Friday, January 25, 2013

A 20/20 Blur

2010 seemed to be a racing season. A great number of new racing games were released, most trying their hand on novel approaches to the genre. But not all GTs are created equal.

Just before Blur I was playing Split/Second so now the comparison is fresh and easy to make. Since both games are more Arcade-racers than Simulators, I decided to do a side-by-side review.

What Blur has over Split/Second:
- Licensed cars. Fantasy cars look great but it is always more satisfying to drive real supercars. Yes, that means you have to start with the obligatory stupid compacts - but good ones get unlocked soon.
- Much better music. Disney simply dropped the ball here, Split/Second is in dire need for some epic music to go with the blockbuster mentality.
- You have a map that shows both your and your opponents' positions, something I would have liked in Split/Second.
- More realistic damage (keyword: "more"). Split/Second crashes are realistically spectacular but you can body-slam anything forever and the only thing that shows are some...scratches. Blur is no simulator but it is more realistic (for a game that offers power-up repairs that is) - unless you dislike driving a car with its rear spoiler hanging out.
- You get a usable rear-view mirror (for as long as you can keep it from cracking). In Split/Second you have to use the NUM-2 to sneak a peak back - and risk crashing since you cannot look both ways.
- No rubber-band AI. You earn a margin, you get to keep it. It may be less thrilling all the time but it saves you the aggravation of driving your heart out only to loose the No.1 position by a cheap pass at the very last second.

On the other hand, this is where I found Split/Second to be better than Blur:
- Much more spectacular driving. Drifting, drafting, jumping and, of course, exploding things is simply so much better than activating a white shield or firing some feeble electric charges.
- Better designed and larger tracks that can even be modified during a race.
- Less complicated. In Split/Second you just drive, drop an exploding truck (or an entire...freeway) onto your opponents and avoid the same happening to you. In Blur you have to choose and pick up power-ups (max of 3), select the next one, aim and fire at your target; you have to pick up and use the repair power-up to maintain the health of your car; you have to drive through a number of yellow gates to win over fans in order to unlock more cars; and then you have to earn lights to advance (I guess it had to be something, but ..."lights"?).
- Customizable controls. Come on Activision, this is not 1995, why do we have to use both ends of the keyboard to drive a car in Blur? Turn left and right with the L/R arrows yet accelerate and brake with the Q- and A-keys? And someone thought this to be such a good idea that there is no customization option? Well, now you know what must be included in the next patch.

Different gamers have, of course, different preferences, so some of the above mentioned aspects may weight differently to everyone. Both games harbor SecuROM disk-checks, so their DRM scheme is comparable.
Nevertheless, in the end, where I think Blur clearly lags behind Split/Second is the pure fun factor. I know this is subjective but I enjoyed Split/Second much more than I did Blur.

I would never though the day would come that I would be recommending a ...Disney game over an Activision one. But life is nothing but full of surprises.

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