When you think of racing games that are fun, addictive and don't require much in the way of thought there's only really the Midnight Club series and Burnout that comes to mind. Arcade racers that rely on big air, adrenaline and pedal to the metal acceleration to give the player thrills. Burnout has its over the top crashes and high speed of course. Recently we've seen a crop of racing games like GRID, Forza and the Need for Speed series that bring us the tuner side of racing, with drift challenges and varying levels of realism in the car handling.
Enter Pure, a breath of fresh air in an arcade SSX Tricky kind of way that combines ATV racing with big air, insane tricks and a solid frame rate that gives you a fun and frenetic experience from start to end on the varied tracks. Pure isn't a realistic simulation of ATV riding, it's full of massive jumps and huge air, crazy tracks and larger than life riders. Pure has a great attention to detail, from the actual graphics of the game right down to the ATVs themselves; there are numerous little features that you can spot if you take the time to look for them.
You can compete in time trials, various styles of single event, such as the freestyle, where it's you against the track, no riders and you have to collect various icons (ala SSX series) to boost up your score and so on. You can race against other riders (who are good even on the low difficulty) and compete in the typical world tour mode where you follow the career of your chosen rider.
What is a real gem inside the game is the ATV customization system. You can create a trick based ATV or a pure racing ATV in one of the most in-depth build utilities inside a game of this kind. It allows you to select from a variety of parts such as: frame, engine, shocks, wheels and so on. Some of these parts can be coloured individually and the whole thing can be built to your spec, as various parts change different stats about the ATV: Handling, Tricks, Acceleration and so on.
Once you're done, name your ride and you're away. These ATVs are usually better than the stock vehicles that the game gives you. Each of the riders that you can choose from have a specific personality that comes through in their character voices, the animations and the design of their clothing. You can select from a few outfits and even change the helmet. Whilst not a deep customization system ala the ATV builder it's nice to see that the developers have included it.
As for the tracks, these are some crazy set pieces that are beautiful to look at and nightmarish to navigate until you learn the layout. There are massive jumps that give you enough time to pull of various tricks (simple, intermediate and advanced) set to the buttons on the controller. Doing tricks builds up a boost bar that you can use for speed and to perform even more elaborate tricks, again, a little like SSX Tricky. The opposing riders are good at using short cuts and will provide a challenge even at the lower levels of difficulty until you learn the best combos and pep up your ride with new parts and so on.
The AI is decent and it doesn't seem to suffer from rubber-banding as far as I could tell, it will sometimes crash out as well and lose control on a particularly tricky section of the track.
Pure has excellent graphics, the environments are well designed and there are numerous short cuts usually filled with tricky jumps and enough places to do dangerous stunts. The character graphics are good as well, they are excellently animated and each rider has a distinct personality that does come through in the race as you either ride as them or battle against them to win. The spot effects are good, the churning mud as you race through a puddle of the stuff, splashing around the wheels of the ATV.
It has a solid soundtrack and the sound effects are excellent from the grumble of the ATVs engine, as it translates into a high pitched whine when pushed too far. The grinding sound as the ATV takes a particularly tough section of gravel or packed dirt. The thunk as the ATV collides with another rider with a slight scrape of metal. It fuels the adrenaline as you race around and immerses you more in the game. The voice acting is good, with solid performances and dialogue.
Pure is arcade 'trick' racing at its best, it's packed with gameplay and provides a solid experience all round. There are online race modes and having the most in-depth ATV customization system fills out the overall package nicely. It might be considered a little 'rinse and repeat' in terms of racing, but if you like tearing it up across some of the most luscious tracks to appear in any game yet, then you're going to love it. There are no frame-rate issues and there were no noticeable pop-in, pop-up or graphics glitches.
We had no clipping issues, no strange physics behaviour, nothing to make us fall through the world map and there were only a few laggy spots during multiplayer that gave us pause for thought. Not enough to spoil the enjoyment of the game and certainly not enough to knock this ATV racing gem off a newly built throne of excellence.
In other words, Pure deserves its score because it's fun, addictive and most of all: it's well coded with no glaring errors off or online. The controls are intuitive and responsive.
Play it if you loved SSX Tricky