Players: 1 to 4 Player Game | Release Date: 09/23/08 | Genre: Driving
Black Rock Studio has released a new ATV offroad racing title and unlike the previous ATV games the team has churned out, Pure focuses much more on style and fun than it does on sport and simulation. In fact, the best way to describe Pure is SSX with ATV's. The fast and frantic arcade feel of EA's snowboarding masterpiece indeed invades Pure all throughout...and feels right at home. The development team have done a great job of preserving the core racing gameplay of their past games while simultaneously adding new, over-the-top elements that definitely help draw in new, more casual racing fans. Of course, it also doesn't hurt that the game is just eye-meltingly beautiful.
The graphics in Pure are some of the best we've seen the Xbox 360 pump out; playing this game on a nice television will almost certainly have any passerby taking a second glance. The character and vehicle models are well enough in their own rite, but both are completely overshadowed by the breathtaking environments. You'll travel through all types of terrain including gritty desert courses, sloppy mud-pooled trails and golden beaches surrounded by huge, sparkling seas. In nearly every course there are moments of complete zen as you launch over the peak of a jump to be greeted by a view of the world from an impossibly high vantage point. At the same time the pounding rock music fades and gives way to the sound of the wind and the air surrounding your character. These moments are what make the game worth playing, and as we mentioned, you'll come across them in almost every stage.
There are three basic modes of play in Pure: Race, Sprint and Freestyle. Race is fairly self-explanatory; you face off against fifteen other competitors and try to be the first one to the finish line. The Sprint is similar to a Race in that you still want to finish in first, but differs in that they usually take place on smaller tracks and require more laps to complete. The Freestyle mode is probably the most fun and the most unique. In this mode, you have a gas gauge in the lower lefthand portion of the screen. The goal is to earn the most points by doing the best tricks before you run out of gas. Each trick will net you a certain amount of points and after completing one trick, you'll have a limited amount of time to pull off another to string together nice combos. Combos will boost your points and you can also pick up bonuses scattered throughout the track to increase your score or to refill your gas gauge. Refilling the gauge will give you more time to pull off tricks and thus net you a higher score.
Pulling off dazzling tricks is fantastic because not only does it look cool, but it is also not that difficult to accomplish thanks to the game's control scheme. The right trigger is used to accelerate while the left is used to brake or reverse. The A, B and Y buttons are used to perform tricks while the X button provides you with a boost when possible. The key to getting big air in the game is a combination of speed and what the game dubs "preloading." To preload a trick you simply pull down on the left analog stick before you reach the top of a jump, then you flick it upwards to launch your vehicle into the air. Once you're airborne, you can use the face buttons and the left stick to perform a fairly wide variety of tricks. You can also tweak the tricks in midair by using the left and right bumpers.
The flashy stunts in Pure are for more than just show; successfully executing tricks will fill your boost gauge in the bottom right of the screen. The boost gauge allows you to do two things. One is the most obvious; holding down the X button will give you an extra burst of speed while the gauge is not empty. Secondly, the higher you fill the gauge, the more tricks you'll be able to do. Initially, you'll only be able to do the most basic tricks. As the gauge fills you'll gain access to intermediate and advanced stunts and once the gauge is maxed out you can perform special tricks by using the left and right bumpers in conjunction with the left analog stick. The special tricks will keep your boost gauge full and earn you some serious points in Freestyle mode. This mechanic serves the game well as it provides the player with an incentive to pull off tricks in Race and Sprint modes. It is further enhanced by a trick rating system that will offer less of a bonus for repeat tricks. This prevents players from simply doing the same trick over and over again and forces them to experiment with the trick system in order to get the most benefit.
The meat of the game is the World Tour mode. In this mode you'll have to advance through several circuits in order to claim the top spot and you start way down at the bottom of the list. Each circuit consists of a series of events; usually a combination of Races, Sprints and Freestyle events. By completing the events you'll earn points and when you earn a certain amount the next circuit will become available for play. You'll also unlock plenty of bonus costumes, upgrades and new parts for your ATV. You can take your vehicle to the garage and replace various parts or start from a bare frame and build a brand new one from scratch. Thankfully the game allows you to have it automatically build the vehicle for you and you can even specify whether you want it built for racing or for tricks. This lets gearheads mess with the details while other players can jump right into the action.
There aren't any major issues with the game that will keep you from enjoying it, but one thing that it could use is more tracks. The ones that are there are fantastic, but some get recycled throughout the circuits and because the tracks that are there are so good, it would have been nice to see more. The only other potential pitfall is that it will take you less than a day to run through the World Tour mode with a single rider. Granted there are other modes available such as Trials and Online, but World Tour provides the most rewarding experience. These are small flaws in the grand scheme of things and fall well short of being major problems.
Pure is the kind of game that you'll sit down to play for an hour or two in the middle of the afternoon and it coyly sucks you in so that when you finally put down the controller you're surprised to find that the sun set several hours ago.