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6 Reviews

Blur

Distance left to run

Call of Duty: Modern Carfare, then. That's what we're quoted as calling Blur on its big old adverts doing the round this month - and, to be fair, that's only because we were bored of comparing it to a grown up version of Mario Kart.

But the FPS comparison is justified. Bizarre Creations' surprising spin-off from the comparatively straight-laced PGR series is full of depth, sporting more online functions than Ashley Cole's mobile and, in plenty of moments, delivering heart-pounding action scenes as intense as any we've seen in gaming.

Kart attack
After a year of umm-ing and err-ing, Bizarre Creations has picked its side of the racing fence: Blur is a battle game, through and through. Expect to swear a lot, lose first place inches from the finish line and have a barrel of laughs with your mates in four-player splitscreen.

Zoom

It's a good choice from the PGR house. Early versions of Blur revealed a Frankenstein racer clearly torn between its goal of reaching a new audience and keeping the studio's hardcore driving fans happy. In trying to please everyone, it satisfied no-one.

The final product is a far better defined beast; power-ups have been honed and pushed to their explosive potential, plot and narrative have been sidelined for an immediate, streamlined experience and - best of all - the boxed game really is a racing game for everyone. It's frantic, unpredictable - and you never know who's going to win until the final second.

All of Blur's electric power-ups can pretty much be translated directly to Mario; Shunt works like a red shell, Mine is a banana, Shock is a blue shell and Nitro is of course a mushroom - there's even the ability to drop a fake power-up.

While this doesn't exactly shake up the genre, it succeeds where most of Nintendo's competitors have failed in the past; in delivering a satisfying, accessible and bloody good fun core mechanic.

Firing a Shunt from your jarringly realistic-looking BMW feels powerful and satisfying, sending your target exploding into a violent, sparking barrel roll of death. Just like Mario's red shell, you can also send it firing backwards, right into your opponent's face - an added layer of depth found in all of Blur's power-ups and crucial to the enjoyment.

Mines - unlike the rubbish WipEout tin cans found in early builds - come in the form of a big, angry black hole which erupts in a burst of flames upon impact. Bolt, meanwhile, delivers the simple and satisfying act of nailing your fellow racers 'green shell style' on the tailside, sending them spinning out via actual physics.

Zoom

Thankfully, Blur's toys are as balanced and strategic as they are satisfying. In a twist on the Mario formula, players can hold up to three power-ups at once and switch them on the fly.

Success on the track then is all about holding on to the right power-ups at the right time; keeping a Shield to deflect incoming fire when you're ahead, or a Repair in case you get bashed to bits (when your health depletes to zero, you'll explode and respawn).

Even the game's answer to the blue shell, Shock, involves some strategy. Instead of blasting down on the leader's head, the move shoots three bolts of light ahead of first place, meaning that if you're good enough you can try to weave in and out of them, thus avoiding a nasty EMP.

Power rangers
With a good, core combat system in place, then, Bizarre's also made lots of good decisions on the road. Probably the most crucial is the decision to sacrifice visual fidelity to put 20 cars on the track at once - a choice that results in a far more intense game; one arguably more so than even Disney's contender, Split/Second.

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