I initially planned to write up my thoughts on Blur by itself. But after playing Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit for a few days, I felt the need to compare the two games. They crossed each other’s paths enough that I couldn’t help but want features from one game and vice versa. Neither was perfect, but my preferences aligned more with Bizarre Creation’s. I respect Criterion’s take on the Need for Speed franchise and would gladly recommend it to those who have been missing those classic cop chases. However, if you want something a bit more “out there” and engaging, I cannot recommend Blur enough.
Stop reading if that’s all the convincing you need. Otherwise, give the rest of this post a good read.
Bizarre Creations gave Blur the neon and electronic/techno beats of Geometry Wars which I absolutely adored. It meshed well with the the stylized approach to real world inspired tracks. The track variety included beaches to metropolitan centers and everything in between. I loved everything about the presentation from their choice of songs to the bright and colorful power ups.
Criterion also gave Hot Pursuit’s world a stylized look. The scenic tracks ran through deserts, small towns and forests which reminded me of the good old Hot Pursuit 2 days a bit. Unfortunately, this installment lacked was variety. What I listed was essentially all the environments that I drove through. Despite Seacrest County being a fictional place, Criterion approached it with an open world mindset and tried to keep it cohesive.
Fortunately there were different times of day and weather to counteract the lack of drastic scenic changes. Drifting in the rain with water spraying from my gorgeously rendered Aston Martin DBS with nothing, but street lights illuminating the roads was sublime.
I can’t say I was too pleased with the Hot Pursuit soundtrack though. The selection was weak with many tracks that I didn’t care for. Making matters worse was the surprisingly poor mixing. I was never able to find the perfect blend of engine sounds and music beats. The audio mixing was particularly poor while playing as the cops with all the police chatter, music and engine noises. I’d hear a sudden burst of engine roar followed by radio chatter which buries it and keeps it muffled for a good while.
I don’t know what was going on there, but it was disappointing coming from Blur which threw out all sorts of audio tricks. It distorted the music when I was hit with a bolt of lightning like it was actually harming my audio system and muffled the sound in general to reflect the poor condition of my car. It was great attention detail.
A Fine Collection
Both games featured a plethora of licensed cars including classic American muscle cars, European exotics and Japanese icons. But it was clear that Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit was really serious about its car love. Nearly all my favorite super cars were in there from Lamborghini, Pagani, Audi and Aston Martin. Plus they included the official paint job colors, police livery for many of the cars and a surprisingly sexy reading of text fawning over each one of the cars in the game.
Blur didn’t have all the big names nor all the official paint jobs, but they did feature unorthodox vehicles like Landrover SUVs and classic Ford pickup trucks. For Blur, this kind of variety was integral to the gameplay itself.
Disappointingly, neither game featured cars from Ferrari.
Both titles borrowed a brand of car combat.
Blur was essentially (as Jeff Gerstmann dubbed) “Wipeout Zero” — a prequel to the Wipeout games set in modern times — with speed boosts, shields, homing shunts and repair power ups to collect and consider. I love Wipeout HD, so my affinity towards Blur shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Wise car selection and power use were the keys to success in Blur. I found off road vehicles played a significant role for me early on. They didn’t lose speed while in dirt or shallow pools of water. It was unfortunate that terrain played a lesser role in the latter half of the game. By then it was all about speed or control.
Criterion brought back the bump and crash of the Hot Pursuit series with a handful of power ups to stave off pesky cops or bring down punk ass racers. EMP and spike strips were available to both sides of the law while playing as the cops allowed me to summon police helicopters and road blocks comprised of some of the most expensive SUVs available. Racers had their sneaky jammers to disable police radar and “Turbo” to engage their cars into warp speed. You and I know how may know how real turbo works, but in Need For Speed, it’s just another name for super NOS since the NOS system from Burnout: Paradise already took the name.
I enjoyed playing cops and racers in the Hot Pursuit mode. Racing from cops while screwing over other racers in the process was unique and so was being the cops themselves. Sending a Porsche Carrerra GT off the road, over the guard rail and into a ditch with metal fragments flying everywhere was extremely gratifying and not something I’ve done since 2002.
Extensive track knowledge and knowing when to dish out punishment onto other cars could be applied to both games, but only one game felt like it was entirely based on skill and that was Hot Pursuit. Despite the presence of traffic, there was a pattern and predetermined path for everything in the game. Blur wasn’t like that. Like with Wipeout HD, winning some races came down to how fortunate I was that I didn’t get screwed over by the A.I.
Behind the Wheel
When it’s just me, the road and a target time, I find myself paying close attention to the actual driving engine of a game. I enjoyed Blur’s as it was not too loose and or twitchy with its controls. Each type of car had a distinct feel and its own set of strengths. If I chose the cars with the most grip, drifting was understandably more difficult to pull off.
Hot Pursuit wasn’t like this at all; all the cars felt similar. I can pull off drifts between Bugatti Veyron and Nissan GTR just the same. There was also something peculiar with how the cars handled. Many of them felt squirrelly regardless of the speed. I expect a bit of instability at high speeds, but not when I’m driving at 60 KM/H.
I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of hitting the apex of corner just perfectly and was able to experience that in Blur, but not with Hot Pursuit. No matter how much I try, I would always drift a bit. Even with cars known for their cornering ability.
Racing Against Myself
As a result of these issues, I found myself despising the time trials in Hot Pursuit. I would rather play Gran Turismo 5’s time trials. At least then I’d have cars that’ll behave and not have to subject myself to so many damn time trial variants.
There were simply far too many events where I’m racing against myself. No matter if it was called “Rapid Response”, “Preview” or “Gauntlet” — they were all time trial variants. For a game which already features a “Speedwall” leaderboard for global and friend rankings, it was just too much.
Blur’s time trials (or checkpoints) were more entertaining and approachable. It reminded me of Wipeout’s time trials where I was seeking the ideal path towards the next speed boost or in Blur’s case: speed boost and additional stopwatches. I didn’t mind these since they weren’t too common. In fact, I had more trouble with Blur’s demolition mode where I was chasing down cars and shooting them out for points.
My worry with arcade racers has always been the difficulty spikes. For whatever reason, I tend to run into a brick wall with every arcade racer that I play. Blur wasn’t too bad. The difficulty ramp up was gentle for the first 3 events before slapping me in the face with a dose of “use more skill to win”. But I’m not sure if that was my fault for progressing from event to event in sequential order. Maybe I should have moved on and wait for additional cars to unlock.
In the end, I didn’t think it was too bad. I enjoyed the progression and the boss battles. I could have done with one less event for each of the 9 racing bosses, but crying about too much quality content is just ridiculous.
As I mentioned earlier, this Hot Pursuit was developed on top of an open world, so they threw the event markers across a map as if I cared where in this fictional county I was racing. It didn’t matter and only made navigation a bit clumsier than it needed to be. I would have been fine with a standard menu.
When considering the overall package, Blur was the clear winner for me. I preferred the style, the way the cars handled and its brand of arcade racing. I wasn’t disappointed by Hot Pursuit, it just didn’t jive with me like Blur did. In the end, both are well made racers and if you’re a fan of this kind of racing, either would entertain hours.
Verdict for Blur:
Verdict for Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit:
For more information on Blur, visit the official site here.
For more information on Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, visit that official site here.
2010 PC Rev. 1.1 was used to play Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.