The racing genre is awash with titles which usually slot in to three categories. First there are the super-sims, the likes of Gran Turismo and Forza, games that strive for ultra realistic feel. Then you have arcade titles that sacrifice realism for the sake of high speed thrills, Burnout and Outrun being prime examples. Finally there are the kart racers that throw any sense of realism out of the window and have hedgehogs driving improbable vehicles around tracks that simply could not exist – Sonic & Sega Racing and ModNation Racers fall in to this category.
The new racer from Activision cherry picks from all three categories but does it succeed in creating the ultimate racing game mash-up?
For realism the title has an array of licensed cars from the likes of Audi, Nissan, Dodge, Lotus and Volkswagen and combines these with real world locations. I have just finished racing around the seafront at Brighton and it’s pretty accurate. From the arcade racing games Blur takes its driving – foot down and barge anyone you want out of the way. You can wreck your car if you try very hard but any crashes or impacts results in a bit of a slow down rather than stopping you completely. Finally, Blur swipes the best bit from kart racers – power ups. These range from mines, barge pulses and nitro boosts to a strange effect that drops a load of electrical charges in front of the race leader.
The game can be played in single player career mode, online or best of all as four player split screen. The career mode is pretty similar to any other race game as you complete challenges by winning races and wrecking opponents. Split screen and online races can be customised from various options.
In career mode there are numerous challenges including one on one, full races and a ‘Destruction’ event where you have to keep shooting opponents to win time to play. The main race events have three targets, coming in the top three will win you ‘lights’ which allow to progress further in your career accumulating fan points by attacking other drivers will unlock new cars and during the race you will find a power up that will bring a series of gates up on the track – drive through all these to complete the ‘fan run’.
That’s the explanation gubbins out of the way – what you really want to know is how much fun is the game? It certainly is a wee strange beasty as you wont be firing a great big red ball out of a Audi R8 in GT5. The racing itself is similar to Burnout in that it’s fast and brutal, but unlike Burnout smacking into a wall doesn’t stop you. I love the Criterion racer but after watching your 2000th slo-mo crash I wish you could turn them off.
The power up system works well and tactical use of weapons can swing the outcome of a race in single player but during a twenty player online race things do tend to blur (ho ho) in to an orgy of explosions and weapons fire.
The graphics are good but nothing spectacular and the title is not going to give GT5 any sleepless nights. Detail around the tracks seems to be pretty minimal in order to keep the game running super smooth during the four player spit screen but don’t take that as a criticism, you will be keeping an eye on the car in front of you not the shipping crates you are racing through.
The music is functional tech-trance bobbins but the sound design during the game is particularly nice, reminding me of the Transformers movies. Sadly your hostess for the game sounds like she would rather be doing her hair than explaining your next challenge.
Ten years ago this would have had a huge sit down cabinet, a driving wheel and pride of place in a seafront arcade. It’s a great game for dropping in to for half an hour of frantic racing without having to worry about your engine capacity or what type of tyre to use, your only decision is which enemy to fire you massive homing ball at. I can see the four player split screen being a firm post-pub favourite for XBox owners denied the delights of ModNation Racers.
- Pure arcade racing with real world cars and power ups
- Excellent sound
- Four Player split screen
- Faster than a whippet with a jet pack
- Completely lacking in depth
- Borrows from all racing genres but does not bring anything new.
This is the Michael Bay of racing games – it’s simple, it’s stupid, it’s fast, it’s colourful, it’s wonderfully noisy and it’s not to be taken seriously. The four player split screen is a great addition and the game is perfect to dip in to when you have twenty minutes to spare and fancy a quick fix of racing adrenalin but be warned, Paris Hilton has more depth than this racer.