Beta Impressions: Beta = booyah!
I know it's only a beta and not indicative of the final product but if it's any indication, Blur is going to be a blast.
This really shouldn't be surprising since the brilliant folks at UK developer Bizarre Creations are behind it. Bizarre knows how to make fun games and it appears they are cooking up another hit by taking their Project Gotham Racing (PGR) heritage, mixing in a healthy dose of Mario Kart and Burnout, and adding a dollop of Modern Warfare.
I've already covered the nuts and bolts in a preview
a few months ago. But to sum up, Blur is an arcade racer with weapons. It's not meant to be the next iteration of PGR or anything resembling a sim; rather, it's designed simply for fun high speed mayhem.
PGR fans will immediately notice similarities with that beloved series thanks to the gorgeous graphics. As you might expect from Bizarre, the entire game is a real treat for the eyes, especially the stunningly beautiful licensed cars the studio is renowned for. But that's pretty much all Blur shares with PGR since the addition of weapons turns everything upside down ? sometimes literally.
Your car can hold up to three powerups that are liberally spread across the tracks. The ability to select which one to use adds a surprisingly deep strategic element to the game since a well-timed attack can protect your position or move you up several places in the pack.
For example, it's best to place Mines at the apex of corners or in bottlenecks, but you also may want to drop one immediately to take out the cars behind you. Shunt is a nasty looking ball of crackling red energy that homes in on your target and can send him tumbling down the track. Barge sends a powerful blast wave radiating from your car so is best used while in a crowd, the Shield will protect you from incoming attacks, and Nitro will rocket you past opponents. Each attack is accompanied by stunning visual and audio effects, from the thumping warp effects of Barge to the electrical intensity of Shock.
It's important to note that none of the weapons are so powerful that they single-handedly determine the final outcome; rather, they are well balanced with their effectiveness due more to good timing than being overpowered. No doubt some tweaking will occur for the final product but so far I can see nothing blatantly unbalanced.
The game supports up to 20 players online and with everyone firing off weapons at 150 miles per hour, things can get pretty crazy to say the least. Crazy, and ridiculously fun as Blur is shaping up to be one of the fastest and prettiest examples of vehicular mayhem yet.
As you might expect from an arcade racer, the car physics are nothing close to realistic with fairly ?sticky? handling and insanely fast speeds. Hardcore racing fans will be happy to know that you can unlock cars with more realistic handling if that's your taste (my favorite: a Class A F1-powered 1950s Ford pickup truck) but even the ?beginner? cars can still perform drifts and other PGR-like stunts.
Speaking of which, you are encouraged to pull off stunts to help earn Fans, which are also awarded for successful attacks or evasions, finish placement, and racking up combos (for example, stringing together attacks against two separate cars while drifting through a corner and taking no damage). The more Fans you have, the faster you level up (similar to Modern Warfare) and unlock new cars, customization options and more.
In fact, multiplayer borrows quite heavily from Modern Warfare. As you level up, you also unlock Mods that add modifiers to your car, similar to Perks. These include gaining extra fans, improved ramming damage, increased Barge radius, a random powerup at the start, and so on.
There are even a huge set of in-game challenges that increase your XP ? er, your Fans ? and end-of-race awards for players who had the fastest lap, most accurate attacks, highest speed, most crashes, most times attacked, and so on. There even appears to be a Prestige mode as well ? very cool!
There are eight gametypes but only four are available in the beta. Skirmish is for smaller races, supporting two to 10 players, while Powered-Up Racing is for bigger groups, supporting four to 20 players. Motor Mash is a demolition derby mode where you earn points by causing the most damage, and Supercar is limited to the blisteringly fast Class A vehicles. Gametypes that were greyed out include the self-explanatory One-on-One, World Tour (which I'm guessing is a series of ranked events), Hardcore (which I'm guessing enables more realistic handling and disables weapons), and Community Events, which could be the repository for customized gametypes created by players.
There are only four tracks in the beta and all are extremely fast with wide sweeping turns and multiple paths. No doubt the full retail version will contain more challenging tracks but these do a great job of highlighting the intense balls-to-the-wall racing fun the game has to offer. Each track takes place in real places like the Los Angeles docks, the neon streets of Tokyo, the desert Badlands and the exotic roads of Barcelona. However, don't expect exact recreations since the tracks are designed primarily with gameplay in mind rather that geographic accuracy.
The previous in-game version of Facebook was apparently discarded, along with various NPC characters when Bizarre felt they were more of a hindrance than anything. However, the original concept of creating a social network of racers still exists, this time in the real world. You can now link to your Twitter account in-game with the push of a button, where you can brag about your accomplishments or call out your friends.