First things first, those expecting something akin to Project Gotham Racing from Blur will be disappointed. Although Bizarre Creations is as the helm of the project, which does feature real-world vehicles, at its heart Blur is a combat racer. It has more in common with Wipeout and Mario Kart than it does with Bizarre’s other racing series, although the dev team is keen to stress to us at the E3 booth that, just because the game features power-ups doesn’t mean you won’t need skill to win in Blur.We get to play a couple of races on an oval track in a dusk setting and we’re immediately struck by the visual style of the game. There are some nice light effects and filters at work, with tracers dancing around a track crackling with electricity, especially when the power-ups start flying. As we start to collect the power ups, we’re told that we can’t treat these things like red shells. See, in Blur there’s an art to power-up use and your timing and position will determine the success of your attacks.
For instance, our first pick-up allows us to shock the car in front with a blue bolt of electricity which slows them down momentarily. Proximity is important here. Sure, we could use it from 20 feet back to gain some ground on the car in front or we could get a little closer, use the shock and then take advantage of that second where the driver loses control to ram them into an obstacle. The Shunt and Barge power-ups require even more thought.Like Shock, Shunt seems to target the car in front and does exactly what it says on the tin. Line up directly behind an opponent, use the power-up and you’ll likely just give him an involuntary speed boost. However, position your car at a slight angle to his and you’ll mess with his driving line, causing him to crash out. Barge works in a similar way, although seems to have an effect on cars to either side of you, which is useful if you find yourself to be the filling in a twat sandwich. The final two power-ups we see are the Mine, which drops an explosive behind you and Boost which equips your car with a small, tactical thermonuclear weapon (I lie; it’s just a speed boost). While the presence of power-ups means there’s a fair deal of foul play going on in most races, that’s not to say you can’t defend yourself in Blur. Every player has a limited number of shields at their disposal, indicated at the bottom centre of the screen. The shield is quick and responsive to use and will protect you from enemy attacks, if timed correctly. Mines are the easiest to defend against as you can see them coming, but the game will also indicate when an enemy is about to use a power up by flashing a red light above their car. Like when attacking, timing is everything and there’s definitely something satisfying about negating an attack and then launching an offensive yourself.The build we saw was pre-alpha, so there’s still a long way to go for Blur but, although the game does nothing revolutionary, we were quite impressed by the art style, the combat racing and the sense of speed achieved through the slick framerate. The promised 20 player races over Xbox LIVE have the potential to be utter mayhem and, so long as Bizarre gets a bit more playful with the track design (no more ovals!) there’s every chance Blur could be a compelling action-racer.