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Old 07-20-2010, 10:40 AM   #1
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[360/PS3] - Blur Review

Title: Blur
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
Developer: Bizarre Creations
Publisher: Activision
MSRP: $59.99
Writer: Matt 'gzsfrk' Williams

Blur Review

Blurring the line between love and hate.

There’s an age-old question that asks, “Why do we hurt the ones we love?” There’s also a lesser-known corollary to that query which has come to hold even greater meaning for me of late: “Why do we continue to love those who hurt us?” After playing Blur for the past couple weeks, I can’t say that I’m any closer to knowing the answer to the latter question than I was before, but I can certainly be held up as the poster boy for the sentiment. Bizarre Creations’ latest racing game has continually left me abused and shattered, only to have me come crawling back for more—time and time again.


Blur is, at its core, an arcade combat racer which makes no bones about being a Mario Kart clone. The commercial for the game actually goes out of its way to establish Blur as being Mario Kart for grown-ups, if not quite saying so in as many words. Bizarre attempted to differentiate Blur from other kart-style racing games by eschewing the cartoon-like characters and environments which are standard for the genre (the most recent example being ModNation Racers), opting instead for a more mature setting which consists of actual retail cars zipping around a variety of realistic urban and rural tracks.

Despite the authentic looking vehicles and environments, Blur has very little else in common with other near-simulation racers such as Bizarre’s own Project Gotham series. The core focus of the gameplay is on the power-ups—various offensive and defensive items littered throughout the race courses, most of which fit the archetype of the standard Mario Kart analogs. You have your Bolt (green shell), Shunt (red shell), Mine (banana peel), Nitro (mushroom), Shield (star), and Shock (blue shell). Additionally, since your vehicle does have a limit on the amount of damage it can take before you’re wrecked and penalized by a loss of all momentum, there are Repair power-ups which restore your car’s health. There’s also another new kind of power-up attack called a Barge which repels all cars or incoming attacks in your immediate vicinity.


You carry up to three power-ups at a time and can cycle between the active power-up, allowing them to be used in any order you please. In addition to the default usage, most power-ups can be used in an alternate fashion for either offensive of defensive purposes. For example, Bolts fire forward by default; but you can also hold down on the left stick when firing to shoot them backwards. This can be handy for either nailing a tailgater or stopping an incoming Shunt. If you have a Nitro equipped, you can fire it backwards right as you enter a tight turn for super-effective braking, preventing you from smashing into the wall at top speed. That being the case, the player is constantly having to decide between firing off a power-up—such as Shunt—immediately in order to trip up those ahead of them, or saving it to fire backwards should a trailing competitor fire a homing attack. While having to strategically decide how and when to use resources either offensively or defensively is by no means a new concept to gaming, Blur forces you to do it while driving along winding roads at upwards of 200mph—quite a demanding piece of multitasking.

The game is pretty clearly demarcated between its two primary play modes: the single-player campaign and online multiplayer, with a separate leveling system for each. While the fundamental mechanics of the game are the same in both, the two offer different gameplay types and quite divergent experiences overall. Unfortunately, the single-player is easily the weakest part of the Blur package. While there are a good number of racing venues (30 tracks across 14 different locations), monotony sets in pretty quick due to there being only three basic race types during the campaign. The most fun of the three is the standard Race mode, where the player dukes it out against either a field of computer-controlled drivers for first place in a no-holds-barred race to the finish. The other two race types are Checkpoint and Destruction, and consist of either completing the required number of laps or destroying a number of target cars before time runs out. While I’m sure the Checkpoint and Destruction game types will appeal to some, I found little to no joy in playing them and only slogged through with whatever minimal score I needed to progress to the next standard race.


But while the monotony of the single-player game is a drawback, that in and of itself wouldn’t be such a terrible thing given the game’s solid play mechanic. Instead, Blur’s near fatal flaw in the campaign is that the computer AI’s difficulty is brutally unforgiving and cheap. While I’m not going to be competing on the MLG circuit any time soon, I’d like to think that I’m a few steps above “noob” when it comes to gaming, and that my “skills” are typically sufficient to pay “the bills.” However, with the game set at “Medium” difficulty, there were plenty of events even early on during the single-player campaign that I honestly had to retry 10 or even 20 times—not so that I could max out my score and collect all 7 lights for the event, but just to meet the bare-minimum requirement of taking Bronze so I could advance to the next race. Note that I’ve yet to try the “Easy” difficulty, which is supposed to make some of the game’s tougher races a cakewalk. However, I’ve read that the problem with that setting is that you end up so far ahead of your competitors that it’s hard to successfully fire off enough power-ups to earn the Fans needed to progress.

Thankfully, the fantastic online multiplayer implementation more than makes up for the lackluster single-player portion of the game. Unlike the limited campaign with its three game modes, the online mode has a wider variety of event types, including Skirmish Racing (up to 10 racers), Powered-up Racing (up to 20 racers), Motor Mash (a Twisted-Metal-style mode), Hardcore Racing (no power-ups) and team variations of each. Playing the Powered-Up Racing or Motor Mash events with a full 20 player roster is sheer, cathartic pandemonium. Because there are so many factors at play, between the power-ups being constantly launched and players bumping and ramming into each other, you really shouldn’t approach these races with the goal of winning so much as trying to to avoid coming in last. But on those occasions where you do manage to win a round—via luck, willpower, or sheer determination—the satisfaction is immense, and the bragging rights well-earned. The online progression system is also quite well thought out, with each level unlocking either new cars or new “Mods”—special power ups which you can equip that provide certain advantages when racing, such as a longer duration shield or reduced damage from incoming attacks. You can equip up to three Mods at a time, which provides a nice way of customizing a vehicle to suit your play style.


Being a big fan of local multiplayer, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least briefly discuss Blur’s split-screen support. This works pretty much as you would expect, with each player getting their quarter of the screen and going at it. And while it’s a definite tactical disadvantage that you lose the rear-view mirror when playing in split-screen (meaning that things like landing Reverse Bolt shots or effectively timing countermeasures for an incoming Shunt become all but impossible), the game is still great smack-talking fun, and an excellent addition to any game night. The only real downside to the split-screen mode is that, in addition to your friends, you’re also competing against the same ridiculous computer AI that sucks much of the enjoyment from the campaign, which means that—more often than not—you and your friends will be competing to see who comes in 17th through 20th, rather than 1st through 4th. Another nice feature Blur offers is integration with Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to update either service with notes about your most recent accomplishments in the game. It’s nothing fancy or groundbreaking by any means, but it’s still nice to see more games start to offer this kind of social connectivity.

Whitney Houston once said of her relationship with notoriously-abusive husband Bobby Brown: "When we're fighting, it's like that's love for us. We're fighting for our love.” Ms. Houston’s troubling co-dependency issues aside, I think maybe in some ways that that’s what it’s like when I’m playing Blur. It’s not that I’m fighting to love the game, but rather that the fight is my love for the game. That no matter how frustrated I can get in the middle of a race where all the breaks are going against me, I always know that everything could turn around in a flash and I could find myself sitting atop the pile when it’s all over—a sensation which makes each victory all the more satisfying.

Besides, I hear Blur hasn’t sold quite up to expectations, which has to be really stressful. So it’s really no wonder he came home angry and dropped those three Shunts in a row on me last week. I mean, I probably had it coming.

Score: 4 out of 5


The Good
  • Great pick up and play racing action that no player, regardless of skill, is ever guaranteed to dominate
  • Supports 4-player split-screen for some frantic smack-talking party game action
  • The fan-based leveling system does a good job of making you feel like you’re always progressing, even when you lose repeatedly
  • Solid visuals with excellent vehicle models, nice looking environments, and spectacular special effects
  • Stylish and intuitive menu system and user interface
The Bad
  • The computer AI difficulty in the single-player campaign is not only ridiculously hard, but also seems to disproportionately target the human driver rather than equally attacking the other AI vehicles
  • Progression in the campaign is needlessly separated from online leveling, making the frustratingly-difficult single-player portion effectively pointless and skippable
The Ugly
  • My language after I finished City Slickers Event 5 with 13.9 seconds remaining, failing to meet the 14.0 second requirement needed to advance for the 17th straight time.
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Old 07-20-2010, 10:48 AM   #2
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Great game but I have hardly touched the single player maybe some time soon. Hope I don't have to repeat thing to many times as that is a game breaker for me, it's just not fun.
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Old 07-20-2010, 10:49 AM   #3
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Emabulator, I see you have this for PC. Have you played both versions? Is it just as good on PC?
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Old 07-20-2010, 10:53 AM   #4
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If you have a xbox360 pad or similar buy it, it's a really good game brandonjclark. I got it for 360 so I could beat my friend
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Old 07-20-2010, 11:02 AM   #5
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The only sad thing is the online slowly dying. Only the 18-player race playlist is consistently over 100 players any more.
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Old 07-20-2010, 11:36 AM   #6
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Old 07-20-2010, 11:41 AM   #7
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The only sad thing is the online slowly dying. Only the 18-player race playlist is consistently over 100 players any more.

Jesus H, already?!

Maybe I'll pick it up on my PC then. I was in the beta(thanks modeps) and had a helluva time playing it. Even my Lynda got involved, which is a rarity if you knew her.

Yes, I'll pick it up on PC.... but damn I should've bought it for 360 with that $20 off certificate!
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Old 07-20-2010, 11:47 AM   #8
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Is that Blur Rage?
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Old 07-20-2010, 11:56 AM   #9
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Jesus H, already?!

Maybe I'll pick it up on my PC then. I was in the beta(thanks modeps) and had a helluva time playing it. Even my Lynda got involved, which is a rarity if you knew her.

Yes, I'll pick it up on PC.... but damn I should've bought it for 360 with that $20 off certificate!
As far as I can tell the PC version is pretty much a direct port (I don't own an Xbox 360). There's not many people playing multiplayer on the PC version now either. The only advantage would be native support for anti-aliasing and higher resolutions.
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Old 07-20-2010, 12:35 PM   #10
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great review. no holds barred on the joys and frusterations..
i played the demo and thought it was good, but not enough to spend money on (i get about 2-4 hrs a week for games)

i applaud their inclusion of 4p split screen.. way too little of that these days (read: burnout paradise FAIL)

Maybe ill give it a go when its 20$, otherwise thanks for preventing more gray hair, broken controllers, and heart meds.
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Old 07-20-2010, 12:37 PM   #11
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I don't know about the the PC or PS3 online communities, but on the 360, I've never been on playing during an evening when there weren't at least 1,000 players distributed amongst the various online events. Granted, that's no where near as crowded as other popular games like Halo or CoD, but I've not once, at any time while playing, had trouble getting into either a Powered-up Racing or Motor Mash event that was near fully populated.
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Old 07-20-2010, 12:38 PM   #12
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Maybe ill give it a go when its 20$, otherwise thanks for preventing more gray hair, broken controllers, and heart meds.
To be honest, $20 is exactly how much I paid for the game when I picked it up a few weeks back. They had an online manufacturer's coupon that was good for $20 off, and then K-mart had an in-store special with the game for $40. Best $20 I've spent on a game that I can remember.
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Old 07-20-2010, 01:13 PM   #13
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I feel this review inaccurately portrayed Blur. It's obvious you didn't play a minute of the game and let the price point sway you. I think this game should have been given a lower score for it's BLATANT rip-off of Mario Kart and similar kart style games.

/sarcasm
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Old 07-20-2010, 01:18 PM   #14
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I feel this review inaccurately portrayed Blur. It's obvious you didn't play a minute of the game and let the price point sway you. I think this game should have been given a lower score for it's BLATANT rip-off of Mario Kart and similar kart style games.

/sarcasm
You forgot if there's a Blur Giveaway and I don't win it's fixed.
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Old 07-20-2010, 01:21 PM   #15
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I feel this review inaccurately portrayed Blur. It's obvious you didn't play a minute of the game and let the price point sway you. I think this game should have been given a lower score for it's BLATANT rip-off of Mario Kart and similar kart style games.

/sarcasm
I beseech the fair reader to keep in mind that pwn has a history of horribly under-rating otherwise deserving games.
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Old 07-20-2010, 02:12 PM   #16
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Blur is a dichotomy, great game that is failing commercially. Maybe it's ahead of its time in a market that doesn't exist yet (adult/serious kart racers). This game is 100% Mario Kart with big boy graphics, heck it even cheats like Mario Kart does.

Great game, great graphics, 4 player split screen with outstanding visuals ... This game needed to sell more.
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Old 07-20-2010, 03:40 PM   #17
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Blur is a dichotomy, great game that is failing commercially. Maybe it's ahead of its time in a market that doesn't exist yet (adult/serious kart racers). This game is 100% Mario Kart with big boy graphics, heck it even cheats like Mario Kart does.

Great game, great graphics, 4 player split screen with outstanding visuals ... This game needed to sell more.
It's really too bad because it's extremely well produced and polished. And, more importantly, it's fun as shit.

I'm saddened by how few people I see playing it.
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Old 07-20-2010, 05:56 PM   #18
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I'm awful at racing games but add items I can use to attack others? I'm in! I loved the demo and picked the game up when it came out.

Oh, I'm still terrible but it's still super fun.
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Old 07-20-2010, 07:27 PM   #19
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Blur, Modnation, Split/Second. All together=online dilution. Too bad. For PS3 and me, it's been Modnation. I have Blur from the deal a few weeks ago but I'm not feeling it yet...waiting for the Modnation patch, if it EVER drops. I probably won't crack Blur for a few months yet.
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Old 07-20-2010, 07:44 PM   #20
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Blur, Modnation, Split/Second. All together=online dilution.
This

Anyway, I've been playing this tons, and online is where its at. The players are stupid good, most have prestiged already, I'll finish bottom half all night then get one top 3 or a win. I have literally held my hands up champion style.

If you are going to play Blur you better do it now. There's a fine number of players on 360. Single player is too boring, really kind of wished they had merged the player progression between SP and MP.

Overall, it is a buy recommendation from me, but conditional on Multiplayer and getting it now. $40 is a good price if you can find it.
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