The world of video game racing is divided into two camps – the simulations and the arcade racers.  Simulations are defined by how accurate they are compared to real-world driving, usually including tons of licensed cars and actual tracks from around the world.  Titles like Need For Speed, Gran Turismo, and Forza are all excellent examples of racing simulations.

 

Arcade racers, on the other hand, are at the other end of the racing spectrum.  With plenty of over-the-top action and only a passing relationship with the physical laws of science, these titles use a variety of methods to insure non-stop action including, but not limited to, explosions, crashes, and mass destruction.  Activision’s latest racing release, Blur, is most definitely in the realm of the arcade racer.  Focusing on winning each race at all costs, Blur uses real-world cars as your tools of destruction.  Toss in a great variety of power-ups scattered about the tracks and some fantastic multiplayer modes, and you’ve got a recipe for mass carnage.

In any racing game the most important part of the graphical presentation is how well the cars are modeled and how good the tracks look.  Blur does an outstanding job of accurately presenting the various vehicles you can acquire as your racing career progresses.  The variety of vehicles gives the developer plenty of room to flex their artistic muscle, with great attention to detail.  As an example, when you have the Ford Bronco available to race with, you’ll see that your truck comes outfitted with a canoe strapped to the roof, as if you’re heading out for a weekend camping trip instead of a take-no-prisoners race.  This detail work extends to the excellent damage modeling that each vehicle has.  As you trade paint with other cars around the course, your car will obviously become more damaged, with plenty of dents, cracked glass, and missing parts.

 

While the tracks themselves look good, they ultimately come off as very static and generic.  Many of the locations that you race in have iconic buildings that would set them apart from other cities, but those unique structures never seem to show up in the race world.  Instead we end up with a race through downtown Barcelona that doesn’t look much different from downtown Los Angeles.

Blur’s only real weak spot is the sound work, and even then it’s not so much bad as just dull.  When you return to playing Blur after taking a break, you’re treated to a brief “Previously on Blur” segment, showcasing your upcoming single player unlocks, career progress percentage, and upcoming multiplayer unlocks.  Its seems kind of strange, but the announcer saying “Previously on Blur” is pretty much the only voice work in the game.  The game lacks any kind of voiceover stating race winners, announcing new tracks or even unlocks.

 

Like most of the sound in Blur, the background music that plays during your races is just average.  While many videogame soundtracks strive for an emotive, awe-inspiring score, the music in Blur is content to fade into the background.  You even have the option of turning off the music while you race, and that actually adds to the intensity of the racing experience.  There is some looped background music when you’re at the race selection screen, but it’s only a short piece of bland techno to keep you entertained while you choose your event and vehicle.

 

You would think that the lack of focus on the audio in the other areas of this game would mean that special attention was paid to accurately capture the sound of your car during the races.  Sadly, you’d be wrong.  While there are some minor differences in the way the engines sound from car to car, it is too small a difference.  Shouldn’t the engine on an Audi TT Coupe sound significantly different from a Ford Bronco?  Not according to the developers at Bizarre Creations!

Driving controls are tight and responsive, but instead of being fully customizable Blur offers three pre-packaged control layouts to choose from.  Even though players aren’t allowed the full freedom to assign controls however they want, the pre-defined layouts cover a wide variety of possibilities and this should be a small issue for the majority of people.

Blur would be indistinguishable from any other racing game with a couple of major exceptions.  As with every other racer you start off with a limited number of low-end cars to race with on a beginners circuit.  Progress in Blur is based on how many fans you can accumulate, with the fans in single player being a separate count from the fans you get in multiplayer.  The more races you win, the more fans you receive leading to new events and cars being unlocked.  The major difference here are the presence of power-ups scattered across the race tracks.  Eight different power-ups are available as you race, ranging from a nitro burst of speed to a heat-seeking ball of energy that will chase your enemies down the track and wreck them.

 

Saying that you wreck other cars is a little misleading, as many of the power-ups only provide a momentary lapse in control before you’re racing again, often without losing your place in the race!  This means you have to be very judicious with your use of power-ups to get the maximum effect out of them.  Waiting to drop a landmine until it’s in the center of the track around a blind corner is a good example of the strategy involved with power-ups.

With a large number of tracks and challenges to overcome, Blur already scores highly when it comes to replay value with the lengthy single player career mode.  The multiplayer modes available in the game are where Blur really starts to shine.  Multiplayer in Blur is split up into eight different events.  As you would expect, there is an online race mode where it’s every man for himself as you make your way around each track.  In a nod to racing purists, there is a separate Hardcore race mode where there are no power-ups available and it’s all about racing skill.

 

Motor Mash is the high point of the multiplayer modes.  At its heart, Motor Mash is just a demolition derby with all the power-ups scattered through the course.  While it sounds like a simple premise, this mode has to be played to be believed.  Players receive points for ramming other cars as well as outright wrecking them, and the high respawn rate of the power-ups insures that everyone has plenty of options with which to mess with their opponents.

 

The other high point of multiplayer is Team Racing, which adds even more strategy to the mix.  To win in Team Racing you have to make sure that your team’s overall race placement is higher than the other side.  Being able to work as a team to coordinate blocking out your opponents instead of just looking out for yourself adds a whole new dimension to the racing, and is a welcome addition to multiplayer play.

Uneven is probably the best description when it comes to Blur.  On the one hand the audio work is lacking overall, but the developers went the extra mile to add plenty of sound effects to show if you’re racing on pavement or off-road.  On the graphical front the vehicle and damage modeling is excellent, but the race environments are flat and have very little to interact with besides the other cars.  While there is a lengthy career mode to work through, most players will stick to the solid multiplayer modes, especially such gems as Motor Mash and Team Racing.  The bottom line is that Blur will most appeal to racing fans that are looking for some realism and excitement but don’t want the unforgiving experience that the high-end driving simulations have to offer.

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