2008 has been a great year for racing games. From the simulation-based Gran Turismo 5 Prologue and GTR Evolution to Burnout Paradise and Grid for a more arcady experience, there’s been something for everyone. Pure, Blackrock Studio’s newest off-road endeavour, falls very much into the latter category and epitomises pick up and play gaming better than any other racing game this year.
Pure and MotorStorm Pacific Rift have often been pitted against one another as contenders for this year’s off-road racing crown. But while MotorStorm is portrayed as a more serious off-road racer, Pure is all about having fun. The game’s developers haven’t tried to reinvent the wheel here. Pure is a simple game; a bunch of tried and tested formulae that come together remarkably well to deliver a thrilling racing experience minus the frustration of frequent crashes and tough opponents.
At the core of Pure is its simple arcade racing style with some extreme tricks; Burnout meets SSX. The game’s remarkable track design ideally suits its over-the-top approach to racing. Environments vary from sand dunes, to glaciers, to lush tropical forests. The different environments vary slightly from one another in terms of how your quad behaves on the racing surface. For instance, your vehicle will slip around on the icy glaciers, while acceleration will be visibly reduced on the sand dunes. These subtle variations, however, won’t pose much of a challenge to most thanks to the game’s basic driving mechanics. Furthering Pure’s easy approach to racing is the steering assistance. If you take off on a jump slightly misdirected, very often the game will nudge you back towards the track, reducing the occurrence of crashes and allowing you to focus on the tricks rather than your positioning. However, occasionally, a misdirected jump will send you flying into a tree, and the game won’t come to your rescue every time. The PC version of the game also supports the Xbox 360 controller, but the implementation is not as seamless as in many other games. Although the controls work fine, on-screen prompts still show keyboard keys rather than the corresponding controller button.
Some of the tracks in the game have jumps that are so big, that very often you will land in a bone crushing crash unless your ATV hits the ground in the right position. The best way to land a jump is to ensure that all four wheels hit the ground at the same time. This can get tricky at times because landing surfaces are usually sloped and you will have to gauge these slopes in mid-air, often in the middle of a ridiculously cool trick.
The essence of Pure lies in tricks, and every other aspect of the game, including AI difficulty, driving mechanics and track design, work to encourage you to perform as many tricks as possible. There are four trick levels, each with four variations. Three tricks are mapped to the face buttons, and only one of them is available to you at the start of a race. Good driving and performing tricks fills up your trick meter, giving you access to more tricks. Besides giving you access to more tricks, the trick meter also gives you boost, and it is up to you whether you utilise your trick meter for boost or to unlock more tricks.
Tricks are performed by holding down a face button and pushing the left analog stick up, down, or to either side. Each trick varies in difficulty and the amount of air time required to complete it. While a simple trick can be performed on the smallest of jumps, a professional trick, which is only available to you on a full trick meter, requires more air time. If you manage to keep your trick meter full for long enough, you gain access to the fourth trick level, the special tricks. Rather than holding a face button, these are performed by holding both shoulder buttons and pushing the left stick. These jumps can only be performed on the biggest jumps on the track and are mesmerisingly beautifully to watch as you soar through the sky with only the peaceful sound of the wind for company. With names like Lazygirl and Shaloin Funk, these tricks are true to Pure’s exaggerated style and successfully pulling them off is truly exhilerating.
Pure revolves around the Pure World Tour, a career mode of sorts. The World Tour consists of 10 stages with 50 events in all, and your aim is to make it to the top of the World Tour rankings by winning these events, broken up into Race, Sprint and Freestyle events. Race events consist of standard races of usually three laps around a full track. This event mode requires you to focus equally on track position and tricks as tricks are the key to gaining boost and helping you stay ahead of the pack. Sprint events consist of smaller, tighter tracks with more laps. These don’t include too many jumps and the best way to win these races is good, old-fashioned wheel-banging racing using the most effective racing line. These races are the most difficult to win, with the entire pack of 16 closely competing for 1st place. The Freestyle events are all about tricks. Rather than track position, these events are won by accumulating points from tricks and putting combos together before your fuel tank runs dry. There are various pick-ups strewn across the track that help you to accumulate a bigger score. These pick ups grant you everything from special tricks and extra fuel to score multipliers.
The garage also comes into play in the World Tour. Winning races unlocks ATV parts which you can add to your quad in the garage. The vehicle customisation is extremely streamlined, user-friendly and easy. ATVs are split up into four classes and the first few stages of the World Tour require Class D ATVs, so those are the only engines you will have access to. As you progress through more stages, other engine classes become available to you, with Class A being the top of the line. There’s no currency involved in the garage so you can create as many ATVs as you want, provided you’ve unlocked enough ATV slots. Even different vehicle parts have various performance levels, with higher level parts drastically increasing one performance attribute, but at the same time reducing another. It’s impossible to put together an ATV with good handling and trick attributes, so its best to have two ATVs for each engine class – one with better handling and speed for Race and Sprint events, and the other with higher acceleration and trick attributes for Freestyle events.
About half-way through the Pure World Tour, you will have played through most of the tracks on offer, you will start to notice the lack of variation in event types, and the insipid opposition AI will leave you wanting. As a result, the World Tour tends to get a little stale and runs out of ideas around this point and even the pretty environs and awe-inspiring tricks don’t quite make up for it.
The World Tour will take up about 6-7 hours of your playing time at most and it’s quite easy to finish first in each of the 50 events. You also have a single event mode, where you can pick one of three difficulty levels to race against the AI on the track and event type of your choice. Then there’s the trial made, where you can take to any track without opponents.
Once you have conquered the World Tour, you can head online with up to 15 other players. Here, besides the Race, Sprint and Freestyle events, there’s a freeride mode where you and your buddies can just run wild on any track for the fun of it without track positions or scores coming into the equation. On the PC version, chances are that you’ll never find enough players in any lobby to fill the 16-vehicle starting grid. The most players I could manage to find in a race were 12, and those races were lag-free; buttery smooth like an offline race. But while races are lag-free, it would have been nice if Blackrock had added a few unique online modes for those looking for something new after progressing through the World Tour. And while there is LAN support, split-screen is sadly missing. For a game that is all about having fun, split-screen support should have been a no-brainer.
Graphics and Sound
Visually, Pure comes as a pleasant surprise. The quad bikes are well modelled and the rider’s animations as the bike moves from side to side and during jumps and landings are very realistic and just what you would expect. The ATVs also kick up dirt as they rummage through muddy tracks like any decent off-road racer should. Track design, however, is where the game shines. The environments vary drastically and they are all beautiful in their own way. You will often find yourself marvelling at the stunning surroundings at the apex of a monstrous jump, and adding to that beauty are the impressive draw distances. On the PC version, the framerate is rock solid and visually, there’s not much to separate it from the console versions.
Pure’s soundtrack consists of the regular fare of Rock and Electronica. While you have an option to pick which songs you would like to hear during the game, with only 15 to choose from, a custom soundtrack option would’ve been nice. In game sound effects are great, with engine and track sounds changing with varying track surfaces and engine classes.
Pure is a game that doesn’t take itself seriously and neither should those who play it. It’s not very challenging and the game modes are limited, but it is unadulterated fun through and through. Unfortunately, Pure is one of those games that isn’t backed by a high-profile publisher, nor did it have a giant hype machine to propel it on to Top 10 sales lists. So it will probably get lost in the year-end crowd of blockbuster games like many other good games. But while there have been some great racing games this year, Pure definitely ranks high up amongst them. For someone new to the racing genre, this is a great game to ease yourself in and at the same time be treated to one of the more gorgeous games around. It’s a great stress buster, an ideal choice for brief gaming sessions, and a title anyone should be proud to have in their collection.
(+) Accessible, uncomplicated driving mechanics
(+) Fun trick system
(+) Beautiful track design
(-) Limited game modes
(-) Lacklustre AI
IndianVideoGamer Verdict: 9/10 (Buy)
This review is based on the PC version of Pure.
Pure is now available in India on PC for Rs 699.