Review – Blur Multiplayer

(For a review of the single player experience in Blur click here)

Bizarre Creation’s arcade racer Blur capitalized heavily on a pre-release, open multiplayer beta that gave gamers a taste of the exhilarating gameplay they hoped to achieve. One would expect that same feeling would translate to the full multi-player experience, which is merely augmented by additional modes and a more expansive list of cars and modifications. Such an assumption would  be correct, to a point.

The modes from the beta have all migrated to the final product. At the start, “driving school”, powered up, and extreme racing are all available. Driving school serves as a lobby for players from level 1-10, aimed at giving beginners a more friendly atmosphere to race in before dropping into the normal 10 and 20 person racing lobbies. However, in frequent play I’ve seen several players who were above the level 10 cap in the races. It seems that if you rise above level 10 while in that lobby the game does not kick you, though once you leave, driving school is removed from your play list choices.

Along the way you’ll unlock motor mash and a few team modes, both in the racing and motor mash variety. The team modes are the most outrageous of any of the multiplayer offerings and if you have friends who’ve also purchased the game, this is where you want to direct your party.

Team racing sees 20 players split into two teams battling it out for race supremacy. Teams are awarded points depending on each finishing spot in the race (first place 20 points, second 19, etc). At the end, the winning team is determined by the total number of points. Thus, a team can be victorious even if it doesn’t take first position. All of the facets of the normal mode are present, but friendly fire is off so you don’t need to worry about blasting at teammate with a shunt. When a team works in concert the mode  truly shines, but even when the teams are disjoint its still a ton of fun as each small engagement between players is weighed against the larger war.

All of these modes and battles wouldn’t mean much if the venues they took place in were terrible or limited. Such is not the case in Blur. The variation that is present in the offline career mode is equally present. Voting between two choices determines the map each race, though some more specialized lobbies for off-road enthusiasts or racers preferring a certain class of vehicle would have been welcome. This can be done when creating “private” events but in the larger public lobby it doesn’t seem to be an option. Shame.

One way that the game does seek to keep itself fresh is with daily challenges that are unlocked at 12th level.  Completing these provides you with fan boosts which will making reaching level 50 (and the 15 “legendary” levels beyond that) easier.

There is also a nifty little feature that allows you to keep track of an ongoing race if you end up waiting in the lobby room. You can see how far along the race is and have an idea of how much time is left before the next race.

Features like these are just a few of the ways that Blur creates that warm gooey feeling in gamers as you play it. You can’t quite pin down exactly what it is about the game that makes you feel that what, because at its core Blur is not at all revolutionary. The outline of the painting is the same, its just that the way the developers decided to fill in the colors is different.

Warm and gooey feelings are not enough though and as much fun as Blur has, the multi-player does have issues. There are server issues from time to time and within an average play time of two hours, you’ll probably suffer a few dropped races and at least one lock-up pre-race that will require a hard reboot of your system. Should this deter you from purchasing the game, not at all, but the frustration builds when you recognize that this occurred during the beta period and obviously wasn’t adequately dealt with.

Frustration won’t just come from getting booted from a race. It comes into play once the rubber meets the road. A cheap; factor seems inherent to the game, though realistically,its hard to fathom how much of this can actually be levied at Bizarre Creations. You’ll race and find yourself doing everything right, hitting all the corners properly and generally doing well. But time after time you’ll be passed by all your competitors before being blown off the track by 3 or 4 consecutive attacks that seem to come so fast and in such succession that you can’t avoid any of them, let alone recover in-between.  Moments like that might leave you wanting to drop the controller and do something else. The only conclusion I’ve been able ot reach regarding this phenomenon is that the difference between the tiers of cars really becomes apparent when the level differentiation between players is increased. Its not that a lower level player can’t triumph, it’s just the likelihood of it happening without a ton of aggravation is remote. To this end, Blur has virtually no matchmaking system to speak of, it simply drops you into an open spot in a lobby with little regard for the level of each player in that lobby.

One of the other failings of the multi-player offering is the “hardcore” mode. It gives you all the thrill of racing, but with none of the benefits of power-ups. This mode feels completely out of sorts. Blur is built entirely to take advantage of the combative elements provided by the power-ups and the racing itself is too loose to be governed by true skill in the way that a simulation racer is. The absence of power-ups makes the mode entirely incomplete. Plus, anyone who is looking  for a more pure racing experience probably shouldn’t have picked up Blur in the first place.

Multiplayer in Blur could have been an all-time great, but the lack of true stability and the general frustration that seems to come from being thrown to the wolves now and then holds it back as it reduces the fun quotient. That being said, it should not be overlooked. Just be prepared to fling the controller at the wall more than once as you see your smoldering remains careening into the LA harbor off of turn two…again.