Each power-up does exactly what it should do. They can all be fired forwards and backwards (using nitro as an airbrake is particularly cunning), and there is no lottery to what you get: each has a specific, colour-coded icon that is distinct and eye-catching, so you choose what you want by driving towards that.
They are balanced, too. Shunt, for example, can be blocked with five out of the eight power-ups if you have one to hand and see it coming, and the forward flip it sends you into leaves the motor running and your car facing the right way.
The AI rubber-banding means that the 20-car races are chaotic from beginning to end, especially online, where going defensive and concentrating on your driving is a good early shout. As you progress through the game you can apply modifications, increasing your resilience, allowing you to steal intercepted power-ups, or giving you an extra nitro for every 500 fans you gain during a race, for example.
Of course, power-ups are traditionally divisive, which is hardly surprising given that by definition they should introduce imbalance, and in Blur's case you will often resent being shot out on the last corner when you hadn't put a wheel wrong.
If it could speak for itself rather than just looking sultry and cool on menus, the game might protest that you had put a wheel wrong - by not accumulating suitable defences to withstand whatever left you dead.
But while the game may be right, it's a semantic argument. The reality is that you still get fed up losing, and you don't feel the connection to the events five miles ago that may have contributed to your loss; you just know you got shot and couldn't defend.
Those moments of intense upheaval - especially getting pounded by shunts in the early running - are inescapably brutal and frustrating, and being conscious that minuscule diversions to stockpile shields or barges might have prevented them means nothing in context. Mario Kart gets away with this, but Blur isn't sure how.
There are other events as well though, which use elements of the toolbox rather than scattering the whole thing across the track, and the narrowed focus in these is responsible for Blur's best moments.
In Destruction, the only way to add seconds to the clock is to collect bolt power-ups - each containing three dart-like, minimal-damage missiles - and take out AI traffic, which deposits mines, shunts and other nasty surprises in its wake once destroyed.
One-on-ones, meanwhile, are characterful showdowns unlocked at the end of each of the campaign's nine chapters: you, one other car, and whatever you find on the track. You're able to concentrate more on both driving and battle tactics.