When your resume includes the monstrously popular Project Gotham Racing series, driving game fans expect big things from you. Big, fast, shiny things. In keeping with that reputation, Liverpool-based Bizarre Creations delivers with the fittingly titled Blur, an arcade racer that unleashes speedy, PGR-style licensed cars onto a selection of exotic circuits and entices players to bash the living crap out of each other (or the AI) with a replenishable supply of power-ups.
Bizarre must have a talented negotiator on the payroll to have convinced image-conscious car manufacturers to sign off on full, car-crushing damage modeling for the game's 50-plus recognizable vehicles—including notables like the Dodge Viper ACR, Renault Mégane Trophy and Audi R8. Blur shocks, blasts and smashes these machines at every turn (your car is restored to gleaming newness with a time penalty after a wreck), and from my first race on, the mayhem kept me enthralled.
Bizarre didn't code Blur's arcade driving physics—especially the difficult-to-execute drifting mechanics—at a terribly authentic level. Precision driving immediately took a back seat to efficient power-up harvesting; I raced my selected ride through the game's attractively rendered international venues, like the rollercoaster Hollywood hills and Barcelona's historic and challenging cobblestone streets, desperately seeking respawning power-ups to save my own skin or rip off that of my opponents.
The single-player game revolves around a nine-chapter opus of races, time-trials and destruction events where your heroics can earn “lights” and “fans” (replacing PGR's old kudos system) that unlock new vehicles, venues and AI bosses. I particularly liked the openness of the game's progress tree that lets you replay past events with faster, newly acquired cars.
When it works, the 20-person multiplayer operates seamlessly, though the game's online headcount was surprisingly thin shortly after release. To add to my loneliness, Blur doesn't support any sort of in-game chat. Fortunately, there's the two to four-player splitscreen mode.
Released simultaneously for the Xbox 360 and PS3, Blur's PC edition seems hastily cobbled-together in some spots. The graphics are pleasing enough and run smoothly, but the visuals just don't impress next to other recent games. You can also set aside that expensive racing wheel, because Blur's limited controller support rebuffs almost everything except an Xbox 360 gamepad. The game's MIA cockpit view, mouseless GUI screens and fixed key bindings add further angst to PC racers.
Regardless, Blur remains a thoroughly enjoyable and addictive combat racer that challenges gamers to develop a heavily caffeinated level of situational awareness. Avoiding hazards like lightning domes, homing missiles and opponent-deployed mines as you struggle to repair and shield your car—while also returning fire—can be tremendously satisfying, and the game nails these elements. A well-engineered system of rewards and unlockables (in both MP and single-player) adds truckloads of replayability.
Those Bizarre Creations folks seem to have a knack for this kind of stuff.
PC optimization issues and lack of peripheral support aside, Blur is the sweetest car combat game in years.