Hello NFF and Happy Holidays to all. Brandyn here bringing you yet another game review. Today's game is Blur for Xbox 360/PS3. (It may be worth noting that my experience is from the PS3 version, I do not know how the other version differs.)
One of the first things you cannot help but notice is that this game bears the mark of Activision. Don't take that as the kiss of death though, they have actually cooked up something pretty neat here. Imagine, if you will, a cross between Mario Kart and Gran Turismo. If I had to describe Blur in a nutshell, I do believe such would be the best way to put it. You have power-ups like the former but real world cars and locations like the latter. Said power-ups range from the "Bolts" which are merely three bullets you can fire to do minor damage and stopping power, to "Shock" which will unlease a field of Thunder bolts on the track. Even better, is that there exists nothing ridiculous as the Blue Shell for frustrating, last second overtakes. However, you can never let your guard down in Blur; no matter how close you think you are to victory, there is always the high chance of getting wrecked by a "Shunt".
In the single player campaign, your goal is to complete the different types of driving events. Besides simple racing, you have events such as Checkpoint races, where you must reach designated points on the map in a certain window of time, and typical modes of a racing game like time trials. The campaign is split up into nine different subsections and at the end of each one, you must face a boss. Defeating a boss in a race will earn you their vehicle, as well as whatever they have modded on it (meaning their vehicles usually possess something which will increase the potency of certain power-ups).
In most cases, a good racing game is only as good as the tracks you tour; the environments in Blur are, as aforementioned, based off of real world locations like Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Barcelona.The locations are quite stunning to behold and makes it even more realistic while still maintaining the intensity of a power-up based racer.
The single player campaign is a nice way to ease into the game but of course, the main livelihood of this, as is with any racer is online play. Players online tend to be very aggressive drivers and if you want a challenge beyond what any level of the AI can provide, this is where you come. There are multiple types of driving events you can participate in aside from simple weapons races. Up to 20 players can play in a room online (for certain types of events), and you may invite friends to play with you as well. If you do not wish to play publicly, you may have "Private rooms" for you and select players you invite. Online even supports voicechat devices, but based on how obnoxious people tend to sound in the game, I choose to mute everybody. Offline, you can play with up to 4 players, splitscreen.
The graphics of Blur are quite splendid to view, especially in HD, and dare I say they even compete with those of Gran Turismo 5. When you race through a wet zone, little drops of water splash on your windshield. You also have at the top center of the screen, a "rear-view mirror" which is very handy to have to avoid having to switch the camera angles to see what is going on behind you (though you can do that as well). The only flaw with this department is that occasionally when playing online, the game might have issues with the framerate and it sometimes transmits the positions of the other cars in front of you in a rather choppy manner (looks as though they are teleporting Albert Wesker-style). Outside of that though, it does not happen too often and as a whole online runs very smooth.
To comment on the soundtrack....or lack thereof...it is nice to hear the ambience of motors running and bullets and mines flying. Some courses have music but for the most part, the game relies merely on the ambience of the vehicles and weapons being fired for its sound factor. Perhaps that sounded like a nice idea on paper but, in my opinion a good racer needs a good soundtrack to compliment it. It simply makes it more lively.
At the end of the day, Blur, despite bearing the mark of Activision, is a solid racing experience for anyone looking for a slight change in pace. If you find yourself tired of wipEout, and looking for a racing game with a similar atmosphere but a bit more traditional, Blur is worth looking into. Basically, it is like a version of Mario Kart for PS3 that you do not have to be ashamed to play around your friends, if they are the type who find if to be no fun. Regardless though, I like Blur because it is like Mario Kart, but much less luck based. The items you can pick up are defined on the track, so you know what you are picking up and it is not based on your current standing. Also there are no ridiculously unfair power-ups that can mess up the whole entire race in the snap of a finger. It has a relatively robust online community, so being able to play people when you want should not be a problem, and it mixes the real world and fantasy elements of racing better than I have seen it attempted before. A good addition to the collection for racing afficiendos such as myself.
Overall grade: B+
+Over 55 vehicles
+Intense Powered-Up racing
-No real in game music
-Somewhat typical single player campaign, nothing special