Too busy to devote 12+ hours a day to your gaming habit? Here's a review that's sensitive to your needs: Short and focused on just the things that a busy gamer like you really needs to know.
Reviewed On: Xbox 360. Also available for PC and PS3.
In a Nutshell: Aggressive driving game from the folks who made Project Gotham Racing in the spirit of Burnout with a touch of Mario Kart - but with a grown-up edge to it. This is not for the really small kids. Driving skills are important, but it's your willing- and ableness to mine, shoot, bash and generally beat the crap out of your competitors that will help you win. If this is your bag - and it is most certainly mine! - you'll have a terrific time. You'll also get to know the tracks very well, as you'll be running the same loops over... and over... and over as you attempt to garner at least a third-place finish.
Learning Curve: Experienced drivers should have no problems picking up the game. Learning to distinguish between some weapon icons can take time, as they may look similar at first glance. Once you have it down, you're solid. Then, it becomes a matter of positioning yourself to pick up the items you need to succeed. Opponents (both real and AI!) will aggressively bump you out of the way to get to items, meaning you either have to fall back long enough to let the desired item regenerate or risk getting rammed and losing it entirely. So, yeah, there's some minor strategy.
The Save Game: As with most racing games, Blur autosaves after every completed race. Keep an eye on the corner and watch your button mashing - you don't want to lose fans by exiting prematurely. You'll also miss out on unlockables if you exit before the game has finished announcing all of your wins. Pro tip: If you "fail" a race, DON'T retry it. Instead, select Continue so you get credit for any fans earned (even a few fans is better than none!). Then restart from the menu. A pain, yes - but as you hit harder levels, you'll need every fan you can get to level up, unlock cars and finally have what you need to take down the increasingly difficult challenges.
Family Factor: I've let our 7-year-old watch me play, and so far, he hasn't crashed any cars in real life. We have had many discussions about why it's a fantasy and we don't drive like this around the neighborhood. He does not play the game; he's relegated to Mario Kart for his own vehicle destruction thrills. There is no language in the game, but online players sometimes get salty. I'm looking at you, prepubescent griefer in the Ferrari. There's a reason we threw you out of the game!
Buy, Rent or Skip? An absolute buy for racing fans. Even with the frustrations, this is a great game with solid replay value. Due to the wide range of power-ups and vehicle choices, every race is unique. I've even greatly enjoyed playing online; except for the aforementioned booted pre-teen, people are friendly, play nice (they'll even apologize when they run you off the road!) and are generally well behaved.
On a Personal Note: I have to admit, I wasn't particularly excited about Blur when I first saw the videos earlier this year. I entered the beta for the same reason I enter most betas - for Busy Gamer News. I fully expected to play long enough to be able to speak intelligently about it and then be done. Instead, it became my nightly obsession, and I quickly hit the level cap implemented for the beta. I couldn't wait to get my hands on the game for reals, and have been greatly enjoying it ever since.
Online racing is mostly done right with drivers matched within a level range. There's one problem, however. Your online ranking is based on online driving - so drivers can master the courses for days/weeks/months in career before going online and smoking the newbies. Your best defense, unless you really just want to race real people online, is to work on your career first - even though your offline career in no way levels your multiplayer one and the car unlocks are separate as well.
The basic single-player challenges are: 1) placing in races, 2) "fan runs" that require you to zip between slalom-style gates in the midst of regular race (AND place to get credit for it) and 3) scoring a certain number fans within the race, primarily by being a jerk to your fellow drivers. There are also destruction mode challenges that amount to chasing down cars and shooting them to gain more time and a beat-the-clock mode that requires you to boost and collect stopwatches for a few bonus seconds as you race through timed checkpoints.
The single-player career mode has you beating a set of challenges and special requirements (e.g., "evade 3 lightning attacks") staged by your various AI opponents so you can finally race them and take their cars. Your fan base contributes to your level and unlocks new vehicles. Every run will earn you fans as long as you cross the finish line (or time out in timed modes) and DON'T select retry.
If you run into trouble when the difficulty ramps up (as it does rather quickly after your first one-on-one win), be sure to collect every fan you can and match off-road vehicles to races with long stretches of dirt track. Don't worry about fan runs - they can distract you from the win and only count if you place in the race. Always try to keep at least one defensive power-up handy to protect against attacks from behind. And if you're the leader, save a shunt attack in case someone passes you right before the finish line!
My all-time favorite attack is the barge - it's a purple power-up that lets you blast away enemies on either side of you. Wedge yourself between two aggressive drivers (or anyone approaching that next power-up you want to collect) and watch them fly away and then roll off in your rearview mirror!
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