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Critical Reception: Activision's  Blur

Critical Reception: Activision's Blur

June 2, 2010 | By Danny Cowan

June 2, 2010 | By Danny Cowan
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More: Console/PC, Columns



This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Bizarre Creations' combat racer Blur, which reviews describe as "a unique, if not necessarily transcendental, kind of chaotic fun." Blur currently earns a score of 82 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

GamePro's Ryan Rigney gives Blur 4.5 out of 5 stars. "The realistic visuals and accurately modeled cars may lead you to believe the Blur is an action racing game in the Burnout mold," he explains, "but this title from Bizarre Creations actually has more in common with Nintendo's iconic Mario Kart series. Relying heavily on power-up icons, it's a fast and enjoyable racer that also shares some genetic DNA with Call of Duty."

"Blur relies heavily on Mario Kart-style power-ups to fuel its racing," Rigney continues. "Five unique weapons, a shield, a repair tool, and a nitro boost pickup are placed at specific spots along the race tracks; all you have to do is drive over the appropriate icon."

Rigney notes that these items can be used in many ways, adding to Blur's depth. "What makes these items interesting is their flexibility; most power-ups can be used both offensively and defensively," he writes. "The bolt weapon -- which looks and sounds oddly like needler shots from Halo -- can be thrown ahead to damage opponents, but they can also be fired backwards to block incoming flak from enemies."

Call of Duty's inspiration is apparent in Blur's multiplayer mode. "The multiplayer mode, which wisely mimics Call of Duty's online structure, is the real reason a large number of fans will buy Blur," Rigney says. "In it, players will increase rank by earning fans to unlock new cars, mods, and even online playlists with new game modes. Extra fans can be picked up by completing challenges, which work similarly to the rival demands from the career mode."

"There are so many ways to level up some stat or another while racing online that you're likely to get some type of reward after every race, a great feature that fans of the MW games know can hook a player," Rigney writes. "Provided that Bizarre Creations keeps DLC flowing at a somewhat regular rate, Blur could be to racing games what Call of Duty is to first-person shooters."

Ryan Davis at Giant Bomb rates Blur at 4 out of 5 stars. "Blur is a game that seems to embody a convergence of the two franchises that developer Bizarre Creations has become most synonymous with over the past nine years: Project Gotham Racing and Geometry Wars," he begins. "The parts are familiar, but the pairing makes for a unique, if not necessarily transcendental, kind of chaotic fun."

"If you've played one of Bizarre Creations' past racing games, you'll be coming into Blur with a pretty good idea of how the cars will handle," Davis continues. "BC has rarely aimed for 100% simulation-style authenticity with its racing games, but Blur steers well clear of any arcade-style comparisons simply by demanding that you not barrel full-throttle into ever turn, expecting to effortlessly drift your way through."

Davis warns that Blur's single-player career is not nearly as engaging as its multiplayer modes. "The progression is simple and linear, presenting you with a series of brackets, each anchored by a unique named driver," he explains. "The problem with the career, aside from its relative simplicity, is that it's freakin' hard, with the computer-controlled drivers giving no quarter almost from the get-go."

"But really," Davis continues, "what pulled me away from the career was the draw of Blur's online multiplayer, which adopts the increasingly familiar carrot-on-a-stick persistence popularized by Modern Warfare, rewarding you with access to new cars, performance-enhancing mods, and different online playlists for your performance.

"The beauty of this, and what sets it so far apart from the single-player game, is that you don't need to win every race to earn experience towards your rank -- heck, you don't even have to place, so long as you drive with a little panache and make smart, or at least frequent use of the power-up system."

"If you step back and look at the parts, there's a weird dissonance to Blur, and it doesn't seem like it should work as well as it does, even if it can be an imperfect experience," Davis admits. "Bizarre Creations has always danced along the line between simulation and style, and this game only serves to further blur that line."

IGN's Anthony Gallegos scores Blur at 7 out of 10, noting that its difficulty mars the overall experience.

"The single-player Career mode in Blur features some brutal A.I.," he claims. "While I was desperately trying to master my drifting skills and just maneuver the game's treacherous tracks, the A.I. was busy launching attack after attack on me at the most inopportune moments. You see, in the world of Blur, despite all its real-world trappings, cars can't just race and see who drives the fastest -- they have to launch weapons at one another as well."

Gallegos continues: "This isn't that big of a problem in the smaller races of up to 10 cars, but in the larger races with 20 opponents, chaos will ensue, making racing frustratingly difficult on the Normal skill level. It's one thing to be a great driver who can pull off awesome turns amidst a swarm of opponents, but it's quite another thing to do so while explosions are going off every few seconds as well. Sometimes the A.I.'s ability to take me from first to 20th place with a barrage of shots just felt downright cheap."

Multiplayer can be equally frustrating. "Sure, there's something to be said for how much fun it can be smashing your friends with a well placed weapon, but the 20 player online matches quickly devolve into a chaotic mess where getting first is a secondary concern to just trying to survive in the flurry of firearms," Gallegos writes. "Thankfully this is largely not a problem in the game's fun team-based races and battle modes or in the smaller, 10-player races, which are the best way to play Blur online."

"Blur isn't the addictive, competitive online game that people wanted it to be," Gallegos concludes. "Rather, Blur is a palate-cleansing game, the type of experience you pop in for a few minutes with your friends when you're looking for a break between sessions of a game you really like marathoning.

"If you love a more hardcore racing experience, and the idea of truly chaotic combat sounds appealing, than Blur might be for you. If you're looking for a fun, pick-up-and-play combat racer, then I think you need to go back to Mario Kart or, better yet, pick up the excellent Split/Second."


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