The Project Gotham Racing series drew praise from fans for striking a great balance between authentic racing and accessible car handling and providing an experience that appealed to all manner of gear heads. For its upcoming successor to the PGR series, Bizarre Creations has decided to try something new. That something is Blur, a new racing game that veers a bit further away from realism in favor of vehicular car combat. The big hook in Blur is that drivers will be able to pick up five different types of power-ups to wreak havoc on the competition in races that include up to 20 players. We last had a chance to check out Blur at E3 2009, but the Liverpool-based developer recently brought its new project to Cologne for GamesCom 2009 where the press has been able to see a new multiplayer mode.
What's New: The new mode that we got to play is called World Tour, and it's essentially a party play mode that removes all the hassles of setting up a match and simply lets players get into the action and stay there with limited interruption. The game generates a random setlist of tracks, assigns random cars to each player, and just continues to cycle you through a continuous series of races with nothing more than a loading screen separating you from the last race's finish to the next race's start. In the setup we had, World Tour was played using four-player offline split-screen. To contrast the simplicity of World Tour, there are also other multiplayer modes that allow you to customize each course. You can choose what sort of power-ups are allowed, what cars to drive, and all sorts of other variables that really put your own stamp on each event.
What's Different: Nothing appears to have changed about Blur since the last time we saw it. However, we did get a chance to witness the game's brand of arcade vehicular racing from the perspective of a few new vehicles and some new tracks. There's a wide variety of cars available in Blur, with everything from the Ford GT to the Ford Transit Supervan offered in the game. We got to try out the latter vehicle, a hulking brute of a van that left its mark on the race with a heavier presence. It made for more difficult handling, but it also had the enhanced ability to knock other cars out of the way in those few instances when you run short of power-ups.
We also got to check out a few new tracks. Bizarre is once again returning famous real-world cities, but unlike the PGR series, it has decided to take some artistic liberties with the way the streets are laid out in the game in comparison to their real-life counterparts. Such cities as Barcelona and San Francisco feature a lot of major streets and landmarks taken from each city, but many side roads have been tweaked to make for what Bizarre promises to be a better racing experience. The entire career will take you on a tour that includes more locales, such as Los Angeles, the Hollywood Hills, the Western American desert, New York, the UK, and Japan.
What's the Same: Blur definitely feels just as frenetic and arcadelike as the last time we saw it. Power-ups are plentiful, crashes are more of a temporary hindrance rather than a race killer, and each car's handling is forgiving enough that you can devote just as much attention to your next victim as your next corner.
What Impression the Game Made This Time: It would be interesting to see what sort of reaction Blur would receive were it coming from an unknown studio rather than a well-known developer like Bizarre. There was an understandable feeling of surprise when PGR fans heard about the new direction Bizarre is heading with its new game. But as we've seen more of Blur, it's become easier to appreciate the game on its own merits rather than judge it solely as the new Bizarre Creations game. In that regard, it's become easier to accept the new direction Blur is heading, and it's certainly going there with a lot of interesting ideas on its side. But will the gameplay continue to hold a player's attention over the long haul? We're going to have to wait and see.