Generally I'm one of the best gamers I know. I don't say that to brag -- I say it to provide some context when I say that Blur, the new racer from developer Bizarre Creations (Project Gotham Racing), can be damn hard.
The single-player Career mode in Blur features some brutal A.I. While I was desperately trying to master my drifting skills and just maneuver the game's treacherous tracks, the A.I. was busy launching attack after attack on me at the most inopportune moments. You see, in the world of Blur, despite all its real-world trappings, cars can't just race and see who drives the fastest -- they have to launch weapons at one another as well.
This isn't that big of a problem in the smaller races of up to 10 cars, but in the larger races with 20 opponents, chaos will ensue, making racing frustratingly difficult on the Normal skill level. It's one thing to be a great driver who can pull off awesome turns amidst a swarm of opponents, but it's quite another thing to do so while explosions are going off every few seconds as well. Sometimes the A.I.'s ability to take me from first to 20th place with a barrage of shots just felt downright cheap.
Not that all the Career events were lessons in frustration. I actually enjoyed the Destruction levels, where you have to shoot enemies to gain time and points, and the Checkpoint stages where you're racing against the clock. But I think it's telling that the best levels in the game's Career mode were the ones where you generally were tasked with a single goal like attacking or racing, rather than having to combine the two together as the standard race mode makes you do.
I eventually swallowed my pride and switched it to Easy in the latter portions of the Career mode, but found these races to be too little a challenge. Granted, it made gathering "lights" -- the in-game collectibles you get for placing in a race or for completing specific objectives in an event -- much easier, but the thrill of beating worthwhile opponents was largely lost. Still, If you are going to slog through the single-player to unlock some items, Easy is a good way to go, especially if you want to focus on gathering "fans" by doing tricks and hurting opponents with weapons.
Fans actually play a huge role in Blur, and while they're really just an arbitrary number rather than people you can see, they do give you a nice set of goals to constantly strive for. Fans are gained by driving well, doing specific objectives in a level, or by attacking opponents. You can gain lights for getting a certain level of fans in a given stage, but the primary purpose of fans is to unlock new tiers of cars for your use.
While fans didn't make the racing fun in the face of being blasted repeatedly by my opponents, the constant sense of reward I got from seeing little numbers pop up as I hurt the other drivers, or worked towards some overall goal for my rival, started to scratch that same itch that competitive FPS games like Modern Warfare do. Perhaps with a more balanced A.I., or more options to tune them for a greater variety of skills as, say, other contemporary racing games are doing, Blur could have been an addiction for me.
Not that facing off against humans is much better. Sure, there's something to be said for how much fun it can be smashing your friends with a well placed weapon, but the 20 player online matches quickly devolve into a chaotic mess where getting first is a secondary concern to just trying to survive in the flurry of firearms. Thankfully this is largely not a problem in the game's fun team-based races and battle modes or in the smaller, 10-player races, which are the best way to play Blur online.
If you care about unlocking a bunch of items and doing an experience grind, then Blur's online has you covered, with a host of items and mods -- stat boosting items to help you in combat -- to unlock. To me, a game like Blur is at is best when I'm playing with a few friends, which is why the inclusion of four-player split-screen is