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Blur

Hands-On: PGR meets Mario Kart?

Blur is the result of Bizarre's mission to "bring the fun back" to the racing genre. It's a faster, less reality-obsessed racer than PGR; 20 licensed cars tear around the track at once, with their headlights painting neon trails through the air and Wipeout-style power-ups shaking the foundations of the Los Angeles storm drain.

Read our interview with lead designer Ged Talbot for much, much more.

After looking closely at the dwindling interest in other realistic racing sims (GRiD is given as one example of an excellent sim "doing nothing" at market), the PGR house decided to swap the technical side of the genre for just the "excitement and emotion" of getting behind the wheel.

Bizarre describes Blur as a game no longer held back by reality. The locations, though set in real-world cities, aren't handcuffed by authenticity.

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One track for example, based on London's Hackney (we're not joking) contains pubs, bridges and estates (one journalist even found his girlfriend's flat) but crucially roads have been flipped and roundabouts moved for a more gameplay-friendly course.

It's a small change on paper but the results are instantly obvious; tearing through Hackney in a Mitsubishi Evo is a swift, 100mph experience compared to the constant 'stop-start' or PGR's tight corners and racing lines.

The new speed and mayhem is emphasised even more in the wide, dusty valleys of a California desert track, which shows off new types of terrain (dirt, mud, water) best suited for bigger vehicles like SUVs and vans.

The neon pack kicks dust in the air like a rabid sandstorm as cars dart through barnyards and watermills, smashing wood and scenery in their wake.

It's almost like a scene from FlatOut, but fans of PGR needn't be too worried as vehicle handling definitely lies very much in Bizarre's traditional arcade territory, and carving perfect racing lines, though not as crucial as in PGR, is an effective method of beating the pack.

The hardcore is also likely to be wooed by the 70 licensed cars on offer, including Evos, Mustangs, SUVs and Bizarre-made concept cars approved especially for the game by manufactures - a first, the studio claims.

With the motors on the track bumped up to 20, Blur is a frantic, collision-filled scramble for the finish. Another crucial change is the removal of PGR's trademark roadside barriers.

Zoom

Drive off the track and instead of a race-ruining crash you're hampered by the odd collision with a bench or bollard. Bizarre compares this to the "grey areas" in F-Zero, but truth be told it also adds a ton of personality to the courses themselves.

It could've done Westminster, it could've done Big Ben, but instead the Blur team decided to go with less obvious choices like Brighton and Hackney for its real-world locations, as well as more obvious choices in Barcelona and San Francisco.

"In PGR we used to hate the gamer," Bizarre boss Martyn Chudley told us during out visit to the studio. "'You've completed this on silver... that's a bit shit isn't it? You should be doing it on gold' We never gave gamers enough reward. Less than 1% of players finished any PGR on platinum. So we thought, why are we focusing on those 1%? Why don't we focus the game on the other 99%?"

And that's where the Mario Kart bit comes in - the power-ups. "The hardcore are going to go 'weapons in a racing game? No'," says designer Gareth Wilson. "It took us three or four months to break out of that 'this is what racing games do' mindset. You're not allowed to have fun in racing games, it's not allowed!"

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