The best in it’s class.
Not since the glory days of arcade racers such as Hydro Thunder has a game given me such an intense sense of speed and vertigo quite like Pure. When you are hurling your frail body hundreds of feet in the air performing death-defying stunts before plummeting to certain death or a surplus of points, it is hard not to appreciate everything this game does right. This is perhaps the game’s greatest strength. Pure doesn’t do anything exceptionally above the rest, but it does combine all of the things we love about racing and videogames in general and combine them into an astounding experience that is not to be missed.
While a lot of racing games focus on one gimmick or another to draw you into the fray, Pure takes a more conventional approach and simply throws everything to the max. The jumps are insane, the tricks are unfathomable and the controls are borderline perfection. When combined these elements translate into one of the most enjoyable games I have played all year. There are three different modes to choose from (though two of them feel strikingly familiar) and tracks are differentiated by their jumps and flawless design. Nothing feels half-hearted in the game, which is why it is so easy to forgive the few flaws the game runs across.
The single-player experience is much of what you would expect with a few new ideas. For starters the game starts off by giving you the opportunity to build your very own ATV from scratch. This includes choosing pieces that modify performance down to the color of your mud guards. Overall the experience is well explained and actually interesting, but for those of you in too much of a hurry to construct one from scratch, you can opt to hold down one of two buttons to quick-create one of two types of bikes. Never fret though because if you decide you want to build one from scratch later you gradually open new slots in your garage and can have quite a few different machines for various race types.
The career mode is broken down into ten tiers each with various events that award points. In order to unlock the next tier you have to earn a set number of points. For the most part this section is quite forgiving keeping things moving at a brisk pace. Rarely will you have to play sections over and over unless you are going for a better medal. The best part is that this becomes addictive quickly, especially if you are striving for those coveted Achievements. As I mentioned there are three race types and each one has a presences in each tier.
The standard race mode consists of earning boost and staying ahead of the pack. Each track plays host to various shortcuts and jumps so learning the track becomes imperative when going for higher medals. The sprint mode is basically the same as race, but the tracks focus more on pure speed than tricking and boosting. These short jaunts usually last less than five minutes and do a nice job of breaking up the pace of longer races. The final event is called freestyle and is probably the most fun out of the three. Here each race begins with a full tank of gas and you try to earn the most points before your fuel gauge reaches empty.
The beauty of this mode is that it takes the emphasis off of finishing ahead of other racers and allows you to focus on tricks. You can string tricks together to perform combos as well as picking up various power-ups spread out across the track such as extra fuel, bonus multipliers and instant special tricks. In this mode mastering the special tricks is crucial as is performing fresh tricks. Special tricks require serious air and are some of the most insane actions you will ever witness. It’s also worth mentioning that keeping tricks fresh goes a long way in freestyle mode. Perform the same can-can over and over and your points will quickly diminish and your fuel begins to burn faster. This is obviously the most thought-out mode in the game and it makes you wish the other two were as fleshed out.
The trick system is certainly the highlight of playing Pure, but when everything feels as smooth and fluid as it does here, it is hard not to take notice. The handling of the bikes is nearly flawless and using the upgrades earned after each even in World Tour mode actually does make a noticeable difference. Performing tricks feels easy at first, but will take time to master. This stems mostly from the fact that while each trick is just a shoulder button and direction, learning how much air needed for each trick, keeping the fresh and learning how to tweak are crucial. You will crash more often than not on the bigger tricks before getting the hang of it, but little is more satisfying than flying off that epic jump and landing a crazy Shaloin-style before pelting into the dirt below.
A lot of care has also gone into the visuals for Pure. The environments may feel repetitive at first, but once you start racing them their design shines. The sense of speed is also impressive, especially with sixteen riders onscreen at any given time. The frame rate never dips below acceptable and the amount of detail in each course is amazing. The audio department isn’t as lucky as the soundtrack left me under whelmed. There are a few noteworthy tracks to be found, but for the most part I recommend using a custom playlist. The effects are actually spot on, but the chatter between riders I could have done without. Overall the presentation is slick and fits well with the high-level the game sets.
If you get tired of playing with yourself you can hop online for the traditional set of modes including race, but the highlight here is free ride. Similar to previous MX vs. ATV titles this mode allows you and a group of friends to jump into one of several open environments and have a blast. See who can do the biggest trick or get the biggest air the game keeps track of it all and you can compare at the end of the session. The online ran fairly smoothly in our playtests and if you have four or more friends the free ride mode could keep you entertained for months to come.
Pure doesn’t set any standards in the department of innovation, but it does take everything fun about the genre and cram it into a tight package. There is little here to complain about unless you simply do not enjoy this type of racing game. The graphics are some of the best I have seen, the racing is spot-on and the sense of speed and vertigo are unmatched. While it may not change the genre it will certainly deliver more than your money’s worth in unadulterated fun. I cannot recommend this title enough, even with the onslaught of top-quality titles releasing over the next couple of months.