One of my biggest pet peeves when it come to video game reviews is when the author tries to turn the game into a different game and judges based on that standard. When Ars Technica recently reviewed Blur they wanted the game to be a lot more realistic than the developer, Bizarre Creations, ever intended. They focus on the logic of the Blur universe, its similarities to another recent release, and multiplayer community support.
The setting and presentation of the Blur universe is it’s biggest draw, but applying logic to it, misses the point entirely. This is Mario Kart and Wipeout skinned with real cars and placed onto streets inspired by the real world. It is easy to get hung up on the “real” parts of the visuals, but it is only meant to be skin deep. The second you introduce power-ups where you can shoot opponents with neon bolts of energy, realism needs to go out the window. This is a kart racer, and Bizarre Creations has embraced that fact. That means rubber-band AI, cheap opponents, car stats that barely matter, and that luck will win out more than skill. The first time I jumped online against human opponents a VW Beetle won the first 4 races against a variety of more powerful sports cars. If this kind of thing frustrates you, I’m not sure what you were expecting so go play Gran Turismo.
I do agree with Ars Technica on their major point that Blur was released at the wrong time. The fact that both Split/Second and Blur came out within a week of another points to poor planning on both publishers part. Even more curious is why they released them in May when they should have stayed as far away from the Red Dead Redemption as possible. Regardless, anyone who has played both games will realize after the first race that the similarities end with the fact that they are both racing games involving realistic cars. The games feel about as different as a football game does from a basketball game, even though they are both sports games involving realistic players. Split/Second delivers a kick-ass one-time-through single player experience, and while Blur‘s single player is definitely serviceable, its focus is on the perfectly chaotic multiplayer experience. The comparisons between the two games only serve to disservice both of them, as ultimately, the gamer that likes one over the other was only interested in the specific type of experience that game offers.
Bizarre Creations has gone all in on Blur’s multiplayer component. The focus of the online portion initially relies on the gamer’s interest in leveling up their stats to unlock new cars and skill modifications. Competition and bragging rights are going to be what ultimately keep gamers playing Blur, as emphasized with the “leaderboards for everything” mentality that the game promotes almost as hard as their “share” features that are available to message your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and in game for every thinkable milestone. I see Blur breeding a small but dedicated that sticks with the game for a very long time. There are never going to be overwhelming numbers of gamers playing it online (although I expect it to pick up in the next month or so as word gets out), but I have not had a problem finding games in the 4-5 hours that I have played online. Some of the game modes may be sparse, but they are still there and playable.
Game genres are going to continue to diversify, and more niche games that focus purely on a sub-genre will evolve. I get the feeling that Bizarre Creations was able to polish Blur and put most of what they wanted to into the game. Whether it is a financial success, remains to be seen, but when you play the game judge it for what it is not for what you thought it was or could be. These games will be celebrated by their intended audience, and can be ignored by everyone else. I’d much rather have solid, stylized, and self-aware games like Blur in my library than a stack full of generic games that try and please everyone a little without making anyone love it.
It Doesn’t Matter is Horrible Night’s ongoing series of reactions to coverage of the gaming industry.