March 7, 2010

Lazy Sunday – My Weekend is a Blur

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 9:59 am

Lazy Sunday
Explaining how the multiplayer beta for Blur took up so much of my weekend has been a bit of a challenge, particularly with other editors who dismissed the game after previews last year – I don’t blame any of them because I earnestly couldn’t have cared less about the game myself.

Activision’s PR suit pitches of WipEout on wheels and Mario Kart for adults did little to change my interest, which flatlined completely when I heard hype cycles about Blur doing for online racing what Modern Warfare did for the online FPS. Blur offers up a leveling system that increases as completed races earn players fans, offering access to new vehicles and levels, and also coupled with the ability to modify how certain power-ups work, but I wouldn’t go calling it Modern Warfare Kart Racing just yet.

An Editor from another site talked me into at least trying the game, and about 50 races later there’s a few points worth mentioning.

Lazy Sunday
Racing around the beta’s few tracks convinces a very physical experience. The weight of the race gets through the controller, with every track throwing in a couple of obligatory suicide turns that require some apt drifting, giving the emergency break some love while pivoting just enough to maintain a momentum without spinning out – sometimes it’s easier to just smash into the wall.

While you’re attempting to do this, other players are firing bolts, explosives that flip your car into the air, or just ramming into you. Combat feels heavy and heated without slowing down the perpetually high speeds, and cars slide nicely over the pavement while giving just enough bounce when you slide off-road to make the experience something fun in the arcade fashion with slivers of believability peeling off the tires.

I think a lot of my enjoyment owes to the fact that I’ve recently stopped neglecting LIVE, so jumping into a race with ten others is new to me all over again. When some kid pulls ahead and laughs through his headset, it’s so damn satisfying to fire a “shunt” up his ass and watch the wreckage flip into the air. And that’s the point of addiction for me this weekend, the constant chain of events that can work in my favor, the little battle narratives that sometimes make it appear as if I’m a talented racer, obviously ignoring the times I looked like a tool.

Lazy Sunday
Blur lacks the sophistication of WipEout, but gains something more immediately accessible from that void. When I recall a great WipEout race, it’s often the subtle narrative of two ships dancing around one another while seeking out the raceline, using the track as well as the ship in a harmony that inherently leads to victory. WipEout’s weapons are a lottery system that hands potential opportunities over to fate, keeping that element a sidedish that doesn’t replace skill.

Blur on the other hand really does go after the immediate Mario Kart satisfaction zone, where the course of the race is determined entirely by the events caused by those around you. Knowledge of the track is handy, but the immense availability and range of weapons often means that sloppy racing can still place a player in the top tier.

If you fall behind in a game like WipEout early, the race is often over, versus several times within Blur where I was able to fight my way back from last place through power-up management. I particularly love moments where I can use a speed burst to get into the leader pack and hit them all with “barge” simultaneously.

The cars can hold three power-ups, so you always want to keep a defensive and offensive weapon on hand, but also leave space for speed boosts. The focus is on defense and evasion toward keeping the lead, and the game always offers a way to accomplish this, taking a good chunk of the cheapness from Mario Kart out of the equation.

Lazy Sunday
One of the open races dumps 20 players onto the track, which is a complete clusterf**k, wherein the entire track seems to explode with carnage and all you can do is try to dodge the storm.

Blur’s problem is that it doesn’t do anything so drastic as to justify its existence in a way that leaves me craving the full game, because its tracks and tricks are just nowhere near enough to fill a disc with anything I’d play for very long. It’s the people that make this mediocre game fun, the by the numbers cloned design running through the whole of it only really working when a pack of crazed gamers give it life. I’m never going to spend the time racing alone at night that I have with WipEout trying to improve racetimes and learn every last second-cutting curve of the track.

I will say that this multiplayer beta is an excellent taste of something that could be hot for a time, which is where the problem with the game’s publisher emerges, because there’s no way in hell Activision would just release the game as an online battle racer. Possibly wiser and more progressive would be releasing a disc version with their tacked on levels as well as a download only multiplayer version – like they should have for Modern Warfare 2. Of course this would deprive them of the full ticket price, so I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

What we’re left with is a multiplayer experience that could be worth our time if you didn’t have to buy a whole bunch of other crap – which makes me appreciate just how good a deal WipEout HD really is all over again.

Goodnight sweet Blur, we’ll always have this beta.

You can check out the beta starting tomorrow if you have a 360 and grab a beta key, which should be easy to come by since every site on earth has been bombarded by them, including 4cr and Tiny Cartridge. If you do check it out, let me know what you think of the drifting. It felt rather good letting the back end of the car slide a bit before gunning it again and feeling some spin while pushing forward, but I’d like some more opinions.

Lazy Sunday
The Blur party took a back seat to a Miyazaki fest, which began with the release of Ponyo last week, and has continued thanks to the re-release of Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and My Neighbor Totoro. Totoro was last night’s pick, the Miyazaki film I had never seen before, filled with a grinning catbus and signature forest spirits, and some surprisingly superior English voice-work in sync with the roots of animation marvels that shimmer through every subsequent release from Studio Ghibli.

I don’t know how it comes to be that a man decides to dedicate his life to bringing more magic into the world, it’s one of those situations where I instinctively want to proclaim that we desperately need more like him, but then I wonder if the scarcity of such wonders are an essential part of the magic?

The rest of the weekend has been a test of gaming endurance, squeezing in more time with the DLC for Valkyria Chronicles, along with Greed Corp, and Resident Evil 5’s Desperate Escape, which all deserve posts of their own.

If I can meet that challenge while finally finding a copy of the much hyped Deadly Premonition and surviving the March release rush, then I might let diet and teeth whitening ads carpet bomb the front page so I can put in for that raise I’m dreaming of – or maybe one of those ads that covers the front page entirely so you can’t even see it, those are fucking awesome!

Parting thoughts from the category of things I didn’t know – one can purchase a catbus in varying forms, and on the gaming front, how the little game that could handles being the big game of immense expectations should be one of the more interesting revelations on the horizon.


  1. I always thought for instance that Final Fantasy was not possible without Miyazaki. At the same time, there is no game out there (to my knowledge) that manages to express an enchanted and living world quite the way that Miyazaki (especially My Neighbour Totoro) does it. As I’ve said before – nobody today seems to know how to make a game for a kid.

    Comment by Chris Lepine — March 7, 2010 @ 10:13 am

  2. I wonder if I could suggest Yoshi’s Island as a direct videogame attempt to follow that same path, and the original Boy and his Blob as more of a bridge between some of those elements and videogames?

    At anyrate, we’ll soon have a Miyazaki game, for better or worse.

    Comment by Jamie Love — March 7, 2010 @ 11:43 am

  3. Are any of those Studio Ghibli films, besides Ponyo out on Blu-ray? I’d grab a couple for sure if they were.

    Also: Zombies in Metal Slug 3 are no fun. Giant Enemy Crab Boss however… SUPER RAD FUN!

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — March 8, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

  4. Sadly they were not on Bluray. Still, couldn’t resist, they are very nice 2-disc sets, and far less expensive than Ghibli films usually are.

    Comment by Jamie Love — March 8, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

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