Posts Tagged Racing Game
It’s easy to forget for all the misguided hate surrounding the issue, but whether you prefer PCs or Consoles was not originally a question of faith but of different technical capabilities. The two platforms excel at different things and some games work better on one than they do on the other: Strategy games and other titles with complex user interfaces (as well as, arguably, shooters) benefit from the precision of a mouse and the sheer number of buttons on a keyboard. Jump’n'Runs on the other hand lend themselves more naturally to a responsive controller. Even games that could swing both ways tend to settle down in one of the two camps. Consoles got fighting games and brawlers and the PC snatched virtually anything involving space.
Another genre that has almost exclusively been taking place on consoles for the last decade or so is that of the racing/action hybrid. The PC occasionally gets its own take on the subject, but the original formula is now firmly in the hands of Nintendo, who are refining it with each new installment of their MarioKart series. Those in the PC crowd who favored zany driving were sadly out of luck, at least until Bizarre Creations attempted a rather literal translation: Blur.
Those of you who’ve seen the game’s TV spot might recall that the game styled itself a grown-up version of MarioKart, and rarely has a commercial been more truthful in its promises. Safe for the transition to flashy pseudo-realistic visuals and cars, Blur recreates the feeling of the original almost bit by bit: You and up to 11 other madmen race down a variety of linear tracks, pummeling each other with the usual array of power ups: The heat-seeking missile, the three-round skillshot, the airstrike aimed at first place, the tripmine, the shield, the melee-thing, the turbo-boost etc etc. Unlike the big prototype, Blur allows you to store up to three power ups instead of just the one, but you can’t cycle through your available weapons, so the only way to reach the third in line is to burn through the other two.
The game’s second major innovation is the introduction of a health bar, which drops through both enemy projectiles and reckless driving and can be refilled using the repair power-up, though there’s really no reason to even bother. Damage affects your car’s visuals, but not its performance and thanks to Blur‘s minimalistic racing mechanics you’ll have no trouble keeping your car on the road as a flash of polished chrome or a mess of dented metal and fire. Even if you manage to wreck your ride entirely, you simply spawn right back where you were after a brief delay.
To be fair to Blur, it does add little things here and there, but the best that can be said for those changes is that they don’t get in the way of the wacky driving. The few new cogs fit right into the machine, but I’m not entirely sure of their purpose. They don’t break the formula, but they don’t take it to new levels either. The three item rule, for instance, could have added a layer of strategic thought by allowing you to prepare for certain eventualities through clever power-up selection (look at me missing the point of the game here), but with no way to cycle through your equipment it only ends up keeping the colorful death tools in constant supply, as if the game was afraid that if it doesn’t blow something up every 2 seconds we’ll grow bored and wander off.
This staggering fear of a coherent thought on our side might also explain why the game feels the need to resupply your trigger-happy partners in crime after every single goddamn turn. It’s nice to see that Blur would sooner be a display of fireworks than a NASCAR race, but it does make winning the game a rather tedious exercise. Your final position in a race depends heavily on whether or not you can make it through the first two minutes of utter chaos, when the horde of mad drivers slowly turns into a manageable string of vehicles amidst brightly colored explosions. Skill and evasion certainly play a role here, but in the end surviving this crucial period is mostly about hoping you don’t end up in the center of general attention by pure chance. Like the multiplayer components of so many shooters, this is the kind of thing that can be very infuriating once the game pulls out a scoreboard, but while you’re in the middle of the experience, it does offer its own kind of mindless entertainment. In this case: The simple joy of watching a car explode and pirouette through the air, except delivered at a rate of roughly 75 exploding cars per minute.
This may sound like a small thing, but the mere fact that Blur manages to make the experience of being in the middle of a race fun excuses many niggling flaws in the string of challenge races it calls a campaign. On the other hand, this kind of destructive entertainment tends to grow stale pretty fast. Normally the option to play with other people would help to liven things up, but splitscreen mode is one of the things that was lost in translation (Though I assume the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions might have it) and while the game does have an online component, it’s suffering from major connection issues. In fact, I only found a single match I could get into after about a dozen attempts, and that race only had a single other player. I suppose the guy must have spent some time levelling up his metaprofile. His car was a lot better than mine, so he just zoomed off into the distance five seconds into the race, never to be seen again.
But have no fear! You may not get to play with other people, but Bizarre Creations got other plans for tying you to their game: Achievements. Normally I wouldn’t even bother to talk about this kind of unrelated extras, but Blur actually puts its small rewards in the center of gameplay. The game sports a veritable plethora of tiny challenges, especially in the first hour it feels like you can’t take a single step without setting off a dozen new alerts about your progress towards unlocking some new sticker to put on your car. Depending on how you see their rise to omnipresence, this mass of achievements could be both an act of good will, adding more content to the game, or a diabolic attempt to hide Blur‘s stale and unfullfilling nature. It doesn’t really matter in the end. The simple truth is that achievements alone can’t carry a game, so Blur ends up achieving neither.
In the end, I’m not really sure what to make of Blur. The game itself is perfectly functional, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table and I can’t help but wonder if this genre isn’t better off on consoles. If you don’t mind playing solo, and can stand the less than subtle visual style, you’ll probably have fun with this nice little arcade racer. Just don’t expect it to set your world on fire.
Bottom Line: Blur doesn’t outmariokart MarioKart, but it’s fun for a while. If you don’t own a Wii, this may just be the game for you.
Racing games and I have a history, only that by “have one” I mean “lack one”. I can easily count the total amount of racing games I played in the last decade using one hand, so I can hardly claim to be up to date in this matter. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy racing games, it’s just that…. well, actually this is to say I don’t enjoy racing games. The mere concept of driving really fast just doesn’t seem very enticing to me and I’m not overly fond of this trend towards realism either. Hence, I never played Forza Motorsport or GTR or Grid or Dirt or whatever they’ve come up with by now. But that doesn’t mean I completely ignore the genre, only most of it. If I am to buy a racing game, it needs to be special. Simple. Stylish. It needs to be like Flatout 2.
As everybody’s favourite internet curmudgeon once stated, the fun in a street-racing game comes from driving really fast and breaking things. Now while most racing games have their pants quite firmly on the notion of ludicrous speed, they still struggle a bit with “breaking things” part. The usual attempts at damage systems in this genre are nothing short of laughable. Even if the cars take lasting damage from driving head-on into a brick wall, everything in the vicinity of the race is usually screwed tight. Rickety fences don’t so much as bend when you hit them and the streets are deceptively clean. As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, the reason for this overly lengthy buildup is that Flatout 2 isn’t like most racing games and changes this.
The gist of the game is a detailed physics simulation, for racing games that is. Instead of making you and your opponents race on a fixed track in a ghost town held together by invisible walls, Flatout 2 let’s you blaze a trail of destruction through streets, fences, back alleys and shopping malls. The streets are littered with parked cars, barrels or other random detritus that all respond realistically when your bumpers hit them. Or at the very least the respond like their real life version would, if it was filled with helium. Despite all the effort that went into the physics engine, the game doesn’t so much embrace realism as it does style. Physics here serves the same purpose it did in Crysis: Looking gob-smackingly amazing.
Now don’t get me wrong here, Flatout 2 is no Crysis in terms of graphics, but it does have something that’s worth dedicating an entire paragraph too: Modesty. By current day standards Flatout 2 looks alright, but not overly pretty. The real astonishing thing about the graphics is how little computing power it takes to get them on your screen. This game runs smoothly on my five-year old laptop. Nothing runs smoothly on that thing. It even chugs on games from the Half Life 2 era. Yet Flatout 2 produces real-time reflections, light effects and high-definition textures without the processor so much as breaking a sweat. But I’m sidetracking.
Gameplay wise this is your standard racing game fare. You drive multiple laps on a track versus 7 opponents. First to finish wins the race, money and new races to compete in. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Destruction Derbies and utterly whacked out mini games add a little diversion, but there’s no ignoring that this is the basic scheme behind the game. I guess this seems enticing enough for racing game enthusiasts, but they will probably feel appalled at the lack of realism. Luckily the game adds enough spectacle to the tired formula to make things interesting for wider target audience. Specifically the kind of people who enjoy explosions, rock’n'roll and high-speed crashes in slow motion. And to be honest, who doesn’t?
The first thing is the driving itself, a nice combination of arcade and a tad realism. While the cars all handle overly simplified even at the most ludicrous speeds, Flatout 2 does occasionally bow to the way cars actually work. Drifts exist, though simplified, and braking before sharp turns is a necessity, especially since your car takes lasting damage from crashing into things. If you do so excessively it will start to smoke, burn, lose a wheel and eventually explode. So crashing into things is a bad idea, right? Wrong. Being at the wrong side of the crash is. While other cars hitting your backside with strong force will tear you apart, the front side of any car in Flatout 2 is surprisingly sturdy. Add the fact that you get rewarded in-game money and nitro for hitting other cars hard and often, and I believe you begin to see what the races in this game play like. Now add (somewhat) destructible environment that also fills your boost meter. I believe a Hell Yeah” is in order. Perhaps, from all games I can think off, Flatout 2 is closest to Total Overdose. Every aspect of the game from the punk rock soundtrack to the spectacular physics engine is geared to make the experience as stylish as possible.
But unlike Total Overdose, Flatout 2 has great mechanics working behind all the glitter as well. The driving itself is challenging enough to feel rewarding, but simple enough to quickly get the hang of, and the constant option to simply crash your enemy’s head on into a wall keeps the stress level very low. All in all, Flatout 2 is definitely a great game for blowing off some steam. Picture the following: You and you’re opponents completely tear a mall up while Demon Speeding from Rob Zombie is blasting out of your boxes. A long straight comes up and you push aside the other cars until only one driver’s in front of you. He steers left for the next turn, so you bring your front side to his bumper, turn him around and push him into the nearest wall. If this doesn’t sound entertaining to you, than I really don’t know what else to say.
Bottom Line: Whether you genuinely enjoy racing games and are tired of their aspirations towards realism, or you’re just an average gamer looking for some quick, mindless high-speed fun: This game is worth a look.