Pure isn’t an original, innovative game. Instead, it’s a heady mix of two incredibly successful titles: the frantic, combative racing of PS3 launch title Motorstorm combined with the tricked-out acrobatics of PS2 franchise SSX. And, despite bringing very little of its own ideas to the party, it’s absolutely brilliant.
Instead of snowboards, though, Pure revolves around ATV racing – similar to the quad-bikes in Motorstorm. Sixteen riders take part in each contest, which makes for incredibly packed and frenetic action, and they’re all equipped with a reasonable amount of AI – no one really follows the racing line here; instead, riders scuffle, shove against each other and try to out-do each other in the trick department.
Races are split into several categories. Regular events last for three laps on longer, hugely imaginative tracks that have plenty of room, both for speedy racing types and trick fans. Sprint events, as their name suggests, emphasise speed: five laps of around thirty seconds, with perhaps one big jump to use for boosting.
Freestyle events complete the trio, and the emphasis on tricks means that this is one of the most exciting modes: launch yourself around one of the regular circuits – albeit with plenty of added ramps and jumps – collecting top-ups and bonus points. You need to perform tricks to keep your fuel tank full, and the last one standing is the winner.
These events are divided up into several Motorstorm-style ‘tickets’ in a World Tour, each of which contain between four and seven races. There’s a dozen of them spread across the game, and good results will see you move up the world rankings, unlocking parts for your ATV, alternate costumes, or different circuits.
You get to build your own ATV, too. Pure has a pre-set build mode that will automatically put together the best vehicle possible from the parts available. You can choose between a racing or freestyle ATV, which emphasise speed or trickability, respectively. But there’s more fun to be had in creating your own rig. You can tweak the machine to your personal preferences, as well as choose the cosmetic touches and colour schemes you prefer. Hundreds – if not thousands – of parts are available, so you’ll never get bored, or see the same ATV twice.
All the game mechanics are there, then: the World Tour structure, ATV building, different types of race. Nothing revolutionary so far, then – so thank god for the racing.
It’s more intuitive than SSX and more enjoyable than Motorstorm. In short, it’s absolutely brilliant. Tracks are littered with multiple routes, all of which are fully exploited by the hail of riders who burst away from the start line and try to gain an advantage by any means necessary. The numerous differences between the myriad vehicles also make themselves known. You’ll feel a palpable difference in your ATV if you’ve just installed an acceleration-boosting part, for instance, although you’ll also have to re-adjust your tricking if you’ve lost some of your machine’s freestyle ability. It goes some way to giving every rider a bit of personality, rather than having fifteen blank canvases careering around a track.
The handling is fantastic, too. Again, you can feel the difference between the machines, but all of them have a base level of grip that is conductive to the amazing powerslides that you’ll come to rely on to get your ATV around a corner. It’s almost as if you’re not using an analogue stick at all – or, if you are, that it’s made of rubber and seems to bend around a corner with your vehicle. Of course, more parts are available to improve your handling but, in truth, it’s never difficult – upgrades only make it slightly more comfortable and manageable.
While the handling and racing action is superb, then, the tricks are the real highlight of Pure. Activating them is simple: hold the X button down to prepare for a jump (just like you did in SSX) and then release it to grab some big air. Just like you did in SSX, too. When you’re flying, the X button and a direction on the analogue stick performs a trick, while the L1 or R1 buttons tweak it into something new.
Landing tricks sees you earning boost, which can either be used to up your speed for a few seconds or unlock more tricks. The higher you fill up your meter, the trickier stunts you’ll unlock. The circle button is first, followed by the triangle button. Hit enough tricks and you’ll fill up your meter, at which point you can unlock huge, SSX-style ‘uber’ tricks that require plenty of time to pull off but which provide massive points and performance gains.
Pure really comes to life in the air. The attention to detail at ground level is staggering, but the game will easily display this when you’re 500 feet up – after hitting another ludicrous jump – without missing a beat or dropping any frames. The graphical effects in mid-air are superb, too: the camera shakes from air resistance as you begin to drop, the edge of the screen bleeds to leave just you and your ATV, the music drops away to allow you to concentrate, your T-shirt ripples in the air.
There’s even a real sense of occasion as you plummet back to earth, the impact shaking the camera and your machine squirming through the mud as you try to regain grip and reap the rewards of the various tricks you’ve sown. Tricking, jumping and racing in Pure is a genuine adrenaline rush, time and time again.
The circuits themselves are a little more varied than Motorstorm’s repetitive dust-bowls. The World Tour visits several parts of the USA, Europe and plenty more places around the globe, so pine forests can give way to Oriental-style architecture and Mediterranean towns within the same ticket. Wherever you are, though, you’ll notice that Pure keeps a few constants in check – a veritable forests-worth of trees for you to crash into, an awful lot of mud, and plenty of huge jumps. Crashing is relatively inconsequential, though – unlike Motorstorm, you lose hardly any time if you screw up, and are thrown back into the fray almost immediately.
While this all sounds fantastic so far, Pure isn’t without fault. The main one is that Disney’s latest is just too easy and too short: a couple of days effort will see you scythe through the majority of the World Tour. Success comes too easy, too – instead of just being rewarded for a top-three finish, you’re able to climb the rankings by finishing sixth and seventh, which seems to reward mediocre performances more than is strictly necessary. Online play does add longevity, but the single player experience won’t last as long as Motorstorm’s does.
Still, it’s absolutely fantastic while it lasts. When you’re on the ground, the racing is fast, relentless and frenetic, and while you’re in the air, Pure takes off: stunning graphics all-round combine with an intuitive trick system and a fantastic rush of adrenaline to create one of the best racers of the year. The lack of depth is a minor disappoint, but if you have any interest in racing games at all, then this is a must-buy.