Hands-on: Blur multiplayer beta

While Blur's aesthetic is devoid of rainbow bridges and adorable car-icatures, it's undoubtedly a kart racer -- albeit one that feels like it was made for people who don't like kart racers. Or those bloody blue shells.

The power-ups you'll pick up on the track can still knock competitors straight to last place, but opponents' fates aren't immutable once you send pulsating red orbs or bolts of electricity their way. Power-ups can be dodged before they grow too large in the rear-view mirror, or cancelled out by the blast of another weapon. It feels considerably more balanced and less random than the likes of Mario Kart, and being granted some measure of recourse makes it less frustrating when someone sends you hurtling to the back of the racing pack.
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And when the screen is packed with racers -- up to twenty at a time -- Blur becomes wonderfully chaotic, the screen filling up with tumbling vehicles and splashes of neon. The game's slick presentation elicits memories of Motorhead, DICE's futuristic 1998 racer, and its on-screen (and on-car) HUD elements bring to mind Split/Second, another arcade racer slated for launch in May.

The handling of Blur's licensed vehicles feels surprisingly heavy for an arcade racer, though immediately familiar to those who played developer Bizarre Creations' last franchise, Project Gotham Racing. Drifting through sharp turns can help cut off a few seconds from your lap time (vital if you're trying to catch up!), provided you aren't aggressive enough to use someone else as a bump-'n'-go impact cushion. Actually, just do that.

Based on the multiplayer beta (which should be activated for all key-holders by the time you read this), Blur's online component looks to be its biggest draw. Switching between gametypes and active lobbies is a simple process, and you never have to spend much time fiddling with settings before the countdown runs out and automatically transports you into the next environment. Vote on the next track, change paint jobs and hop off the conveyer belt when you're done for the day.

When you're truly "done" is a limit you might push back a few times, however, as Blur apes Modern Warfare in giving you experience (or fans, in this case) for all your actions in a race and, consequently, unlocking new vehicles and mods. There are four mod templates available, and each can be altered with different mods for a custom loadout. You can increase collision damage, change the radius of certain power-ups or ... well, the more you play, the more options you'll gain.

A few more on-track options would have increased variety (more power-ups, in other words), but right now, the narrower scope gives Blur a balanced feel. The multiplayer beta should help with Bizarre's fine-tuning of both the racing action and its robust online system, which we hope is replicated in its entirety for the PlayStation 3 version.

We know at least 7,500 Joystiq readers are playing should hopefully start playing the game by the end of the day, so be sure to let us know what you think while you let Bizarre know what to tune up.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.