Saturday, January 28, 2012

Blur and Split Second


Blur.

No, it's not a commentary on slowly failing vision.  It's a video game and a bit long in the tooth  by Internet standards having been released in 2010.  It and a similar offering from Disney called Split Second have recently been occupying the time that should have belonged to Flatout 3.  Read my previous post to find out why that didn't happen.

I've never played Mario Kart, mostly because I don't play games on consoles but from other reviews I've found, Blur and Split Second are a less whimsical version of that game.  In a nutshell, you race around a track, collect powerups and try to take out your opponents. 

The overall look and feel of both are reminiscent of the old Test Drive (Pre Unlimited) PC games with textures and car modeling more reminiscent of good anime than simulation.  If you're looking for a Shift 2 competitor look elsewhere.  Both of these games fall squarely into the realm of an arcade racer.  There's no pretense that they're anything else which is refreshing considering the ambiguity the Need For Speed franchise introduced into racing games until the release of the first Shift title.

Car control can be a little vague but no worse than any other arcade racer.   If you're used to Need For Speed you'll likely be a bit annoyed at first since car control in those games always walked the line between arcade and simulation.  That formula doesn't apply to Blur or Split Second so consider yourself warned.

Gameplay involves racing events for both single and multiplayer modes with powerups distributed throughout the track that allow you to attack your competitors.  In the case of Blur you can collect anything from fireballs that chase down your intended victim to car repair bonuses to let you continue on when you've been damaged. 

Split Second is similar except that powerups are less varied but far more dramatic.  Activation of a powerup can do anything from cause an explosion in front of your opponents to dropping a building on them.  While there is less variety in your available arsenal the level of damage that can be caused is directly proportional to how long you allow the powerup to charge before unleashing it.

Blur has a good selection of tracks as does Split Second.  Points are awarded in both for where you place in the race and how much damage you do.  Blur allocates style points reflected in how many "fans" you get at the end of the race. You get more fans the more flamboyant your driving style.  Fans also allow you to get different vehicles to race. 

The premise of Split Second is a reality show where winning is a matter of survival rather than sport.  With a fully charged powerup gained from performing drifts, jumps and other assorted maneuvers you can literally drop a building on an opponent.  Time it wrong and it'll drop on you as well.

Both games are good looking and so far have good replay value.  They've already become at least a minor staple in the weekly gaming night.  I received Split Second from a friend who picked up a DVD version of it for $10 around the holidays.  I picked up Blur off a Steam sale for around $6.

Both are good value for the money at those prices but I'd never consider paying full retail for them.  They're the kind of title that you like to play regularly but not for any great length of time in one sitting.  Usually after about 2 multiplayer races my friend and I are moving on to something else. 

Aside from unlocking cars or features the interest in the single player campaign doesn't rise to the level of Need for Speed or BattleField 3.  That's probably why these two titles didn't enjoy widespread popularity when they were released. 

Neither title relies on Games for Windows which is a welcome omission considering how the platform cripples otherwise excellent titles like Dirt 2. 

Both titles are basically console ports which means my new XBOX PC controller gets a workout. My friend found a joystick emulator to use his Wingman Attack with Blur, Split Second supports joysticks although not as well as other driving titles.  There is keyboard control available but as with most driving games it's not the ideal choice.

To sum it up, both games are worth every penny you spend so long as that's less than $10.  I've seen worse console ports (Force Unleashed 2 comes to mind) and the console roots don't get in the way of enjoying these titles so long as you're willing to embrace a gamepad or find a joystick emulator.
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