Just like with Split/Second, what we have here is an experienced studio when it comes to arcade racers, Bizarre Creations. They also signed the console exclusive Project Gotham Racing series, extremely appreciated for its spectacular gameplay based on all sorts of stunts. Blur follows on the same line, but it uses power-ups to get rid of the rivals on the track. But unlike Split/Second, Blur takes itself seriously, both with the single-player races and the online multiplayer.
Along the lines of Need for Speed, the single-player campaign is navigated via messages received through some fictional social networks, each rival having special needs that have to be fulfilled. The nine chapters have nine racing aces that need to be challenged one on one after fulfilling their wishes, with the winner getting the rival’s car as main reward. But that’s all there is to the story, as the “narrator” in the cut scenes only gives details about the rival in that episode and the aggressiveness of the opponents.
One against 20
Just like Split/Second (the comparison is unavoidable I’m afraid), the main goal is to win the races or at least to be on the podium with the help of your driving skills and the power-ups scattered on the track. These come in different shapes and sizes, with devastating effects to boot: laser weapons, guided bombs, nitro to up the speed, mines or electrical fields to slow your opponents down; the defensive part has a shield that makes you immune for a short while and the cars can be repaired with the Repair power-up because there is also a good damage model involved in all the mayhem.
For each race that you win there is a double level-up system, based on lights and fans. The lights depend on the finishing position in the race, but also for fulfilling wishes from rivals and fans. You get fans from spectacular driving and eliminating rivals in different ways, from simply pushing them into the water to using a bomb while activating nitro and drifting simultaneously.
Another secondary objective is passing through a series of gates that give you more lights and fans. These gates are activated by taking the respective power-up from the track; the same fans can also have special requests in some races, like getting to 178 miles/hour, kick a rival with Bolt or push him off a bridge with Nitro.
All this work isn’t useless, since getting fans unlocks new cars, the maximum level being 25 for the single-player campaign (it goes up to 50 for multiplayer). Lights are necessary to unlock new rivals in single-player, with up to 50 lights per episode. Thus, Blur is a more complicated game than other similar racers, demanding quite advanced multitasking skills: be on the podium, eliminate rivals, drive spectacularly, satisfy the fans and accumulate lights.
These requests can’t be fulfilled on the first run, mostly because the tracks are based on real ones and can be pretty nasty the first time you go through them. All races can be retried to maximize everything, but the difficulty level might scare away the less persevering gamers or those that don’t really have much time at their disposal.
Power-ups, which ones, how many, how to use them
No matter the method, you have to win and the powers in Blur are the best way to do it. We’ve got eight of them, with specific uses and you can vary the tactics based upon the level of difficulty and the track you’re on:
Shunt is a remote bomb, useful when you’re in the back of the pack and want to rid yourself of rivals in front. The remote control works only for front use, in the back you have to use the rear mirror to aim.
Barge, similar to an EMP, launches an electrical wave around the car, affecting all rivals around, being very useful in the crowd. It can also play a defensive role, detonating bombs, bolts and mines with a well timed activation.
Mine is by far the most useful power-up, both for immediate use and as a trap for careless opponents. Moreover, it can be used against bombs and bolts.
Shock unleashes an electrical filed that almost halts the cars that pass through. It usually has three or four such fields, so you can try to avoid them with a drift. Combined with the shield, Shock can destroy the rivals behind you and give you a few seconds of peace.
Bolt has three projectiles that can be fired in a group or separately, according to your tactics. Two of them can destroy a mine or a Shunt, but be careful, they aren’t guided. You have to align your car with the menacing power-up and use the mirrors to remain untouched. With good aiming skills, Bolt is ideal to wreck opponents low on health.
Nitro, as its name states, gives a huge burst of speed that can place you on top. On the other hand, activating it and pressing the break gives you a sort of air-stop, useful to eliminate manual break in difficult turns and then maximize the use of excessive speed.
Shield is the defensive tool, surrounding the car with a protective aura. You are immune to any power-up for a short while and, ideally, you should keep one in reserve, because you never know when you have a Bolt coming up and you want to deflect it.
Repair is the ideal help after taking too many hits or hitting too many walls, because respawning means losing precious seconds. The state of the car is presented on the meter near the rear-view mirror, but there also other signs, like smoke and loosing speed.