October 04, 2008
When I think of racing games my initial reaction is a sigh and the thought of going around in laps whilst yawning and watching the clock tick over does not bode well for me. For the first time ever my opinion has been turned completely around and I'm "pure-ly" in love. Pun intended.
Black Rock Studio's Pure slipped under the radar a bit. While it's received some moderate coverage, it's one of those titles that not many people really had an eye on before its release. Fortunately for Pure, that doesn't mean it's not a fantastic display of racing perfection. Despite Disney's name on the box, this game is hard-hitting, fast-paced, and as challenging as you could imagine. WALL-E it isn't.
So, let's get started by addressing one of the most impressive parts of Pure; the graphics. From the extraordinarily impressive draw distance to the realistic textures, everything in Pure is amongst the best this generation has offered. Despite the plain Jane characters being boring themselves, their models are amazing down to the last detail. Seeing your driver's shirt flapping in the wind as you're speeding around a corner on a tight track adds to the realism that is delivered in near-perfect execution. As previously mentioned, the draw distance is absolutely spectacular. I've heard rumors of some minor pop-up, but I've never experienced it. The game gives you the feeling that you can see for miles and miles, and quite frankly, it succeeds without any problems at all. If you're looking for a game to test the limits of your Xbox 360's power, then look no further because Pure's got you covered.
The music, on the other hand, is a bit less impressive. In how many games must we endure listening to Wolfmother's "Woman"? The overall soundtrack isn't necessarily terrible, but I found that the songs repeat too often and just aren't varied enough. A few more high-profile songs would have really helped concrete a better soundtrack, but as it is, I'm going to award it a badge of mediocrity.
The game delivers non-stop thrills by adding a very unique trick system to the already brutal speed-demon pace. With over 80 tricks to pull off, including special tricks privy to each individual racer, there's never a reason why you shouldn't be busting tricks like Nac-Nacs and Rulers. Tricks are pulled off by doing what is called "pre-loading". To pre-load you merely press down and then up on the left stick as you're approaching a jump giving you extra air and will allow you to pull off crazy tricks whilst soaring high above your opponents. The tricks are executed flawlessly in the game, being both intuitive, yet easy, to initiate. At the beginning of an event you have the option to use A-button tricks, entailing that you must pre-load, then press the A button while pushing the analog stick in a particular direction to pull off a trick. As you pull off more consecutive tricks without crashing, you'll gain more boost, in turn allowing you to pull off B-button trick, then Y-button tricks. Once your boost reaches the maximum level, you're given the option to perform a special trick by pressing both shoulder buttons and a direction on the left stick. These tricks are both fun to watch and more impressively, they completely refill your boost! This being the case, they tend to take longer to pull off, so it's recommended you only use a special trick while hitting one hell of a big jump.
The aforementioned boost plays a large role in Pure. Finding a good mix of tricks and boosting is key to winning events. By pressing the X button, you'll use your boost up rather quickly and will need to continue pulling off fresh tricks (tricks you've not already recently performed) to fill it back up so you can stay ahead of the opposition. Once you use some of your boost you'll find that you'll start lower on the trick chain, taking away the option to use more advanced tricks. So, keeping a full boost bar while pulling off fresh tricks will make or break your stance in the event.
Speaking of events, the meat and potatoes of Pure is obviously the racing itself. There are three types of events (four when you go online). The first is your straightforward race; a race as you'd expect, with the addition of needing to make wise use of fresh tricks and boosts to stay ahead. The second are sprint events where you'll usually be on a very small track with 5 laps to come in first. Most sprint tracks are too short to have any enormous jumps, so you're stuck relying on your racing skills and ability to pull off a trick or two on smaller jumps to give you just enough boost to get you through. The final and most unique event mode is "Freestyle". Freestyle sets you up with a fuel bar that you must keep filled up as you race around a track pulling off the most insane tricks you can and picking up any and all power-ups scattered around. The better the trick combos, the slower your fuel will fall. This mode is obviously the most difficult for your non-typical racing fans, as it requires a lot of accuracy, thought, and perseverance. These modes are available one at a time in the form of single events or they are liberally spread throughout the challenging World Tour mode. World Tour (basically a "career mode") will have you going through a series of events (4 in each tier) to advance to the end and prove yourself among the best. The A.I. won't cut you any slack, though, so be prepared for the race of your life.
To advance smoothly through the game you'll have to learn how to tweak your ATV for each type of event. A fairly in-depth garage allows for up to 10 separate ATVs to be created at any time, each with a separate engine class (D through A, unlocked as you go through World Tour mode) and special tweaks you wish to add. Ensuring you have the best ATV for the event you're going up against will make a huge impact on your success or failure, so going through each and every little detail pays off. Plus, it's a lot of fun to pick everything from your wheels to your grips. There's basically nothing important on your ATV that you don't have some control over. So, spend some time in the garage or you'll be spending too much time in last place.
With over 30 total tracks, a bevy of tricks to keep you busy, and breathtaking graphics, this leaves us with one major component, right? Yes, I'm talking about the online mode. There's really nothing fancy here, so don't go into it expecting much different from the single-player experience, but we all know it's a lot of fun to race against other living, breathing people. The one stand-out option Pure offers online is the ability to play the fourth event type; "Freeride". This mode allows you and some buddies to race against the clock to score points in specific areas, such as trying to get the fastest lap, or maybe even the highest jump. It's a lot of fun, especially if you're playing with a much less competitive mindset.
Last but not least we're left the achievement list. Surprisingly, the achievements in the game are very fun and challenging. Some stand-out achievements have you coming from last place to first place in the very last lap, crashing more than 10 times in an event and still winning, extending a Freestyle event past 3 laps (not as easy as it sounds), and winning a race while doing a wheelie over the finish line. Amongst all of the other fun achievements, you have some slightly more generic ones such as beating World Tour mode, maxing out your ATV slots in the garage, and winning online matches. All-in-all, there's not a single achievement that seems out of place, and I can assure you there's plenty to keep you busy.
In the end, the only truly negative thing I can really say about Pure is that although they say there are 30 tracks, there's really only 12 areas, so the tracks tend to feel a little rehashed from one another sometimes, making for a little less content than you might be expecting. This pretty minor setback, however, doesn't hinder what is a remarkable experience for both racing fans and arcade fans (if you like SSX, chances are you'll be in love with Pure) alike. So, instead of sitting in the mud, go out and purchase yourself a copy of this splendid piece of entertainment. Just don't get mad at the challenge...Disney didn't cut you any slack, my friend.
A lack of a varied soundtrack keeps this section from shining, but it could have been worse.
Aside from how generic and plain the characters look, everything is brilliant in terms of graphics.
Everything is fluid from the button-layout to the ease of controlling your ATV on the fast, brutal tracks. It should keep you playing for months if not years.
Fairly bare-bones multiplayer will disappoint some people, but for most of us there's little left to be desired.
Despite one or two silly achievements, this is one of the most challenging (and ultimately rewarding) achievement lists you'll find.
Pure delivers on the promise of fast thrills and fun, so the very few minor issues seem non-existent. A definite recommendation for fans of both racing and arcade-style games.