: Blur

Steve Butts | 10 Jun 2010 09:00
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I should say at the start that, while Blur is an enjoyable racing game, the actual racing is the least exceptional part of it. Some people may have a hard time understanding how I can like a game whose fundamental mechanic is the weakest part of the mix; I had a hard time coming to terms with it myself, but Blur does a few other interesting things well enough that I didn't mind that the core gameplay is a bit ordinary.

Whether winding your way through Los Angeles cargo yards, the streets of Tokyo or the hills of Barcelona, Blur delivers all the speed that its name implies. Players will jump into the driver's seat of nearly 60 real cars and fight their way around a variety of different tracks. Along the way, they'll collect power-ups -- nitro bursts, mines, homing projectiles, shields, etc. -- and use them to devastate their opponents as they race for the finish line. Along the way, there will be hidden shortcuts, dynamic challenges and inventive "beat the clock" scenarios to keep the action from getting too predictable.

As someone who is bored to death by the more realistic focus of titles like Forza and Gran Turismo, I appreciate Blur merging licensed cars and real locations with the high action of games like Burnout and MarioKart. At first, it makes Blur a sort of chimera and you can waste a good bit of time just trying to figure out if it's supposed to be a racing game or a car combat game. If you play it expecting a straight-up racing game, you'll definitely be frustrated when the AI takes you from 1st to 20th place in a matter of seconds with a few well-timed attacks. If, on the other hand, you play it expecting it to be a car combat game, you'll be equally aggravated to discover that the rewards you earn for smashing your opponents only count if you manage to come in near the front of the pack. Stick with it though, and you'll discover the game's fine balance between the two approaches.

While the overall concept is solid, the racing physics feel a bit off. You can't muscle the other cars around like you can in games like Burnout and this absence is felt strongly and repeatedly, particularly if you're driving a large off-road truck and trying to nudge a VW Beetle. With a bit of practice and persistence, you can shove your rivals out of the way of important power-ups, or into convenient obstacles, but the collisions still feel a bit rigid. The same is true of the game's drifting, which doesn't really give you enough feedback or input to find the sweet spot to drift through the tight turns found on many of the tracks.

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