Demo Roundup: Blur & Just Cause 2
March 9, 2010
Taking a break from the many, many hours of healing stricken comrades and reviving their corpses in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 allowed me to get some hands-on time with a couple of recent preview builds. Namely a beta code for the Xbox 360 version of Blur, and the general release demo on PSN for Just Cause 2. Impressions for both are after the jump.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. For someone with very broad videogaming tastes, I generally can’t stand any racing games which don’t have the words ‘Mario’ and ‘Kart’ in their title, and even those are beginning to pall. Any mention of a Gran Turismo or a Need For Speed or a Forza Motorsport will more often than not elicit a blank stare from me as my attention bottoms out. I just don’t take any interest in supercars, and even less in their digital counterparts.
It’s a surprise for both me and you then that I even bothered downloading the beta for Blur, the upcoming racer from Bizarre Creations. And even more of a surprise that, by and large, I enjoyed the few hours I spent racing others in the online multiplayer races. In a nutshell, Blur takes the realistic, souped-up vehicles from a hardcore racing game and combines them with power-ups and projectiles that take their cues from equivalents in the Mario Kart rulebook. Add flavours of Wipeout, and a clean, crisp, colourful aesthetic that wouldn’t feel out of a place in a chic cocktail bar, and you have an intriguing mix.
The real meat on the bones of this title, and apparent even this early on in the beta, is the levelling system – a mechanic that seems to be a mainstay of any online multiplayer game these days, regardless of genre. And for good reason – constant rewards and positive feedback for progress are genuinely thrilling, even before factoring in the considerable carrot that is unlockable cars, tracks and other features, such as the Garage – where another recent essential, heavy customisation, is available. Gaining Fans, the equivalent to Experience Points in RPGs, is the name of the game – collect enough and you level up. Even a poor race (I had quite a few of these) will still net you a generous amount of points, whether that be for spinning out an opponent, navigating a particularly tricky corner or getting through a lap without having to repair your ride. Races are given further spice by the doling out of awards after each one; highlights include the Squirrel, for those who collect the most power-ups, and the Punchbag, the player who suffers the ignominy of being battered the most by enemy weapons.
There are a few niggles. The handful of tracks present in the beta are simple, formulaic affairs, relying on figures of eight layouts or hairpin bends. And one can’t escape the nagging feeling that supercars are actually out of place here; power-ups and futuristic aesthetics cry out for spaceships or hoverboards, not for vehicles that would feel right at home in Gran Turismo. So, whilst a rental isn’t out of the question, my deep-seated apathy for racing games will probably rule out a purchase of Blur, despite my enjoyment of my few hours with the beta. For racing fans, however, you’ll most definitely want to be keeping tabs on this one.
Just Cause 2
I knew nothing about Just Cause 2 before firing up the timed demo from the PlayStation Store. I didn’t know of the existence of the original until I saw the numeral in its sequel. I’ve read nothing about it all, and as such had no preconceptions. After 30 minutes of wandering around like a headless chicken in the desert settlements that comprise the demo level, it would seem that my brief flirtation with Just Cause 2 will be just that – a brief flirtation.
The demo gives little to no indication of where the game takes place, other than a female mercenary greeting our character by insisting they are there to cause trouble for the Panau government. I assume Panau is a fictional province, much like the setting of Far Cry 2, which this feels similar to in terms of tone, if not mechanics. The third-person perspective and combat reminds one of Grand Theft Auto IV, and feels just as clunky. Scorpio, the playable character, feels floaty and languid. The jump animation in particular feels like it’s being executed in slow-motion, and Scorpio feels and looks like a rigid mannequin when a nearby explosion sends him pinwheeling through the air. These are all foibles that could theoretically be ironed out for the final build, but doesn’t bode well considering the release date for Just Cause 2 is the 26th March.
My initial task was to sabotage government-branded property, be that gas cylinders, water stations or propaganda wagons. Taking these out awards you with Chaos. Building up enough Chaos unlocks further faction missions. Killing civilians in the settlements also generates Heat, another nod to the wanted level in GTA games, and spawns hordes of identical enemies all around you. I never seemed to shake off this Heat, meaning I was constantly under fire during the entire demo. Initially I thought the 30 minute timer on the demo was a little stingy; it was ironic then that after a few deaths and general frustrations over the way Scorpio handled that I switched off the demo with five minutes still left on the clock.
In a first quarter where astonishing titles are ten-a-penny and just around the corner, it’s going to take a pretty special demo to persuade me to part with cash that could be well-spent elsewhere. Although the full game itself could be a gem, I’d be none the wiser. A demo should be well-crafted and well-directed enough for me to be in no doubt as to the quality of the finished product. Based on these chaotic, confusing 25 minutes, I’ll be giving Just Cause 2 a miss.
What do you think? Are you excited for either of these games?