All this, combined with a handling model that feels very much like the sim/arcade mix found in PGR4, makes for some thrilling gameplay. Cars have a real weight to them, fighting against the rules of physics as you try to stay in control while sliding around corners at insane speed. Despite its arcade appearance, this isn't an easy game. Trying to concentrate on the racing line (or cornering properly at all), while thinking about the projectiles coming up the road behind you and what power-up you need to have selected to combat it, is rock hard but great fun.
You'll likely be able to invest tens of hours into completing the single-player career, but the real meat lies in Blur's multiplayer. Four-player split-screen is hugely enjoyable, either using pre-set event playlists or creating a custom one of your own, and the game holds up well despite having to display four mini screens. This is simply the starter, though, for a packed multiplayer experience. With up to 20 players competing against each other, power-ups flying all over the place, I've never played an online racer so action packed, chaotic and addictive.
Even with 20 racers screaming along, the net code holds up remarkably well. There are also cool little post-race awards and, most importantly, a ranking system and online challenges. Just as in games like Modern Warfare 2, your achievements during online races result in points, which over time increase your rank. Fans gained online, through the challenge system and for performing certain moves, unlock new cars. The mods online work differently too, with three slots available to fill with perks and abilities that you've unlocked. PGR4 had some of the best online integration I'd ever seen in a racer, yet Blur sets a new benchmark.
If simply taking part in events online isn't enough, you can challenge friends to beat your scores, sending them in-game messages or telling them via Facebook or Twitter using the slick in-built integration. By using Geometry Wars 2-style friend highscores on screen, you're always aware of what you need to beat, keeping you hooked each time your best is bettered. Simply put, there's enough content in the multiplayer/online portion of the game to make this the only racer you'll need for months and months.
Bizarre games always feature slick presentation, and Blur is no exception. While the in-game visuals lack the in-your-face awesomeness of the recently released Split/Second, the style on show is brilliant, with plenty of moody lighting and neon lights. Weapon effects are incredible too, adding an immeasurable amount of cool to proceedings, contorting the field of view as they tear towards their target. Sassy, Basement Jaxx-like house and electronica forms the backing for every race, and the sound effects for the power-ups are equally impressive: each pick-up has its own distinctive noise, and when you're on the receiving end of an attack it sounds like the air around you is being distorted - get hit by a bolt and you'll hear what can only be described as a transformer changing form.
The problems here aren't necessarily what Bizarre that did wrong, but issues PGR fans might have. While you can have no power-ups in multiplayer races, the only pure driving events in single-player come from the checkpoint races. Here you still have nitro power-ups though, and the lack of true time trials is a disappointment - though they'd be perfect for a large DLC pack if you ask me (Are you reading this, Bizarre?). There's also the argument that race position is too dependent on luck, which despite not being true, will seem accurate to anyone who doesn't invest the time learning the nuances of Blur's gameplay.
I still want Bizarre to make a true successor to PGR, but I'm glad it made Blur too. It really is a modern take on the Mario Kart formula, done in a way that feels incredibly cool and refreshing. It's a game anyone could pick up and enjoy, yet there's depth here that only the very best players will appreciate. It's a game built around power-ups that doesn't feel unfair, and features a multiplayer mode that will grab you and not let go. Best arcade racer of the year? Nothing is certain, but it'll be incredibly hard to beat.