Pure: Bring Home The Checkered Flag

September 26, 2008

Previously known as Climax Studios, Blackrock Studios gave rise to some memorable dirt-laced titles, including installments of the popular ATV Offroad Fury series for the PlayStation 2. Needless to say, these guys know dirt bikes. Since then, the team's experienced a name change, joined the house of mouse, and made the intrepid leap to the next-gen with the rumbling motor of the ATV still driving their inspiration. The end result of that journey is PURE, a bold ATV racer that plays to its lineage's strengths. PURE seems poised to bring home the checkered flag, but does it have enough traction to stay on-course?

ATV wheeler by day and stunt racer by night, PURE's unique play style tests your mettle as driver and daredevil alike. And you'll get a first-hand chance at exploring both sides of the coin in the PURE world tour: an international grand prix of guts an glory and the game's core single-player mode.

Divvied up into a gauntlet of events across 10 stages, placing favorably in world tour mode earns you points towards unlocking the next stage and engine class in the competition. Race well enough and you're able to advance before completing everything, but you'll want to stick around anyway. With every race carrying the prospect of winning bigger and better ATV upgrades, completing every stage is more than just frivolous--it becomes a necessity.

Race tracks, one of the main course types you'll encounter in world tour mode, strike a moderate balance between drifting down dirt paths and flaunting fancy tricks. And the courses are built as such, sporting an even mix of hairpin turns and Evel Knievel-inspired jumps across gaping chasms. As balanced as they are prevalent, the race tracks provide a nice mix of terrain to challenge your skills.

Sprint tracks, on the other hand, rely on tight turns and steady lines in the scramble for first across five short laps. At first, the ATV may seem like an unwieldy machine for the task, but tightening up its screws in the garage gets the job done. With licensed parts ranked in simple categories like acceleration, handling, and tricks, just about anyone can build a machine to suit each race. And if they can't, they can always use the quick-build feature.

And finally, the freestyle tracks strip away lap times and finishing lines and focus on chaining tricks and power-ups before your gas tank peters out. With the emphasis on trick scores, the freestyle tracks offer a unique change of pace to the race and sprint tracks.

All these race types take place in 12 locations situated around the globe, from the sandy shores of Thailand to winding mountaintop villas in Italy. Twelve may not seem like enough, but the number multiplies once the different race types factor in--splintering the tracks into multiple versions. And though they vary greatly in theme, each track shares the same penchant for wide tracts of land and multi-tiered environments--perfect playgrounds for wild-riding ATV races and discreetly hidden shortcuts. Overall, the track design is excellent, ensuring that you'll get a lot of mileage.

Everything you see and do in world tour trickles down into PURE's other modes, from the single and trial race modes to the multiplayer option, which has you splashing mud with up to 15 other racers online. There's no local split-screen racing, but once you've queued up with some buds online, the game really hits its stride.

The world tour mode is lengthy, the race types are solid, and the tracks are all intricately designed. PURE may not have the most modes, but it definitely makes the best of what it's got.

Gone are the days of ATV Offroad Fury's selection of MX bikes, buggies, and trophy trucks. In PURE, it's all about the ATV and stunts.

Tricks are PURE's bread and butter: high-risk, high-reward endeavors that reward a bit of derring-do with some points and a bit of boost. Just like the ATV Offroad Fury series, pre-loading your shocks before each leap of faith is the key to getting mega air. Tricks are easy to perform and master, utilizing the face buttons, and you can chain them together to make even better moves available. It's a simple, user-friendly system that you can master in just a few laps.

Many will be tempted to exhaust their boost reserves immediately, but patient riders will wait until it's full to engage an all-powerful special trick. You need serious air to pull one off, but if you stick it, the boost meter is juiced back up.

The relationship between boosting and tricking carries an interesting dynamic that's sure to spawn different strategies from player to player. No matter the tactic, the trick system definitely rewards those with nerves of steel.

Despite its tuning aspect, there's no denying that PURE is an arcade racer. The wide dirt paths are forgiving avenues for some reckless driving, and you'll very rarely have to use the brakes. If there's one criticism it's that the game is a little too easy and that there's no opportunity for exploration. Unless it's a shortcut designated by the game, you'll be transported back to the track.

Still, there are plenty of opportunities for time-shaving leaps and harebrained vaults. Paired with accessible controls and a nicely-integrated trick system, PURE delivers a frenetic experience peppered with style and substance.

It may be hard to think of an off-roading game with anything but a drab palette of brown, but PURE's spectrum of warm colors are enough to bring shame to its muddy forefathers. The outdoor environments shine with luminescent lighting and impressive details. Serpentine woodland tracks give way to awe-inspiring vistas and dramatic moments of air atop mind-numbing jumps where the camera pulls back for you to relish the moment as the ground comes rushing at you. It looks great.

Musically, PURE's backing soundtrack paints an image of its own with an appropriate selection of rock, trip-hop, and house tracks. Bolstered by a custom playlist option and a dynamic mixing feature that dials down or amps up the tunes if the situation calls for it, PURE's production values score high like one of its elaborate airborne stunts.

It may not have turtle shells, big rigs, or carbon fiber hoods, but PURE and its engaging mix of accessible racing, high-flying tricks, and solid production values land it on the pole position. You don't have to be an ATV fan to appreciate what PURE has to offer; you just have to enjoy high-speed thrills, truckloads of dirt, and plenty of air.