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Impressions: Blur

Kevin Kelly

We took a look at Bizarre Creations' racer Blur recently, and while we didn't get to put our hands on it, we were some of the first people to see actual gameplay. The team is attempting to make racing a lot more accessible to people who aren't into the fine-tuning aspects that have invaded racing games over the past few years, and they want to make it fun for anyone to pick up and play with easy to use controls and arcade-style graphics.

Find out what the game looks like, and exactly how they planning on leveling the playing field for racers. Hint: it doesn't involve blue shells and banana peels ... but it's fairly close.

Gallery: Blur | 17 Photos

The development team feels like racing has become inaccessible and is starting to stagnate.

Blur is definitely not anything along the lines of Bizarre's own Project Gotham Racing, because the development team feels like racing has become inaccessible and is starting to stagnate, which they partly blame on themselves. Designer Ben Ward from Bizarre told us, "If you don't know how to hit apexes or tune your car the right way, you're going to have trouble just picking one up and playing it. We wanted to work on something that was outside the confines of our existing franchise. There hasn't really been a mainstream, exciting accessible racing game in quite awhile."

They also cite "racer frustration" as one of the reasons they wanted to go in this decidedly much more arcadey direction. "If you don't hit the first corner the right way and crash into the barrier, you'll start and restart and try it again ... that's the frustration we want to address with Blur. We're trying to push racing into a brand new area. It's less about technical precision and more about the emotion and excitement of racing." That's definitely a frustration we can understand, and most people seem to cope with it by quitting immediately, or turning around and racing the opposite direction in the hopes of causing a massive crash.

"You won't get any big blue shells flying overhead to knock someone out."

So they're trying to make a racer that's both fun and intense, and where you won't have someone lapping you by five minutes and boring you to tears.. How do they plan on doing that? By having a lot of in-game powerups that affect either your own car, or knock your enemies all over the place. Sort of like Mario Kart on steroids, although the powerups won't be cartoonish in nature, "You won't get any big blue shells flying overhead to knock someone out." One that they showed off several times to us was "Barge," which shoves your opponents to either side. Imagine Moses parting the red sea and then driving a tricked-out chariot up the middle.

Craig from Bizarre took us through the Hackney racing level, which is in a non-posh part of London. The track featured wide venues with multiple alternate routes, and there were plenty of items lining the course that will slow you down if you run into them: road barriers, signs, and so on, although he mostly stuck to the middle and Barge-d everyone out of the way. Other tracks we sure shown very briefly included Europe and California, and while they didn't reveal a final number, we're sure they'll be fairly global.

Other powerups include "Nitro," which obviously boosts you along, a "Mine" that you can drop behind you to slow people down, and "Shock" which sends out a targeted EMP pulse that will shut an opponent's engine off for a few seconds. We still aren't sure what the one teased at the end of the trailer is, which looks a bit like the car-hop move the Mach 5 could do in the technicolor movie mess that was Speed Racer.

Blur also features a storyline loosely based on illegal street racing, and there's a fake "social network" built into the game that has all of the other NPC racers in it, and you'll receive text messages from them (in-game) to see who's a friend, who's a foe, and so on. You can drop into the social network between races where the other characters will be IMing and talking to each other (and you) about your last race, and you'll also be able to access the network out of game via a web interface. Each racer also races different, and will use powerups in their own style: some of them are very aggressive, some are defensive, and others use a mix of both.

As expected, the game looks fairly slick, given Bizarre's pedigree: there's a lot of bright colors and motion blur streaks from taillights and headlights in each race, along with a throbbing techno soundtrack and chattering quips from the other NPC racers that are context-specific. Knock a guy off the track with a powerup and he's going to have something to say about it later. It features 20 car multiplayer on Xbox Live and PSN, as well as four-player offline splitscreen. It's coming to the PC as well, although the developers didn't tell us what the multiplayer plans are for that platform.

They're aiming for a Fall 2009 ship date, and it will be fully playable on the show floor at E3, so look for more soon!

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