Reviewed: October 8, 2008
Released: September 23, 2008
Has anyone else other than me noticed a distinct lack of ATV games for next-gen consoles? The PS3 and Xbox 360 have been out for years now and there hasn’t been a single dedicated ATV racing game released…until now. Climax, the developers of the ATV Offroad series on the last-gen consoles have changed their name to Black Rock Studio and are now part of the Disney family, and while their previous titles have favored simulation, their latest next-gen race is a fantastic blend of racing, stunts, and super thrills.
Pure is easily one of the top five racing titles of 2008 and certainly leads the pack when it comes to off-road antics. Fans of the Offroad series will slip right into the comfortable racing controls and newcomers to the genre will be racing like pros after the short, yet informative tutorial race. Pure offers great physics and ATV control including an intuitive pre-load system whereby you pull pack on the stick then flick forward at the lip of a ramp to tweak your suspension and achieve crazy air and outrageous hang times.
Once you are airborne you can delight in the intuitive trick system. I am normally not a big fan of games that force you to perform all sorts of crazy button-mashing combos, but Pure is different. It relies on a simple 3-tier system based on the blue trick/boost meter. When you start the race you are able to perform any tier 1 trick by catching some air then pushing the A button and a direction on the left stick. As you pull off more tricks and build up the trick meter you can access tier 2 (B) and tier 3 (Y) tricks.
You are encouraged to mix things up by a clever grading system that counts how many times you perform a trick then pops up notes like “Fresh”, “Stale”, or “Tame”. You can keep things fresh by tweaking your tricks with the RB and LB buttons or mixing up the individual tricks into more elaborate combos. The bigger and better and fresher the tricks, the more juice you get for your blue bar.
To add some strategy to the mix you also have a nitro boost available for your ATV. This is not only useful for racing but it allows you to boost off a ramp for impressive altitudes. The catch here is that using your boost also drains your trick meter and can potentially limit the tricks you can access. Depending on the type of race event, you will have to make some fast decisions about when and where to use your boost. Of course, once you pull off a special trick you’ll be awarded a period of unlimited boosting, which can turn the tide of a race.
Pure is equal parts tricks and racing thanks to a clever career mode that mixes up a 10-stage World Tour with a variety of events like Sprint, Freestyle, and Race. Freestyle is all about pulling off as many stunts as you can, and it doesn’t matter who crosses the finish line first. As you perform stunts your gas gauge will fill up – the fresher the stunt, the more gas you get. Everybody races until they run out of gas. The tracks are littered with power-ups to boost your scores or add some extra fuel.
Racing is the quest to cross the finish line first, but in order to do so you will most certainly need to perform stunts to fill your boost gauge so you can get the edge on the incredible A.I. exhibited by the other racers, who will take shortcuts and cut you off in the process. Sprint is a variation of the race mode taking place on a shorter section of a normal course but increasing the lap count. There is little time or place to even attempt tricks, so sprint races are all about racing lines and riding skills.
As you make your way through the tour mode you will unlock a variety of race parts that you can use to build several ATV’s from the frame up. These bikes are ranked into their own tiers that increase in performance as the races increase in difficulty. You have the ultimate freedom in building and painting your bikes, but the true power comes in tweaking the parts to achieve desired results. By swapping out parts you can change the status for things like suspension, top speed, handling, acceleration, etc. This makes bike selection an important element before each type of race. You wouldn’t want to take a bike tweaked for sprinting into a freestyle event.
When it comes to visuals, Pure is flawless in every aspect starting with the amazing vistas for the 12 carefully chosen racing venues. In World Tour you will literally tour the world racing in all sorts of exotic locations, and a few not-so-exotic. The courses carve their intricate paths through these wondrous landscapes with plenty of hidden paths and secret shortcuts that beg to be explored.
The bike and rider animations are exquisite, especially when you start busting some serious trick and combo action. Even after more than 12 hours of racing my jaw seldom leaves the floor when watching these slow-motion stunts. As impossible as the stunts are in real life, at least the racing and bike physics are rooted in reality, with each tip and tilt of the bike being perfectly recreated down to the spring compressions.
The audio department shines just as bright with excellent engine noises that reflect the various sizes of the bikes, and suitable environmental noises when applicable. There is a modest amount of speech, usually excited yells or trash talk from the various riders. There is also some excellent music, both for the menus and the racing, but the default mix definitely favors the sound effects. If you really want to rock out to either the in-game music or your own custom soundtracks, you will need to tweak the sound options.
Pure offers a lot of racing action starting with the 50-race career mode. You also have the Single Event that allows you to race on any track you’ve unlocked and a Time Trial mode where you can try to best your previous track records. The racing difficulty definitely ramps up in the final stages of the career mode so you can expect a solid 12-20 hours of racing depending on your skill level.
Xbox Live is fully supported with the inclusion of all three single-player events and up to 16 racers, and there is a new Freeride mode where everyone just races around the tracks doing their own thing in their own locations trying to rack up the best score in the given time limit. The online racing was impressive, both in how easy it was to get going and how fluid it ran once you did. Even with full 16-player events, I never saw a glitch in dozens of online races.
There is a nice selection of Achievements ranging from merely making your way through the World Tour to busting off certain levels of tricks, doing nothing but Fresh tricks the entire race, or even doing one of every trick in your arsenal in a single event. Some are easy to earn and others will take hours of dedicated effort.
I can’t recommend Pure highly enough. This is without a doubt one of the best racers I’ve played all year, if not the best. The controls are intuitive, the racing is fun, the A.I. is challenging, and the scenery is epic. Next-gen gamers have had to wait a long time for some quad-racing action and Pure is certainly worth the wait. Buy it now!