Blur First Look
The folks behind the Project Gotham series are back with a new look at arcade racing.
If you believe the current wisdom, the racing genre has become stale and repetitive. Simply running mindless lap after lap or competing with a compelling AI (or real-life opponents online) isn't enough anymore; as a result, racing fans feel like the genre has hit a rut. Our personal feelings about the fallacy of those arguments aside, that conventional wisdom is forcing developers--particularly those who concentrate on arcade racing games--to take a hard look at their games and try to discover new ways to keep racing fans engaged. Bizarre Creations knows a thing about racing games and user engagement--they're the folks responsible for the long-running Project Gotham Racing series. Moving on from PGR, and now part of the Activision fold, Bizarre recently took the wraps off its latest racing project, Blur.
At first glance, Blur has similarities to Bizarre's other racing creations: gorgeous re-creations of real-life locations, meticulously detailed car designs, and on-the-road action that looks to be somewhere between the realistic physics of Forza and the blistering speed of the Need for Speed series. What sets Blur apart from its highly regarded Bizarre predecessors, however, are the bold steps it's taking away from the simulation set and into the realm of pure arcade racers.
The best example is the power-up system in the game. As you make your way through the circuit races in Blur, you'll pick up power-ups strewn across the track. You can have two power-ups in your possession at any given time and can use them at any time. In typical arcade racing games, power-ups might mean rockets that fire out of the headlights or green turtle shells that spill out the back of the car. However, with Blur, the folks at Bizarre are promising a different take on power-ups. Instead of firing rockets or other weaponry that directly affects your opponent, the power-up items in Blur are one more piece of your race strategy. In other words, using power-ups alone won't win you the race; you'll still need some fundamental driving skills to get across the finish line first.
During the game demo, which featured a Mitsubishi Lancer racing around a track based on the Hackney region of London, one of the most frequently used power-ups was the "barge." When activated, the barge power-up will send force beams out either side of the car, pushing anyone near the car out of the way. This will be useful not just for keeping opponent cars clear, but also for potential use as a strategic weapon, such as using it at a road juncture to force an opponent car down a longer alternate path (which, itself, is new for a Bizarre racing game). Other power-up items on display during the demo included the nitro, which will give you a temporary boost of speed, and a shock weapon that will act like an EMP, essentially shutting down the cars around you for a small window of time.
Bizarre producers are promising enhanced racing AI, with opponent characters who will showcase different personalities on and off the racecourse. Some AI drivers, for example, will be more prone to use power-ups on the track, while others will be reliant on traditional race techniques, such as proper braking, hitting the corners at their apex, and so on in order to win races. Those personalities will also be apparent when you're not racing thanks to a game menu system that takes a lot of inspiration from social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. As you prep for a race, you'll see "text messages" appear onscreen from the various racers entered into the race, which will give you some insight into their individual personalities as well as how they relate to one another once the green flag drops.
Multiplayer racing looks to be the highlight of Blur's feature set, with 20 cars competing online in races that will run at a solid 30-frames-per-second pace. The game's custom groups feature will let you create exactly the kinds of online races you like and upload them to share with friends. If you're interested in racing with all power-ups available, go for it. If you want to just focus on pure driving skill , completely devoid of power-ups, you'll have that option too. And, in a nod to the old-school racing games, Blur will also include four-player split-screen offline racing, an increasingly rare site in these days of connected consoles.
Blur's dramatic left turn into arcade racing territory might have Project Gotham fans scratching their heads as they try to make sense of a game rife with power-ups and car-battling action, and we'll admit a fair bit of skepticism about these things as well. Still, Bizarre has a long track record of delivering high-quality racing games, so we're prepared to follow Blur's progress with an open mind. The game is due for release in fall 2009 and will be released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Stay tuned for more on the game during GameSpot's coverage of the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo.
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