If you are at least as old as I am then you should be able to think back and remember the late 90’s with relative ease. Release in North America in 1997, Mario Kart 64 was arguably one of the most fun kart racing games ever released. Playing four player split-screen games with friends was some of the most fun you could have on the console. Skip ahead 13 years. Bizarre Creations, creators of the venerable Project Gotham series of racing games, has taken its mind to creating a power based action racer. March 8th marked the beginning of the semi-public multiplayer beta on Xbox Live. If you remember Mario Kart fondly, then Blur is going to be right up your alley.
What sets Blur apart from other arcade style racers like Burnout Paradise you ask? Blur features licensed cars. You will be tearing around corners in BMWs, Fords, Chevys, and a bevy of other cars still locked from use in the beta. Another unique feature. The automakers that have licensed these cars have actually signed off on allowing their cars to be fully damaged and wrecked during the course of racing. I will give Burnout the edge in terms of overall crunch factor in its crashes, but never before has a developer been allowed to inflict and show such damage on a real car.
What type of weapons and powers are at your disposal in Blur you ask? Almost every power-up in Blur has a direct Mario Kart analog. The Shunt is a homing missile that can be fired forward or back (aka Red Shell). The Bolt is a trio of dumb fired mini missiles, also able to be directionally fired (aka trio of Green Shells). The Barge exerts a force blast in a 360 degree area of effect around the near vicinity of the car. A shield provides protection from any offensive power you may encounter (the defensive part of Invincible Star). Shock is a power that puts columns of electricity at random points on the track ahead of your fellow racers. There is also a turbo boost as well as a repair kit. Cars can only sustain a certain amount of damage before you are wrecked and have to start from a complete stop and likely lose a few places in the race. At any given time the player can have up to three powers collected and stored from the track. This is where strategy comes into play. What combinations of powers work the best? Do you hold a repair or a shield in reserve in the event that you need it? Or do you play all offense and try to cause as much havok as possible? These are questions left to the player to decide.
In addition to the choice of cars, there are also a series of mods that can be slotted on your car that can increase offensive, defensive, or other capabilities during a race. A leveling up system is also present. It is clear that Bizarre have placed in many hooks to make you want to keep playing this game. I played for about an hour on the tracks included in the beta and reached level 6 in about an hour. Level 50 is the max, but then you can enter Legend Mode which is basically the same as Prestige Mode for those familiar with Call of Duty and its leveling system. The beta is capped at level 10.
I had a blast playing the beta. Even after doing one race I was sold. This beta provides us with a pretty good look of what we can expect from the final retail product and I look forward to spending more time with Blur as the beta continues. Want In? Scour the internet for beta keys. Gaming sites such as Joystiq, Giant Bomb, and others have been given beta keys to distribute to the masses. Hopefully more keys will be made available or the beta will be made available to everyone in the near future. If you want white knuckle driving excitement then this game was made for you.
UPDATE 4.2.2010 – BETA will be going live to the public the week of April 6th, 2010 Click here for more info plus a developer interview courtesy of Kotaku
UPDATE 4.6.2010 – BETA AVAILABLE NOW Check out the dashboard on your Xbox or http://bit.ly/dwoPd3 for more info
For additional Entertain Your coverage on another upcoming racing title, check out my impressions of Black Rock Studio’s upcoming game Split/Second.