Pure Xbox 360, PS3, PC
The racing genre is surprisingly diverse for a game-type that involves getting from A to B faster than your rivals. The genre contains simulations like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport, Street Racers such as Need for Speed and Midnight Club and Futuristic racers including Wipeout and F-Zero. Perhaps more significant though is the choice of vehicle that each game allows you to drive.
The vehicle you’ll be handling defines the type of game you’ll be playing, whether that is Kart, Jet-Ski, Truck, Motorbike or even Snowboard. Pure’s developers Black Rock Studios previously worked on the ATV Offroad Fury series before being bought by Disney Interactive Studios. They’ve decided to stick with the Quad Bike (known as ATV outside the UK) for this title as “they’ve got four wheels and are car-like, but they’re also light enough to jump”, explains game director Jason Avent.
Pure marks something of a departure for a Disney-published game, in that it’s an original concept, not based on any existing IP. In fact, it’s the only original Disney game barring the commercially-but-not-critically successful Spectrobes DS. Pure claims to have defined a new sub-genre – Offroad Trick Racing.
See, Pure is all about the jumping and tricking. Your Quad Bike must be ‘pre-loaded’ before each jump by pulling back on the left analog stick, and then flicking it forward at the lip of each jump in order to gain enough air-time to pull of some fancy moves. This is simply done by holding a face button and flicking one of eight directions on the left analog stick. On bigger jumps you can even attempt flips by double-flicking the same stick up or down.
Successfully land a trick and your Thrill Bar will begin to fill up. As you accumulate more power in the Thrill Bar you get access to three additional levels of tricks of increasing complexity, and of course the more challenging the trick, the bigger the power bonus it provides.
This purpose of this power is to be used as boost for your Quad Bike, which can push you ahead of the competition. The challenge comes when you realise that using any of your boost will lose you the ability to perform all the most basic tricks. Add to this the fact that using boost before a jump gets you more height for tricking and you end up with Pure’s delightful risk-reward mechanism.
Judging when and where to use your precious boost and attempting to estimate exactly how crazy your next stunt should be really adds and exhilarating level of quick-thinking strategy to the quick-reflex racing genre.
The meat-and-bones of Pure is the World Tour mode in which you’ll work your way up the rankings by competing in the three event types on offer. Standard Races are a straightforward trick-filled three-lap competition race against 15 other riders. Sprint races are short and intense, with few opportunities for jumping.
However, Freestyle mode is where Pure truly comes into its own. As the objective in this scenario is to simply get the highest score before your gas runs out, you can forget about getting ahead of the pack and concentrate on chaining together trick combos for maximum scorage. Various power-ups such as extra gas, score multipliers and instant access to top-level moves have been left floating in the air after ramps, and grabbing these is often crucial for victory. As in the other modes, performing the same trick twice
Visually, Pure is often reminiscent of Motorstorm and its sequel. The 48 tracks spread over twelve locations include the breathtaking glacial vistas of New Zealand, the jungle paradise of Thailand, the picturesque mountain ranges of Wyoming and the almost otherworldly deserted Glamis Dunes seen in such movies as Stargate and Tatooine in Star Wars.
The frame-rate was constantly smooth and fast, even when playing online, and graphical effects mean that you can almost feel the wind rushing against your face when plummeting down a cliff-face. The physics and animations are pleasingly solid, with different terrains having a noticeably varying effect on the handling of your vehicle. The Quad Bikes have enough weight to make them extremely satisfying to control around corners, and yet they’re light enough to be manoeuvrable in mid-air.
Although many of Pure’s tracks feature slightly branching alternate routes, there are no options for cheeky shortcuts as any attempt to divert from the beaten track will see you swiftly reset back onto the track. Of course, this can also happen when your rider is sent flying after a heavy collision with another competitor or an inconvenient rock.
Speaking of riders, there are several to choose from, although as they’ll be wearing a helmet 99% of the time, this is a largely pointless decision. More interesting is the fact that you can build your own Quad Bike from scratch, with the game boasting an impressive 65,000 possible rides to be made. Whilst riding your own finished Quad is an immensely gratifying experience, some may find that they begin to tire of customisation around the point where you’re asked to select your second set of mud guards.
Luckily, if you can’t be bothered to build your own Quad there’s a simple one-button option for the game to create a custom Race or Trick vehicle for you. Progressing through the World Tour will unlock a ton of new parts as well as the customary engine upgrade from D-Class right up to A-Class. The soundtrack ranges from hip-hip to electro to metal, but all tracks keep up the adrenaline-fuelled tempo.
It’s a shame that besides the World Tour mode, there isn’t much else to Pure. Aside from a Single Event option, the only other singleplayer mode is Trial, which allows you to attempt high scores and best times on tracks without the inconvenience of other racers. It’s a good job the online is robust then, as Pure doesn’t include any offline multiplayer, which seems to be a regrettable trend for an ever increasing number of current-gen racers.
Pure is a perfectly polished and presented package. It offers extreme-tricking and adrenaline-fuelled racing and does it in a refreshing and challenging way. Without the online options its lifespan may be questionable, but essentially this is just Pure fun.