As much as I enjoy simulation-quality racing games, I can't help but think that software like Pure is precisely what the medium of videogames was designed for. Racing exotic supercars around real-world race tracks is all fine and good, but you can see others do it for real on television. Heck, with the right amount of money (and insurance) you can do it yourself with little training. And it would be incredible. But if not for videogames, how would we ever know what it might be like to drive an ATV off a cliff hundreds of feet in the air, over a river, while performing a backflip? It's this blending of unabashed absurdity with extremely realistic environments that, in my opinion, makes Pure something not only rare, but also very special.
Pure is certainly not a perfect game, and it can no doubt be frustrating to play, but try as I might to nitpick at it, I only need launch my machine off the first towering vista before a smile creeps across my face. The ground disappears, a bird flies by, and the landing area appears to be a quarter of a mile away. My rider is hanging onto the rear fenders, stretched out like superman behind the ATV. It's surreal. I laugh out loud at the insanity while being mesmerized at the actual quality of what it is I'm seeing. The vertigo-inducing heights to which you can leap with your ATV are clearly the hook of the game and it's obvious that Black Rock, the developer behind Pure, put a massive amount of resources into making it as jaw-dropping a moment as they could. There are a dozen ways in which these massive leaps of death could have proven lame or gimmicky, but Black Rock avoided every pitfall. The result is a highly polished collection of seconds that yield a sensation few other games, if any, can even approach.
The game isn't all about the jumps though. Each of the courses has a number of braided paths snaking through it and battling it out in the mud against the 16 other racers on this tight and twisty courses is indeed an enjoyable experience. The complexity and length of the tracks is something I wasn't quite prepared for. Each course has several shortcuts -- typically narrower, exposed, paths with a high degree of risk -- that you can use to shave tens of seconds off your lap times and finding these is half the challenge. There are dozens of jumps of varying shapes and sizes in each course and perhaps the game's biggest challenge to the racer is to not try and bust a huge air off every little whoop-de-doo.
I mentioned that I didn't feel the game was perfect and so I should mention a few of the gripes i have. For starters, the structure of the single player "World Tour" is ripped straight from the days of the Playstation One. It's nothing but a list of events. A checklist if you will. Place high enough in one group of events to unlock the next set of events. There is no freedom, no sense of being involved in any meaningful career, and certainly nothing that has you feel like you're on a tour. It's a checklist plain and simple... and dated.
Another grievance I have is with the stated customization. The game is marketed as having over a hundred thousand different customizations you can perform to build your ATV. And this is true. There are literally dozens of parts that you have to select from ranging from handlebars to seats to fenders to engines and grips. There are two problems with the way the game handles this though. Although it's nice that you can quick-pick a "race" or "trick" part from each category to build your ATV that much faster, you unlock new parts by completing events, seemingly at random and most of the parts are purely cosmetic and offer no performance enhancement. Othertimes, you're given a choice of upgrading one of three parts on your current ATV. Personally, I would have preferred a system that awards prize money and allows you to buy new parts to your choosing. Not only can you not "quick-add" the new upgraded part to your bike in the reward screen (you have to go back to the ATV build screen) but you have no idea how many subsequent upgrades may come available, nor when, thus making your selection rather arbitrary. Each bike has ratings for top speed, acceleration, handling, boost, and trick ability and acquiring parts to make a bike specific to racing or tricking is important. Unfortunately, I feel like earning new parts is akin to reaching into a grab-bag. Fortunately, you can scrap and build new ATVs as often as you like.
So the event structure and customization options need tweaking, but really, other than a lackluster soundtrack, there is nothing else I can even think of criticizing this game for. The variety and complexity of the courses, the trick system, and the three event types (full race, sprint, and freestyle mode) make this a really enjoyable game and definitely one of the best racing games I've played this year. In fact, I can't ever recall playing anything like this at all. Pure takes the off-road racing of Sega Rally Revo, stretches out the courses and adds the verticality and arsenal of tricks not seen since snowboarding games like SSX. And the graphics, my oh my, does this game look gorgeous.
Now if only they could get the damn Leaderboards to stop crashing the console.
We're told a patch is on the way...
For a second opinion, check out this video review from the folks at Gametrailers.com