Since the wee age of three years old, I have been obsessed with racing games. Ever since I booted up my Nintendo 64 and played Cruis'n USA, racing games have always had a special little place in my heart. I loved the absolute flexibility of the genre; you could race any sort of vehicle and the additions of various special features like awesome power-ups (a-la-Mario Kart) and amazing set pieces (a-la-Hydro Thunder), the racing genre was a bit wacky and VERY fun.
Unfortunately, we have come upon a saturation of racing games that aren't very wacky at all, and the fun level has plummeted. After the release of Midnight Club: LA, we have seen a lot of generic racers out there. Sure, Forza 3 was pretty and racing your dream car in a realistic manner was pretty cool, but the "cool factor" was overshadowed after the, say, 5th lap. Racing sims seemed to almost dominate the market, and Bizzare Creations only worsened the issue with the extremely generic Project Gotham racing series. Instead of further contributing to the massive over saturation of generic racers, they decided to take a different (and risky) approach to the racing genre. And that's why, my friends, Blur might just get my GOTY vote.
Blur is not your typical racing game. It's got a very smooth, neon look to it, no doubt inspired by Geometry Wars. Blur contains real cars with semi-real physics on tracks inspired by real-world locales. However, a huge variable is thrown into the mix: power-ups. These power-ups include Shunt, which is a rather devastating (and slightly frustrating) homing energy ball thing that resembles Mario Kart's Red Shell. Then there's Shock, which fires out three bursts of energy in front of the lead car, which can be very helpful if you're trying to reach that number one spot. Then there's Barge, which shoves all nearby cars out of the way. There's Bolts, three little slivers of energy that nudge a car off the track, causing them to lose very precious momentum. Then there's Mine, Repair, Shield, and Nitro, and what they do should be quite obvious.
The power-ups are very devastating and are definitely the main focus of the game. If Split/Second can be compared to "the first person shooter of racers", then Blur can definitely earn the same moniker. You will have to be an excellent multitasker; you have to focus on actual driving while evading/using power-ups. These power-ups can prove VERY frustrating at times, and words like "cheap" and "unfair" can come into play. However, you can easily dish out what you're being given, and evening the odds is very rewarding. When it's bad, it sucks, but when it's good, it's great.
Now onto the tracks. The tracks of Blur take you all around the globe, and there are around 30 in all. They're all radically different and the background scenery is pretty cool, even though it's the last thing you'll want to focus on during a race. What's also interesting is that some courses are offroad, and you'll need to pick vehicles tailored to offroad racing, which is a great way to mix it up a bit.
Now the cars. I have to say that the cars are really cool looking (for lack of a better word) in Blur. They're not nearly as detailed as other racing games, but they capture the game's smooth, polished look very well. The car choice is neat too, there are some very interesting cars that I honestly haven't seen in other racers, which is quite impressive considering the massive scope of cars in Forza 3.
Single player is pretty fun, there' s not much to say about it. The story is the generic "I'm a new racer and I gotta take out all the other established racers" motif. You earn fans and unlock cars on the way to the top. The AI is good and make use of the power-ups just as a real-life player would. In speaking of real-life players...
...the Multiplayer is fantastic. With a sleek Leaderboard system, comparable to that of Geometry Wars 2, fast Matchmaking, and 20-player online racing, it's an awesome experience. I cannot think of a more polished, fun multiplayer racing experience. If you've played the VERY popular Beta, you know how addicting it is to Shunt and Barge opposing cars. The game also includes 4-player splitscreen which is a nice touch as well. The total Multiplayer experience is fun and should be experienced by veteran racers and newcomers alike.
And for those who are lazy and would like a score, it gets a 10/10
in my books.
PS: OBLIGATORY SPLIT/SECOND COMPARISON read