Riding ATVs is something we don’t get around to doing that often. As a result, Pure is a wonderful exercise in escapism, taking you away from the daily grind and into a high-octane environment in which you’re able to zoom around beautiful countryside without a care in the world. And that’s the beauty of Pure. You’ll find yourself blazing through the tracks at breakneck speeds, with just enough control to make you feel connected, tempered with an edge of “Oh my god, I could fall off any moment.” Pure plays a lot like the old Burnouts, but with the added mayhem of off-road dirt-tracks, full of bumps, hills, mountains, and big pools of water for you to either drive through or fall into. You can accelerate, break, and all the usual gumph that you’d expect from a racer, with the addition of being able to boost, as well as jump your ATV high up in the air and pull off Tony Hawk-esque tricks.
There are three different modes, in the form of Race, Freestyle, and Sprint. Race and Sprint are much the same. Get from point A to point B, with Sprint having shorter laps and thus giving you (and your opponents) the chance to race back into the lead at short notice. Freestyle is rather different, as it’s based wholly on your ability to pull off tricks while hurtling around the rather bumpy tracks, taking the best advantage you can of the jumps by flicking the leftstick down, and then up, to get the biggest air from jumps. Freestyle also gives you limited fuel with which to trick, letting you win more by completing laps, pulling trick combos, or picking up power-ups. These power-ups can also multiply your score. You pull off tricks by pulling the left stick in any direction and pressing the lowest-tier trick button, then, as you complete bigger and better tricks, you can use more buttons to pull off more complex moves.
However, boosting removes part of this power meter, requiring you to balance boosting with the ability to build up to a gigantic special trick, which will, in Freestyle mode, score you a big chunk of points, as well as (in both Race and Sprint Mode) allow you to boost as much as you want for a short amount of time – and then attempt another special trick to fill it up again. These tricks are absolutely rock hard to pull off. Still, this level of difficulty makes landing one of them incredibly satisfying, with the resultant burst of speed and (if in Freestyle) points giving you a huge advantage.
The World Tour mode is a bit linear compared to Burnout Paradise, but it’s got a lot of meat to it. You start by building your own ATV, from the frame up, customizing it as you win different parts, upgrading it to perform better in tougher events until you can enter the higher-ranked races. You take part in different events, across several different tournaments, gaining points depending on your success on the track, winning new parts dependent on where you finish, and how many events you finish in the top three of. Modifying your ATV is addictive, and it’s a necessity to beat the tougher Freestyle events (as different parts are better for tricks, making sharp turns, or accelerating).
While the devs could’ve made this a rather gimmicky add-on to the World Tour, constantly editing your vehicle becomes both second nature and a labour of love, as you can not only change the colour of most of the components, but even name the thing. You can, if you really want to, survive most of the game with a mere two ATVs, one built for Freestyle tracks, and another built for Sprinting and Racing. However, if you’re really slick, you’ll be constantly trying different builds depending on the track. In fact, as you beat more events, you gain more slots for ATVs, and Pure actively encourages you to engage in a process of trial and error, rebuilding your quad-bike for each race. This can get a bit arduous once you reach the higher stages, but luckily, the game gives you the option to quick-build some or all of the ATV.
Playing Pure is an absolute adrenaline rush. The graphics are astounding, with a real sense of horrifying, nauseating speed – making it all too clear that you’re on the back of what amounts to four big bouncy balls and a metal frame. The motion blur is noticeable, but never manages to get in the way of the action, and the environments are breathtaking. We were taken aback by how amazing some of the tracks looked. You’ll see huge, hulking vistas sprawl out in front of you, and a few seconds later you’ll be defying gravity as you skid up them, hoping you can keep control as you gawp at the view.
This only makes the tightness of the racing and how well it links with doing tricks all the more satisfying. These big tracks tend to have plenty of places to go for broke, boosting hell for leather and going for a big jump. Pure is fast, intuitive to control, and a lot of fun once you get over not instantly boosting as you would in a Burnout game. It can tend to be a little unforgiving to new players, as you’ll find that until you’ve got a handle on the speed, you’ll just wipe out and lose races. This is probably the biggest problem with Pure – at times, it’s rather unsure what kind of racer it is. While on one hand you’re boosting, making unrealistic jumps and performing tricks that no man can, you’ll still find that landing particular moves is remarkably realistic, requiring pinpoint accuracy and, at times, way too much luck. Your wheel will hit a rock, sending you flying, seconds after you’ve used explosive nitrous boosting to throw yourself hundreds of feet into the air. It doesn’t totally make sense, and is a pain when you crash for the slightest mistake.
Nonetheless, Pure is a visually stunning, utterly playable, totally loveable racing game that rewards time invested in it with ridiculous feats of agility and gorgeous, turf-destroying races. Pure is one of the most playable, fun, quasi-arcade racers on the market, but it’s linear compared to Burnout Paradise. Want a muddier, messier, more brutal racer? Pure will certainly satisfy that primal urge.
Sep 16, 2008