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Score: 82%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Bizarre Creations
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1; 2 - 4 (Split-Screen); 2 - 20 (Online)
Genre: Racing (Kart)/ Action

Graphics & Sound:
Blur is pretty damn hard. I'm no pro at racing games, but can at least hold my own. With Blur, though, it's not just about finding the right lines or hitting the perfect drift - you have to learn to dodge all manner of projectiles as well.

The number of real-world cars available in Blur is mind-blowing and beyond anything I expected. There are mid-line consumer cars like the Ford Focus, as well as high-end deals like the Audi R8. There's even room for old beater trucks and the VW Bug. All look great and give Blur an almost sim-like visual appeal. Then it goes all rave on you.

While Blur looks any other racing game at the outset, there's a neon-infused vibe running through everything. Power-ups and track indicators are brightly colored and look like signs you would see in a nightclub. It's a cool look, if not a bit dated. Still, Blur has style.

Music and sound aren't memorable. There's music playing in the background, but you won't hear much of it. Power-ups fly all over the map, creating lots of bright fireworks and loud noises.

For all its frustrations, Career Mode is a blast. Races are distributed between opponents who rule each circuit. Your main goal is to collect Lights (victory points) and unlock new circuits to race. Earning Lights is a pain, though Blur includes a number of other ways to keep you motivated. The main push is through earning fans. Even if you lose a race, certain on-track actions earn fans.

Fans are nothing more than a few numbers on a generic bar, but seeing your fan count grow after even a bad performance provides some sense of progression. More fans equal higher levels, which unlock new cars. There's a bit of an imbalance between unlocking cars and moving through circuits, though you never feel stuck at any time.

Completing circuit challenge will also unlock new cars, providing further motivation. In order to unlock "boss" cars, you need to challenge them to one-on-one races. The only way to do this is by fulfilling challenges -- using certain items, meeting a set time on a specific track - during races. Considering how many times you'll hit certain tracks, it's usually easy to accomplish requests and win a challenge. There are, however, goals that require near-perfect conditions, so don't expect to unlock every challenge quickly.

Modern Warfare's multiplayer heavily influences Blur's multiplayer component. Similar to single-player, multiplayer is built around earning fans. More fans equals higher levels and better cars. At level 50, you can choose to stick with your current stats, or enter Legend Mode. Unlocks reset, but you're granted access to a special Legend car.

Once again, Blur is hard and will provide a challenge on even the easiest of difficulty levels. A.I. is brutal and will bully you around the track, usually knocking you from first to last within a matter of seconds. There are ways to block and avoid weapons, though when you have two - three projectiles screaming your way, it's impossible to get around them all. Most races are a game of "Protect the Leader (...as long as it's not the player)."

Races with fewer cars are more manageable than those with 20 participants. Even with the ability to launch neon-colored missiles, getting to the front of the pack when everyone is gunning for you is a pain. Larger races cemented my belief that all racing games should give the player some chance at a better spot in the line-up. In Blur, you always start in the back and until you unlock faster cars, you're screwed most of the time.

In the slim chance you manage to get ahead, opponents will laser in with weapons and gain an uncanny amount of speed. Blur's rubber banding is insane, especially when matching up against bosses. It's impossible to get a good, clean victory. You have to work for everything.

Game Mechanics:
Career events are fun. In addition to normal race modes, there are modes like Destruction, where you shoot enemies and earn points. As you progress through the mode, cars gain the ability to fight back, adding a fair bit of quick decision-making. Cars that shoot back will usually land a blow, but offer more points. I like this sort of thing, and wish it carried through the entire single-player game better.

Power-ups include both defensive and offensive capabilities. Most can be launched in front and behind your car, giving you the ability to knock out someone ahead of you, or try and stave off someone gaining ground. It's a cool idea, particularly since power-ups are really well balanced. There's an impressive amount of tactical depth, though you really won't have much of a chance to think about how to best use power-ups in larger races. Usually it's a matter of just shooting something and hoping it hits.

Multiplayer matches are chaotic, but fun. Unlike A.I. matches, you always have a chance to at least place in the top three and power-up strategies mean a little more. Some players will fall back on blind-fire techniques and succeed, but there's more strategy in how items are used.

If the A.I. were better balanced, Blur would stand a real shot at being the go-to racing game it wants to be. As it stands, single-player is really just an exercise in grinding and unlocking. If that's your thing, Blur has you covered. If not, unless you love multiplayer racing games, you can skip out on Blur.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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