So I’ve been a fan of video games in general for almost three decades, and in that span, my most beloved games have generally fallen into one of three main categories … shoot ‘em ups, fighting games and driving games. (Sports games were later.)
And of the three, driving games always held a special place in my imagination. Maybe it was because my family took so many roadtrips when I was a toddler, but my first memories of childhood wish-fulfillment always centered around cars and motorcycles. Matchbox and Hot Wheels were big names for me back then. (So was Hard Drivin’…seen below)
I remember being excited over the possibility of going to the special school that taught “the Suzuki method.” My excitement turned to disappointment when I found out the Suzuki method was a way of learning the violin. I thought for sure I was going to learn how to ride a motorbike.
As the video arcades of my youth gave way to the various generations of consoles in my teenage years and into my twenties, most of the driving games that I encountered followed the typical video game development arc — better hardware meant better graphics, more production elements (layered storylines, voice acting, motion-capture, etc.) to create a more immersive, wow-ain’t-it-cool experience.
Of course, the other side of the coin was the interactive multiplayer experience.
And sadly, most of the great driving console titles that I’ve played have been either cool multiplayer experiences or great immersive experiences, but rarely both.
Today I played the demo for Blur on Xbox Live, and I’m telling you, it’s the most amazing race experience I’ve had in a long time.
I’m saying race experience, because for all of the great things I’ve appreciated about both the Need For Speed franchise, and more recently the Burnout franchise (culminating in the excellent Burnout Paradise), the racing in those games seemed to take a backseat to other more interesting gameplay variants. Even in stellar titles like Midnight Club L.A., all of the customization and the emphasis on the immense, detailed environment makes the racing seem almost like an afterthought.
But not here.
Essentially the gameplay mechanic of Blur takes the normal first person racing experience and throws in a series of road-accessible power-ups. These weapons, boosts, shields, EMPs and other goodies provide a good amount of variety, and turn what would normally be a simple exercise in reflexes into a series of split-second strategic decisions that translate into vehicular combat at blistering speeds.
As a result, Blur has the eye candy shiny visuals of a modern racer, but the soul of a throwback arcade game. Some have likened it to the love child of Playstation’s Twisted Metal and N64′s Mario Kart. (Or, if you wanna go really old-school, a blend of Super Sprint and Roadblasters.) It’s an adrenaline-laced frenzy of barreling and boosting, skidding and shunting, crunching and crashing. It’s like a NASCAR demolition derby.
It’s tons of fun.
And the best part is… it’s free!
Well, not exactly… the game doesn’t release until May. But the demo is available on Xbox Live, and if the demo is this much fun, I can’t wait to see what the real thing is gonna look like. In the meantime check out the trailer below: