"It almost becomes like Street Fighter in a way," muses Gareth Wilson, lead designer at Bizarre Creations. "There's counters to everything." He's describing the power-up system in Blur at its first public sighting since the game was officially delayed last September.
To Wilson, barges, boosts and bolts are the fireballs, hundred-hand slaps and sonic booms of Blur, with the depths of the newly revealed Mod system offering a "deep layer of strategy" to suit all combatants, whatever their chosen art of fighting.
Blur, lest we forget, is a racing game. And this could easily sound like conceptual lunacy from a studio driven over the edge of reason after the best part of a decade spent refining its peerless template for photo-realistic street racing. Homing missiles? EMP strikes? Sound effects ripped straight out of Star Wars? Have I been dropped off at neighbouring Sony Liverpool, creator of WipEout, by mistake?
But no; Blur is the British studio's blueprint for "bringing the fun back to racing", a brave, liberated driving game blending Bizarre's undoubted brilliance behind the wheel with the rough and tumble of an action title.
"Blur isn't about remembering the route and winning because you've got the best memory," Wilson explains. "It's also not about having the best car. It's mastery of the power-ups that will get you into first place."
This from the creator of Project Gotham Racing? That's like Sony telling everyone to stop using PS3s. The concept of Blur, bold and refreshingly unexpected as it is, was always going to raise the odd eyebrow. Yet even while the true direction remained partially opaque, Eurogamer found it "tremendously exciting" in our first hands-on experience last summer.
Today, Bizarre reveals its hand as the results of six extra months of development are laid bare. "We were running out of time," Wilson concedes, speaking of the run-in to the original November 2009 launch. "We started to feel like we were making compromises to get the game out on time."
And given the debate raging over DLC, it's pleasing to hear that ideas Wilson claims the studio was planning to hold back and add later, or even dump entirely until a sequel, could now be added in thanks to Activision granting Bizarre the extra time it required. The delay may well prove critical to the fortunes of Blur, turning what was a flashy, fun arcade racer into what now promises to be a richly complex, precision-tuned orgy of competition that thrills the trigger-happy newcomer while absorbing the wily veteran.
With the beta set to go public on 8th March, multiplayer is the focus for this event, with 20-player LAN racing the star attraction, supported by four-player split-screen gameplay.
Single-effect power-ups, thanks to the delay, now pack secondary functions whose worth quickly becomes apparent in the heat of action. There are eight different pick-ups in total, which appear and regenerate at set points around each circuit, with each vehicle able to carry a maximum of three at any time.
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