Review: Blur (X360)

Back in March, I was fortunate enough to grab a code for the Blur multiplayer beta.  I tried it out, and enjoyed it immensely, but didn’t play more than a couple of days due to time restraints.  Eventually, Blur fell out of my thoughts, and it seemed long forgotten.  Forgotten, that is, until yesterday, when Lindsey found this gem.  With the opportunity to get a $59.99 game for the low, low price of $9.99, we immediately printed all the necessary coupons and headed to the nearest Best Buy to pick up our loot.

Unfortunately, that particular Best Buy location tend to fall on the more dickish side of the retail scale, and they refused to apply both coupons.  While using the manufacturer’s coupon alone would still have given us a $59.99 game for $19.99, an amazing deal itself, pure principle found us driving to the newer, cooler Best Buy with high hopes.  They were, in fact, cooler, and honored both coupons, making us the proud owners of our very own copy of Blur for the Xbox 360 for the criminally low price of $9.99 ($12.78-ish after tax).

I considered driving to the dickish Best Buy to show them the receipt (with a “BAM, BITCHES!” to emphasize our victory), but the burning desire to play had swept over us, and we would brook no distractions.  The game was unwrapped and inserted (heh, inserted) into our Xbox 360, and split-screen play began.

Blur has been described by many as Mario Kart with real cars.  While that is fairly accurate for the basic gameplay, it does not reflect the online system or the career mode system.  Blur’s basic racing gameplay involves the use of “Power-Ups,” in much the same way that Mario Kart does.  All tracks include power-ups at various locations, generally spread across the track in, again, the same way Mario Kart does.  There are eight power-ups in the game: Mine (deploys a static energy ball either forward or backwards that damages whoever hits it), Shunt (similar to the Red Shell in Mario Kart, it targets the vehicle in front of you and homes in on it, causing the car to flip if hit, or can be shot directly behind you with no homing ability), Nitro (a sudden, sustained burst of speed if fired normally, or a sudden airbrake followed by a short burst of speed if fired backwards), Repair (regenerates lost vehicle health), Barge (fires a 360-degree energy pulse with a short radius that bumps vehicles within the burst range), Shock (deploys three shock domes to the front of the pack which cause a slowdown to any vehicle that hits one), Bolt (provides three non-homing bolts of energy that nudge vehicles and cause slight slowdowns, very effective if multiple hits achieved), and Shield (provides a shield which blocks effects of all power-ups and vehicle collisions).  To advance to higher levels of difficulty, mastering the strategic use of these power-ups is necessary.  Even some offensive power-ups can be used defensively, if fired correctly, so knowing the full capabilities of each power-up is an absolute advantage in advanced play.

The career mode is broken into different bosses.  You must meet the demands of each boss in order to qualify for a one-on-one race.  These demands are not always met by simply playing through the lower levels of each boss stage, however.  Certain boss demands require additional skill during your races, asking you to do something beyond the minimum necessary to win the race.  This makes advancing through career mode more entertaining and interesting in the long run, as you have to do more than just go across the finish line first.  The added challenge is wonderful.  There are four race types in career mode: Race (standard start to finish race with up to 19 AI controlled vehicles), Destruction (Bolt power-ups and dummy AI cars in a race against the clock), Checkpoint (just you, Nitros, time bonuses, and a race to get through all the checkpoints before time runs out), and One on One (the quintessential boss battle, a one on one race against the boss).

Split-screen is the only mode where multiple people can play on the same console, for up to four players.  Online play only supports one player at a time, which is unfortunate, but the quality of the online multiplayer more than makes up for it.  Online multiplayer matches are generally smaller than career matches, which is, to me, a good thing.  As career difficulty increases, it becomes annoying navigating through 19 other cars.  In a 10 player online match, skill and strategy become more important.  I haven’t played very much online yet (I’m up to level 3 or 4 I believe), but from what I have played, it’s really fantastic.  Besides matchmaking, you can also create custom invitation games for you and your friends.

Basically, the vehicles (there is a great selection) handle great, the power-ups are balanced and fun, the career mode is challenging, split-screen is great for friends, and online multiplayer is fantastic.  Go.  Buy.  Blur.

-[insert VROOM VROOM! here]

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