While the Project Gotham Racing games we’re winding down, the developer behind those games – Bizarre Creations – was more than happy to move on to a different game with a completely different set of rules. Taking what they learned from making the Project Gotham Racing games and applying that knowledge in a very different way by marrying them with some of the tenants of the kart racing genre, the fascinating racing game Blur was born.
A very apt name, seeing as the game’s speed and unbridled ferociousness could easily create a blurring effect for the mind, but more interestingly, the game would blur the lines between the more cartoony and kid-friendly kart racing games and more realistic racers that had more in common with Need for Speed in its presentation than anything else. Blur was a game that didn’t really set the world on fire when it launched. Despite having a pretty interesting hook and a lot of reasons to play it over other games, it still struggled to maintain a fan base in the way that the game wants you to do within its own mechanics. But why is that? Why would a game being developed from a team that clearly knows what they’re doing in the racing genre that had a lot of interesting ideas that made it stand out from the crowd right off into the distance so fast, never to be heard from again? What the hell happened to Blur?
2010 was a big year for racing games. Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, which is still regarded as one of the franchise’s best games, also came out that year. Along with Gran Turismo 5, Split/Second, and of course Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. So odds are, even if you never heard of Blur, there would be at least one game out of those 4 that would be a good choice for you as they all ran the gamut of the racing genre pretty well. Hot Pursuit had much of the market cornered at the time with it being the smash it that it was, Split Second had much of the fans of arcade racers that wanted something a little wackier, Sonic Racing was a surprisingly excellent kart racing game, and of course Gran Turismo 5 had the simulation market pretty much all to itself at the time. In this set of circumstances, it’s hard to see where a game like Blur would fit.
This is a tough environment for a game like Blur to thrive in, as it wasn’t really a definite member of any one camp, but rather a hybrid of them all. While the idea behind and the execution of Blur was certainly a compelling package, with a fairly steep learning curve, a Need For Speed look, and kart racing mechanics all rolled up into one game, it ended up being hard to say exactly who Blur was for. If you weren’t a fan of any one of those elements, Blur might not have been a good choice for you at that time, and you would be better off with any of the 4 other major racing games that came out that year. Some games certainly benefit from the “all of the above” mentality, but others can just as easily suffer from trying to please too many audiences at once, or at least the perception of trying to do so, and at that time, to some, Blur easily came off as something that wasn’t quite sure what it wanted to be, despite that not really being an issue ultimately.
On top of all of that, Blur also wasn’t really the spotless and outstanding racing game that many seem to remember it as. Most who were able to get their hands on the game and give it the time it deserved would ultimately enjoy the game for what it was. But with the drifting being as touchy as it was, and the races being packed with the better part of 20 different notoriously aggressive racers who are all constantly shooting each other with bombs, laying mines, and using other weapons, the races would often devolve into an utter chaos that merely surviving could quickly fall out of reach, let alone winning them on a consistent enough basis to advance in the game. Online matches would exaggerate these elements of course. While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of this, it’s easy to see a lot of players passing it up in favor of something else with more refinement.
Mainstream gaming critics weren’t exactly loving it either, with the game raking in a lot of 8s and 7s, which, again, aren’t bad scores, but when put up against the 9s and 10s of its contemporaries, many racing fans would spend their hard-earned money on something else. That said, Blur still had a lot going for it in other areas. The 4-player local split screen was a nice touch and the various battle modes and other peripheral ways to play the game were fun enough, but given that the main experience didn’t really knock any one of its ideas out of the park the way that other racing games were doing at the time spelled a quick death for Blur as well as their developer, Bizarre Creations, which was shut down the following year by Activision. Blur never really offended anyone in any one area enough to warrant such a quick death, but with the stiff competition it was up against and only so many racing fans to go around in 2010, it needed to be more than a good game to survive among so many great ones.
Bizarre Creations believed in their game though and immediately started production on a sequel to Blur after the first one launched. According to Nick Davies of Bizarre Creations, Blur was completely intended to be a franchise that would take on the likes of Need for Speed and other long-standing racing IPs. Supposedly it was the online components of the game that would give it the “slow burn” effect and keep the series alive, but all of this was thrown out the window when the studio was closed and the sequel to Blur was cancelled. No sustainable rumors of a sequel have ever surfaced since. A mobile spin-off game would eventually hit Android devices in the form of Blur: Overdrive in 2013, but as you might expect this wouldn’t generate nearly enough buzz to resuscitate the dormant IP.
Blur really is one of those cases where, had it launched at a different time and perhaps with a slightly different set of ideas, it could have easily gone on to become the franchise that it was so clearly intended to be. On paper the idea for Blur is a really interesting one. It’s got a slick presentation, and overall comes together quite nicely. It’s a pretty good racing game that fans of the genre can easily dump many hours into. But the deadly combination of abnormally stiff competition, a handful of nitpicks holding it back from greatness, and a publisher that had little patience for sluggish sales would ultimately prove to be too much for the game and the studio behind it. All these years later despite the game staying pretty relevant among fans of racing games that don’t mind digging into their library of decade old games every now and then, the game Blur has become just that; a hazy memory that only exists in the fuzzy edges of gaming antiquity. Could we see a revival of the game one day? Anything is possible, but I don’t recommend hanging your hat on this one.
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