The first thing that strikes you is the neon. It’s everywhere, even in the menu’s. Any doubts about whether Blur will be distinguishable from other arcade racers fizzle out as soon as you hit the start button. I previously used to confuse this game with the upcoming Split/Second, but those days are most definitely over.
With the Project Gotham Racing series, Bizarre Creations went to great lengths to make the online portion of their games as social as they are competetive, even going as far as incorporating the online community’s unofficial “cat and mouse” game rules into an actual game mode. It’s clear that Blur is designed to continue in this tradition with as little downtime between races as possible. They’ve also looked to the other big online games for a few smart ideas. Once in a lobby the game then offers a choice of two tracks and a quick vote is taken, much like the map selection in Gears or Halo. Once set, a 30 second countdown is all the time you have to pick a car and the mods you’ll be using for the race. The mods (extra damage, better shields, etc) work in a similar fashion to the perks in Modern Warfare and are earned through online progress.
From then on, speed is king. Every race has a rolling start, spin out when you crash into a wall and the game will instantly reset your car. The tracks are lit up by the glowing icons of power-ups, weapon trails and even the lights on the cars themselves. On a visual level, you be forgiven for thinking this was a Wipeout game. The handling on the cars is tight and responsive, but too grippy to be considered even vaguely realistic. Up to three powerups can be carried at one time and dropped if necessary. PGR’s kudos system has been replaced by “fans”, but works in much the same way, with the inclusion of weapon-based scoring. Your fan total works as XP, unlocking cars and mods as you level up.
Despite this being a beta, Blur’s showing a lot of promise. I’ve not seen any teleporting or lag so far, but some rebalancing on the weapons might be in order. The frame rate has been rock-solid throughout. With Burnout Paradise now almost 2 years old, Blur looks like it could be a worthy successor. We’ll find out for certain when the game’s released in May.