Pure - first look

A quick sit down with developer Blackrock Studio’s stunt-centric ATV racing game Pure had us exclaiming out loud such sophisticated phrases as “Whoa!” and “Dang!” and we weren’t even playing the game. Before we got to see it, however, director Jason Avent wanted to explain what he was going for in Pure.

He describes an example of going snowboarding, where you come over the crest of a hill, and a huge vista opens up before you, forcing your jaw to drop while at the same time inducing a sense of vertigo and the height and distance of it all. Bringing that feeling to Pure is one of his main goals. All the while that he’s talking, we’re staring at the back of a rider on an ATV at the starting line, with some admittedly nice details in the environment - including individual rocks in the dirt and wildflowers growing alongside the road - but there’s no vista to speak of. With such a big introduction of a concept that frankly sounds difficult to pull off, we were a bit skeptical.

So he unpauses the game and tears off down the track. Everything looks like your typical dirt-racer (although certainly leagues prettier than MX vs ATV Untamed). Ten seconds in, he rounds a curve and roars up an incline. The road just cuts off at the lip of the ramp - we can’t see anything but blue sky beyond it. Then the ATV launches over the top, and holy crap, talk about delivering on a promise. A gigantic landscape heaves into view, complete with mountainous valleys, a distant lake, and snaking roads just begging to be explored. To ratchet up the sense of awe and vertigo, the game goes into slight slow-motion, the sound phases and shifts, and even the depth of field and depth perception stretch out. Then, of course, the rider performs some crazy tricks before plummeting back to Mother Earth.

While this breath-stealing trick will certainly draw you in, Pure hopes to keep you playing with tactical gameplay revolving around choices made on the fly. The tracks are not made up of a single pathway - around almost every corner you’re presented with multiple branching trails, and of course you can cut across off road as well. Many of these paths are simply there for variety, while others may provide sneaky shortcuts, and a certain few will only be traversable if you’ve got enough boost.

Avent calls it the “booster bonus trick system” which basically describes what it is. For the most part, it’s your standard “build boost by performing tricks” setup, but as Avent explained, it gets a bit deeper than that. There are low, mid, and high level tricks, which can only be accessed if you’ve got enough boost. In order to utilize the biggest tricks, you have to refrain from boosting too much, but in order to achieve the massive jumps that allow for more complex tricks, you need to use boost. So it becomes a balancing act of decisions. And boost isn’t just a matter of going faster at random times, it’s needed to plow through rough terrain, or to combine with preloaded jumps to access secret shortcuts that only the biggest jumps can reach.

Pure is in no way meant to be realistic - in some cases you can jump hundreds of feet in the air and land without a scratch, all the while barely missing wooden beams or overhanging rock formations. It feels only somewhat arcadey, with the gritty detail of the world and the deeper-than-first-glance boost system keeping it from floating out into the realm of cartoon racing.

With seven locations, each boasting multiple tracks, combined with various undisclosed modes, there looks to be a whole lot to keep you busy. Throw in 16-player online racing, and we’re talking some potentially serious trick-busting competition. Despite a number of next-gen off-road racers out there, Pure may end up staking a nice little claim of its own.

Check out the latest trailer below:

Feb 22, 2008

Matthew Keast
My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.