GamesCom 2009: Blur Hands On Preview - Power-Up Mayhem
Written Thursday, August 27, 2009 By Dan WebbView author's profile
It certainly was a bit of a surprise when PGR developer, Bizarre Creations, decided to forsake their fifth title in their hugely successful franchise for the time being, to take on a project at the opposite end of the scale. Sure, they’re still sticking with the driving genre, but expect something totally different this time around. That something different is Blur; an action-combat orientated driving title that from the offset seemed like Mario Kart for a more mature audience – when are we going to stop using that title as a reference point? After this preview sounds good to us.
The Power-Up system is why the early comparisons were made to Nintendo’s Mario Kart, but in fact, if you look underneath the hood, that’s when it stops becoming Mario Kart and becomes something else entirely. The game has 5 power-ups; the Shunt (which is like a forward firing canon), the Mine (do I need to spell this one out?), Nitro, Shock (turns off your opponent’s engines within a certain vicinity) and Barge (which propels two shocks out the side of your car and acts like a force push). The strategy ties into where and how you would use these power-ups, and having the ability to hold two (with the chance to upgrade to hold more) means that you can combine them for more devastating effects – especially if they are of the same ilk, for instance a double tap when you have two Shunts is a hell of a lot more powerful than just the one, or two fired separately. Bizarre even pointed out at this point that the power-ups weren’t like “Mario Kart’s one hit wonders” and players generally just got a slight disruption from them before they were back in the race – so more Wipeout-esque you could say.
In terms of location, variety is the key, as the game features 45 circuits set in 14 different environments – so expect mountain tracks, desert tracks, sandy beaches, city tracks (including Barcelona and London), and more. The environments have been hand crafted to be much more grittier environments than you may be used to with Bizarre Creations. They’ve even gone so far as to widen some of the roads in some locations to make sure that the focus is on the combat and the strategy, with emphasis then placed firmly on the ensuing action, rather than the driving.
Blur says hello to the “fans” system, which as Bizarre Creations noted, is their next evolution of the “kudos” system which appeared in PGR. Players will be rewarded with fans for performance, take-downs, recoveries, clean nitros, slamming players into walls, and more. You can then maximise the amount of fans you get by linking them together and getting a combo multiplier; so a clean nitro alongside an opponent being followed up by a barge against a barrier would net you a lot of fans. You’ll get fans no matter what though, even if you finish a race in last, so it’s clear that Bizarre are focusing on the fun aspect, rather than giving you stupidly hard challenges to overcome. I say this because fans can be spent on upgrading your car, buying new vehicles and upgrading weapons and expanding weapon slots. This ultimately means that if you keep failing a race, you’ll end up having enough fans after a few attempts to soup up your car even further so that you’re more powerful and faster than the opposition. A bit like level grinding in an RPG.
The customisation aspect allows players to customise their car dependent on how they want to play it. Aggressive drivers may opt to upgrade their power-up slots and weapon strength as their first port of call, whereas defensive drivers may choose to upgrade their shield slots, repair boosts and general health capacity of their vehicle.
The social network aspect of the game is possibly the most convoluted aspect of the title and Bizarre Creations explains the social network as the “glue that binds everything together and gives you a reason to race,” but honestly, I can’t see how this will bind the game together at all. Granted, we didn’t really see much of it in use, but the brief look and explanation of its features didn’t really sell it as something that could be construed as an effective central pillar. There is a story mode though and according to the dev team it isn’t “long, drawn out or painful” and is more of a “premise... a reason to race,” which just confuses matters further. We’ll have to see how that one pans out.
The game will feature 50+ cars which are broken down into categories A through D; with A being the fast, super car class. They are also keeping with certain car cultures as well including drift, tuner, smooth and rat (which is apparently “a banged up piece of shit with a pristine engine”). Throw in 20 player online races over Xbox Live with the ability to custom build how you want to race them and a 4 player split screen mode, and it looks like Blur is set to deliver a ton of content for racing fans looking for a more combat orientated racer this fall. At its core, Blur is a simplistic racer that’s easy to control, hectic and fun to play, but our concerns lie with the social network/career (story mode) aspect of the title, rather than the game’s mechanics.
Blur is heading to the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC this coming November 3rd and November 6th in North America and Europe respectively.