For eons, racing games have forced us to begin their journeys with economy cars. In the new Blur, we must start with what? That's right, a Ford Focus. You drive it on the first track, which is riddled with grass clumps.
A Ford Focus is a fine automobile. But Blur is a futuristic fantasy game. It should start with a rocket car! However, game makers want us to work hard to win races, to unlock fast rides like a Lotus Exige Cup 260 and a Shelby Mustang GT500. They think that will give us a sense of accomplishment.
But guess what? I rented Blur for a test drive to see if I wanted to buy it. Because of the shabby initial track, I almost ejected the game and took it back to the store.
I'm glad I stuck with Blur. It's a spiritual descendent of the Wipeout series, a silly, beautiful, aerodynamic adventure. You drive very fast over many different tracks, steering your vehicle across floating, magical "pick-ups" that give you special abilities.
One magical pick-up is a nitro boost, helping you to rocket past rivals for a few seconds. Most pick-ups are weapons, like mines and bombs you fire at other cars.
This is a quicksilver, sometimes thrilling adventure. You can be in first place until someone bombs you into sixth place. But then you pick up a few turbos and bombs to sprint back into first place. And the online multiplayer couldn't move more fluidly.
Meanwhile, there's another new racing game, Split/Second, that lets you blow up rivals, but not with bombs. In Split/Second, you must drift around corners, and draft behind cars and jump ramps in order to earn points to call in air strikes and other disasters that temporarily befall rivals. Weird, right?
You can blow up city towers to make them collapse onto competitors. You can even force a docked naval ship to fall on a car in front of you. It's kind of cool.
Split/Second is fun, lovingly illustrated and (mostly) superbly designed. But the explosion methodology is slower-paced than Blur. This game is screaming for a turbo boost it doesn't have, and a faster accumulation of blow-up powers.
Plus, stupidly, in the online multiplayer, you can only drive cars you've earned in the offline mission. So if you spend $60 on this game just to go online, you will be racing an economy car against other gamers' rocket cars. Yeah, that won't work out well.
Oddly, I've found Split/Second plays most fun if I ignore explosions and never take my foot off the gas. I win speedily that way, playing it as a straight-up racer.
Bottom line: If you're into crazy blow-up times, then sleek Blur may be your vehicle. If you want to toil at earning explosion achievements, gritty Split/Second might be for you.