BlazeRush from Targem Games is billed as a dynamic arcade racing survival game, which, beyond creating the new DARSG moniker, translates to a futuristic vehicular combat game that takes inspiration from games like Rock ‘N” Roll Racing, Mashed, and the almighty Micro Machines. As a budget downloadable title with an emphasis on multiplayer the question is whether it’s capable of capturing the same frantic energy that its forebears did.
Straight out of the gate BlazeRush looks like fun. Loading up the game takes you to a title screen and menu with in-game footage running in the background, showing the absolute best that you can expect to see: chaotic races with a variety of unusual vehicles smashing into and attacking each other.
You can choose from the single player career mode or the party mode which offers either couch or online competition. Selecting career takes you to your first races which aim to teach you the mechanics of the game. Control is incredibly straightforward, with your vehicle’s speed and heading controlled by the direction of the left thumbstick. In addition you can collect various types of nitro power-ups to provide boost, and different weapon drops to gain firepower from the opening machine gun, through to circular saws and heat seeking missiles.
Nitro drops only appear behind the leader to prevent an unfair advantage and to keep races competitive, and competition is what drives the whole title. The screen stretches to a certain extent in an attempt to keep everyone in the action, but if you fall too far behind the field you’ll simply warp back into contention just like in Micro Machines.
Progression through the career mode is unlocked via winning cups, with each race offering up to five cups depending on a top three finish and two additional objectives. You also gain points and medals for achieving different in-race tasks, such as opponent kills, being the first to score a hit or successful boosts through the pack. Those points are used for unlocking new racers and vehicles, and the two systems tie closely in with each other, as success on the track generally nets you the most cups and the highest points.
The racing action is frantic, with wins always hard fought. The game is designed to always have you in contention until the last straight, and whilst this could promote frustration it’s generally an enjoyable and surmountable task. Much like other entries in the genre the viewpoint dictates that all of the vehicles must stay relatively close together. It’s a rare occurrence to see someone shoot off into the lead on their own, and when they do it’s a short lived event.
As anyone who played Micro Machines will tell you, the problem with this style of viewpoint is that whoever is in the lead ends up driving against the edge of the screen, leaving you to use your memory and on the onscreen map to work out where you’re going. The saving grace there though is that the map is both centrally placed and clearly visible, not that that this is a completely satisfying answer to the problem.
The futuristic location sees you travelling to different planets, with the career mode progressing across the galaxy as the corporation tries to stop illegal races like the ones you’re taking part in. You start on a junkyard planet, before moving onto a lush jungle location with overgrown ancient looking stone tracks. Other tracks take in lava, ice and alien fauna, with all of the locations well realised and well styled, though they’re nothing you haven’t experienced in other science fiction games and films.
The game offers a decent selection of vehicles and characters at 16, ranging from futuristic muscle cars, through flying saucers and heavy treaded tanks. They’re all relatively well detailed and also have a distinct chunky style which I really enjoyed. Each vehicle has varying statistics broken down into mass, acceleration and handleability, and they are all satisfyingly different. I personally found more success with the lighter vehicles with higher acceleration, and in my time online these seemed to be the most popular vehicle type with very few opting for the slower heavier ones despite their robust nature under fire.
Regardless of the successful style of the in-game vehicles and tracks, some of the painted artwork in the menus is a little amateurish in comparision and doesn’t gel with the rest of the game. The issue is less obvious when viewing the pre-race dialogue, with the character avatars looking solid and colourful, but overall it’s a disappointment when the main game is so well realised.
The racing is broken up by various different modes beyond straightforward combat. The most common one is the eliminator mode, where a giant mechanical steamroller chases the racers along the track through multiple rounds of eliminations, earning points depending on where they managed to remain in the pack. The rounds are cumulative, and keep going until someone reaches the score cap of 15. Luckily, as this is the most common mode, it’s also the most fun, with plenty of frantic action bringing healthy doses of both pleasure and pain, and with the repeated rounds I never felt too hard done by which I sometimes did in the normal races.
Other modes include a King Of The Hill one, where you have to hold first place for a total of 50 seconds, as well as time trials where you’re out on the tracks alone with unlimited use of the boost function. One race type that was immediately hateful was the night races which saw you trying to race in near black conditions. This was a mode that should have been left on the cutting room floor, as there is literally no fun to be had when you can’t see pick-ups, corners or other cars and rivals, leaving success to pure luck and causing me to become uncontrollably angry. Fortunately for my sanity and my Dualshock they only appear a few times in the space of the career.
BlazeRush is a fun time-sink that really comes into its own when you have human competition. Despite a few problems, some of which are indicative of the genre, it makes a superb party game which allows you to cause grief to other players, with very little capable of beating that sensation of a well timed hit or boost as you sail past your friends. It could have probably benefitted from a longer career mode and more variety in the tracks but as a budget priced title BlazeRush is a great arcade racer with plenty of fun on offer.
Version reviewed: PS3