Blur Hands-On Preview

When they acquired by Activision in September 2007, Bizarre Creations went back to the drawing board. With Project Gotham Racing owned by former publisher Microsoft, the UK-based developer famed for its racing games was left without a racer to develop. Instead of revitalizing Dreamcast favorite Metropolis Street Racer, Bizarre kicked off yet another new racer, and its name would be Blur. This time around, however, Bizarre decided to merge its strength of stylized simulation racing with a brand new element: vehicular combat.

Just under two years on, and Blur’s setup at this year’s E3 was impressive. There were ten stations linked up together, all begging to be player, teasing players with fantastic graphics and large, detailed-looking tracks. I grabbed onto my own controller, and awaited my first green light within Blur. It didn’t take long for me to realize, as you would expect from a Bizarre game, that the cars handled like a dream, reacting to my nimble fingers just the way I wanted them to. I unabatedly tore down the track in one of the many speedy cars on offer, soaring into first place with relative ease. I was thinking that all that time I’d spent racing on the Dreamcast and 360 had finally paid off, but only thirty seconds in the motherload hit me, a power-up unleashed by an opposing player that knocked me right off the road. Take note: Blur isn’t your grandfather’s Bizarre Creations racer.

After a swift recovery, I was hunting for revenge. I did eventually get even, but it wasn’t all that satisfying. The title is in its pre-alpha stage, and some parts of Blur showed that more than others. Sure, the driving was phenomenal, the graphics top-notch, the multiplayer smooth and functional, and the level design a great test of skill and stamina. But Bizarre appears to have its work cut out as far as combat is concerned. The power-ups are easily acquired by running over the track, and they are unleashed with equal simplicity. The current arsenal on offer, however, leaves much to be desired. A token turbo boost, a shock attack, mines, and a couple of close range attacks is just not enough. Blur’s current build also lacks adequate explosive effects or crashes to make you feel and appreciate the destruction. The combat is so laissez-faire as to be relegated to being a fleeting occurrence in a race, simply an unfortunate bad turn.

Bizarre are of course known for their racing games, and Blur clearly has that in its multiplayer, which will take place online or in four player split screen. There’s also a “unique” single player experience, in the words of the PR representative by the stations. According to he, Blur will present players with a story within its campaign mode that will break from the racing genre mould. In Blur, players will no longer be required to come in first every time they rev up their engine. Depending on the situation, they might have to simply beat another driver to the finish line, or knock him out of the race, or even pulverize him so harshly that he actually fears a rematch against your bad self. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to test drive Blur’s single player, but the premise does sound intoxicating.

Before I left I made sure to ask about multiplayer support. From the words of PR: “Although we have 10 [stations] here, up to 20 players can participate in a race online.” Hot. But, if the combat doesn’t get its own nitro boost, that might all be irrelevant come release time. If there’s anyone who can give Blur the required tune-up before then, it’s Bizarre Creations.

Blur is all set to come out for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC in late 2009.

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