Blur Review (Xbox 360)
The advertisements for Blur depict the game as Mario Kart for grown-ups, which is a pretty good approximation of the game. However, if you use Mario Kart and Blur as metaphors to show the difference between childhood and adulthood, then the developers must find adult life frustrating, unfair and a little boring, too.
Blur takes the standard cart-racing game, puts it on realistic tracks and uses licensed cars. As a pretty big car buff, I loved the fact that I was racing around firing landmines out of a rat-rodded Volkswagen Beetle. While I appreciated the realism of the cars, the real-life locales used for the tracks probably hold the game back in a way. The tracks, while they do look fairly nice, are not interesting or exciting. They tend be very wide and uncomplicated, with no real shortcuts or anything particularly memorable about them. In fact, most of the turns on these tracks are so wide that you will not even need to use your brakes most of the time.
The bland tracks hurt the game's longevity and single-player mode because grinding through the same unexciting venues just to earn new cars gets old quick. If the tracks showed greater variation or creativity, the whole game would be much more enjoyable.
The main goal of the single-player mode seems to be unlocking new vehicles, which is done by earning both "lights" and "fans." You earn lights by winning races, and you gain fans by drifting, successfully attacking other racers and completing numerous fan objectives. The levels are broken up by rivals. However, the rivals serve no real purpose except when you eventually race against them one on one to win their cars. In addition to that, you are only allowed to race them after successfully completing their list of inane tasks like "hit five opponents with a reverse shunt." Your prize for these types of tasks is a slightly better version of a regular car, only the one you get has an ugly paint job. So, unfortunately, there really is not much to the single-player game to keep you going unless you have a desire to unlock more cars.
But at least the cars are detailed and have a surprisingly high amount of variability handling-wise. In fact, each car I drove had its own feel to it. Again, though, none of this really matters since the aforementioned tracks will not test the handling of the cars very much. You will mostly succeed by picking whatever car has the best combination of speed and acceleration.
The AI in the game is best described as adequate. It usually uses power-ups correctly and there is not as much rubber-banding as one would expect. However, if you get out in front, you can expect to see an inordinate amount of attacks focused on you. The AI is not too hard to beat, but when you lose to it, it almost always feel cheap.
The feeling of frustration that comes from losing via "cheap" tactics increases exponentially when you take the game online. The games online frequently devolve into chaotic messes. You can dominate the field for half the race and still end up in 15th by the finish. Unlike in a lot of games, this type of thing does not happen because gamers are exploiting glitches or flaws, it is just how the game works. It is chaotic to the point of feeling almost random and that is not really fun. However, there are some neat features online such as the ability to post things to Twitter, the ability to create challenges for your friends, and there are also plenty of rewards, called stickers in this game, to collect.
Beyond the standard races, the game mixes up things with a few different game modes. The first is Destruction, where you try to destroy as many of the target cars as fast as possible. Then there are Checkpoint races, where you race through -- wait for it -- checkpoints as fast as possible. On the multiplayer side of things, there is another type of event, Motormash, which is a destruction derby in a bowl-like track. This mode is actually pleasantly chaotic (compared to the rest of the game, which is annoyingly chaotic), but I always struggled to do well in it.
Upon first firing up the game, it is hard not to be impressed, but after a few hours, it is hard not to be somewhat disappointed. Still, I think the game is worth a rent -- even if just to see if the experience suits you, or to see if you can get into the online experience.
On the Track: The cars are great, the tracks not so much.
Graphics: A clean, polished looking game with some impressive effects.
Sound Design: Not much going on here in terms of voiceovers or background music. The car sounds are a little underwhelming as well.
Entertainment Value: Not much here for the solo player, but multiplayer could have legs for some.
Learning Curve: Not much to learn aside from dealing with the chaos.
Online: Feature-rich, but the chaotic races tend to leave you feeling cheated.
Score: 7 (Good)