Wednesday, May 19, in the suburbs of Paris, Activision offices. Seeing giant posters of David Guetta on every wall is quite a challenge, but I will stop at nothing to try the final version of Blur. And as I’m alone during this session, I’ll be testing the career mode. Well, fine by me!
The way the career mode is built is rather simple: a series of races enables you to earn lights, and as soon as you have enough of them, you can move on to the next series. Each series actually corresponds to one particular opponent you must beat, but before you have a chance to confront him, you have to fulfill a few conditions. From what I’ve seen, it seems to be quite varied. For example you will be asked to “win 4 races with 4 different cars”, “hit 80 opponents with a weapon”, “get 7,000 fans”, etc. Well, let’s get started!
One feature that you only find in the career mode is the presence of 3 distinct objectives to achieve to really complete the race. First things first: rank 1st and you get 5 lights, rank 2nd and you get 4 lights, rank 3rd you get 3 lights. Then you can also have a bonus light if you manage to get enough fans during the race (you get fans when drifting, overtaking, hitting opponents, etc.), and you have another bonus light when achieving the time gates challenge. What’s a time gate? Let me explain it to you. A special icon is placed at a specific spot on the track: drive through it, and a series of slalom doors appears on the track, with a limited time to get from one door to the next. Manage to get through all doors (which is not so easy with 19 slightly aggressive pilots who only want to kick your… rear bumper), and you unlock the time gates bonus light. Let’s face it, it’s not a revolution in driving games, but it’s a nice idea anyway, and it should become more complicated to focus on both the race and the gates with vehicles that are more powerful than the lawn-mowers I was allowed to drive today.
First race, first victory, but, hey, what else is new? Ok, I played in medium difficulty, I could have tried the hard mode, but I'll leave the easy mode for Gamersyde’s moderation staff. I moved on with the second race and I discovered a new kind of race, whose name inspires both subtlety and delicacy: “destruction”. Things are easy here: you have bolts (the little purple lightning bolts), and the goal is to shoot the other vehicles. I you manage to hit your target, you earn points and time. When the time’s up, we look at the score: 80 points and you earn the 5 lights. It’s worth noticing that the 2 additional lights - for fans and time gates - are available in all kinds of races. Speaking of which, I’ve come across a “face to face” (I’ll get back to it) and a “time attack race” which places you alone on the track versus time, à la Outrun. In this event, the only bonuses available are nitros and little chronometers which add a few seconds to the remaining time, and so do the usual check points. End the race with more than 20 seconds left and you get the 5 lights. Once again, quite a classic game mode, but it should keep us away from boredom.
I found myself winning the first 6 races quite easily, while complying with the conditions to face the “boss” (the name’s Natalya... Or not... A girl anyway) of the first level. A face-to-face race on a nice track with deep puddles of water. An easy race in the end, as my opponent disappeared from the track after an impressive overtaking in one of the puddles. Some of you might say it was a bug, I’ll say it’s what happens when you let women drive. The prize for this logical victory: the opponent’s car, which may look like a simple skin of a basic model, but which seems to have its own specific bonuses (one icon looked to me as a quadruple bolt instead of the usual triple bolt). I’m not completely sure as I didn't get the time to try it.
A few words on the split-screen mode which I had the opportunity to try. One thing disappointed me: no multiplayer in split screen while playing online. That’s not cool, but we’ll trust the bots to ensure some competition. I have to admit I never had to complain about their behavior. Rather tough to beat, they thankfully resort to no burnout-cheating (you know, when the AI is like 10 miles behind you but 10 seconds later he’s in your rear-view mirror). Among the good things, let’s mention a fully customizable multi-player mode: you can choose what bonuses are available and their respawn frequency, the strength of the damages (one hit and you’re dead? You can do that!), and of course the class of the vehicles. You want to go on a 9-lap race, bonuses don’t respawn, and you have to think about your strategy. You want to have only mines and no respawn of ruined vehicles, you’ll have to play carefully… or not! On the technical side, I was allowed to try the 3-player split screen mode, and apart from the lack of a rear-view mirror, nothing particularly different from the career mode. Maybe slightly less beautiful? I guess, but not enough for me to notice.
With 15 environments and 35 tracks, a good AI, an impressive network code and a multi-player with 4 players in split-screen, Blur could be a game for lonely gamers as well as Live-addicted no-life ones, and for once also for old-school gamers who prefer beer-pizza-videogames nights with friends. A more than positive feeling as far as I’m concerned, being kind of a big fan of the PGR series. We’ll wait for the review but I sure hope it will confirm my good impressions.