Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/2629

PURE (PC, Xbox 360) Review

by Eddie Turner on September 29, 2008 12:00 AM EST

When it comes to games, the line between realism and fantasy slices nearly every genre into two parts. While each while each section is rarely the other's equivalent, gamers often tend to gravitate toward one or the other. This raises a few questions. Would you rather wield a knife or a flaming samurai sword? Would you rather explore an office complex with a flashlight or dungeon catacombs with a lantern? Closer to the game at hand, would you rather your vehicle catch twenty feet of air or a thousand? The good folks at the newly coined Black Rock Studios show us what side they're on by taking the fantastical approach to off-road racing with PURE, a freestyle ATV racer whose focus is on frantic speed and exaggerated aerial acrobatics.

In a world where new IPs are few and far between, it's always nice to see a fresh new title rise up among those with a number 2, 3 or 4 in them. While PURE's style of gameplay isn't anything we haven't seen before, it certainly puts its best foot forward at being the best in its class. So, what exactly is its class?

PURE finds its footing among off-road racing games like MotorStorm and DiRT, with trick pulling elements that are more reminiscent of snowboarding or skateboarding games like SSX or Tony Hawk respectively. As in all racing games, speed is definitely on the agenda. However, only a combination of speed and freestyle stunts will put players in the winner's circle.

Gameplay Overview

As stated before, PURE is a brand new game from a development studio with a brand new name. Formerly known as Climax Racing, Black Rock's accolades include the largely popular Moto GP series as well as the ATV Offroad Fury games, which contain many of the same elements you'll see in PURE. Even so, the game makes a fair attempt to differentiate itself from the Fury series with increased speed, imaginative tracks, and jumps that take you and your ATV to new heights. Now a part of Disney Interactive Studios, Black Rock's new direction is to instill a high level of originality into their racing games. PURE exemplifies this originality and is a welcome addition to the racing genre of PC and console games.

When the game begins, players will be introduced to its core mechanics: driving/handling, boosting, preloading jumps, and pulling a few tricks. The ATVs in the game handle quite well on tracks designed in such a way that braking is almost never needed. Aside from letting off the gas on the occasional hard right or left turn, it's full speed ahead. Preloading is done by pulling back on the left analog stick of your Xbox 360 controller or pressing the corresponding key on your keyboard as you approach ramped terrain, then flipping the analog stick forward or releasing your key as you reach the top. This is the equivalent of leaning forward on your ATV and then jerking back to get the maximum amount of air once you leave the ramp. While PURE can be enjoyed using the mouse/keyboard controls, a gamepad is highly recommended in order to obtain the much needed sensitivity. Once again, the Xbox 360 controller for Windows is the gamepad of choice as its settings are mapped out perfectly on the PC version. Now let's take a quick look at the control configuration for pulling stunts.

Along with the left and right trigger buttons used for accelerating and braking comes a clever control scheme players will use while their ATVs are airborne. In the image above, you'll see the game's boost bar. When players are not focused on the action, this is what will be referred to constantly. With each successful trick pulled, the boost meter increases, allowing players to press and hold the X button for burst of super speed. The amount of boost is indicated by the blue flames as shown in the image. As the meter becomes increasingly full, access to new tricks becomes available. Each new level of tricks is represented by colored highlights that surround the silhouettes of the ATV and its rider within the bar. Conveniently, the colored highlights match the colors of the buttons on the 360 controller.

Available immediately is the first level of stunts that are limited to simple actions like your rider kicking out a leg or raising both legs above the ATV's handlebars. We'll call these Level A tricks as the A button on the controller is used to initiate them. After pulling off a few of these, your boost bar increases and unlocks Level B tricks, again coinciding with the B button on the controller. These stunts are a bit more impressive with moves that will have your rider's body above the vehicle while still grasping the grips of the handlebars. The next level of stunts, Level Y includes even more death defying moves including the rider turning flips while completely separate from the ATV. Each level of stunts allows for different tricks that are initiated by holding down the corresponding button and moving the left analog stick one of eight different directions as indicated in the image.

The action doesn't stop there though. Once your boost bar is completely full, a bright white star appears giving you access to the most insane level of tricks the game has to offer. When these stunts become available, holding down both shoulder buttons on the controller and moving the right analog stick will have your rider upside down doing the helicopter with outstretched legs spinning as you soar hundreds of virtual feet above the earth.

With jumps of all sizes on each track, the amount of hang time players will experience varies greatly. While some jumps provide just enough lift off to pull a single trick before landing, many will provide sufficient air time to pull off two or three stunts. And then there are the jumps that take your ATV over the edges monstrous ravines and deep valleys. These are the big jumps that provide enough time to eat a sandwich on the way down. Of course I'm being facetious here, but so is the ability to land an ATV after a 500 foot drop. Even so, this is where the game shines. In these instances, players should have no problems pulling off four or five-trick combos that provide a significant increase to your boost bar. Landing your ATV is also part of the game's strategy as players can adjust the pitch of their ATV in mid air, insuring a smooth landing for uninterrupted speed. This is fun stuff indeed, and we recommend checking out some of the videos on the official site for a closer look. Honestly, though, playing the game in person is a much better idea, since videos don't really convey the sense of control or timing.

More Gameplay

The tracks in PURE were designed with real locations in mind. During the series of events that make up the game's campaign and World Tour modes, players will face the most intuitive off-road terrain in a video game to date, including sand dunes, mountainous mines, and tropical highlands, all named for the landmarks or geographical areas they resemble. PURE features a whopping 48 multi-route tracks sprawled out among seven of these beautiful locations. While it's often tough to stop and smell the roses in racing games, the development team made sure that players could appreciate the artistry put into the game's environments while in motion. In fact, many of the big jumps in the game take you high enough into the air to survey your surroundings with impressive draw distances to say the very least. Players may find themselves at a loss for pulling stunts while admiring the bird's-eye view.

There are three event types in PURE, the first being freestyle which focuses on stringing together trick combos. The second event type is sprint. In sprint events, the spotlight is on players' ability to handle their ATV on some pretty tough courses. Then of course, there are straightforward racing events with en equal focus on speed and stunts, as well as tactics that will get you across the finish line first. But before you begin your first race, it's off to the garage to build your new racing machine.

In the garage, players will build their ATVs from the ground up, selecting and then customizing every part one would expect to utilize while building a new ride, and then some. The developers made sure the garage provides a meticulous experience that offers fulfillment to those who enjoy a high level of involvement in their games. Players will begin by selecting a frame for their new ATV, followed by shocks, wheels, tires, handlebars, brakes, engine, and body style. The garage even includes parts that may be more familiar to experienced ATV enthusiasts like nerf bars and swingarms, all of which can be customized by choosing from an array of colors.

Once satisfied with your creation, you'll begin by competing in the first of the campaign's ten events that require multiple races to complete. With each win, upgrades in the form of higher quality replacement parts become available, thus prompting players to frequent the garage and add parts that will make their ATV go "Woo Woooo!" Customizing your vehicle in PURE is a lot of fun and is sure to bring out the Bubb Rubb in everyone.

Multiplayer and Graphics

Multiplayer in PURE is as straightforward as the events you'll experience in the campaign, offering players a choice between the three available types of events. In addition, the game also has a free ride mode for those who'd rather just tool around and maybe check out their friends' ATVs with no winner or loser tagged. In this mode, players may simply check out stats that show things like who made the highest jump or the most impressive trick.

During my time with the PC and Xbox 360 versions of PURE, I was able to check out all of the available online modes and I am happy to report that the game performed flawlessly with absolutely no lag or graphical glitches experienced on either platform. While I can't promise a bug-free experience for everyone, I think it's fair to note that there were multiple instances where the conversations between players centered on how well the game performed during online play. Since the game is fairly new, I was not able to apply my criticism to an online match with the maximum sixteen players the game touts. However, I did experience as many as twelve racers on both platforms and the same smoothness in PURE's multiplayer modes applies to both. Sadly, online play is limited to one player with no split-screen option for online or local play. A fifth or sixth event type or multiplayer mode would have increased the game's already high replay value, but what's here is indeed satisfying.

Graphically, PURE is simply a gorgeous game. The environments you'll race though are vividly detailed with blooms of light and eye-catching structures throughout. On the PC front, PURE is hardly a game that will put today's upper-midrange graphics cards to the test. Equipped with a single 8800GT, an overclocked Core 2 Duo, and plenty of memory, my machine achieved an unwavering 60 FPS throughout most of the game. Whenever my GPU did take a hit, the effect was minimal with frame rates only falling to (at worst) 56 FPS. Even on its highest settings, similar results were achieved with a 6800 GT, suggesting great performance even on midrange machines. (Granted, 6800 GT doesn't support DX10 effects, but it still looked good and ran very well, which was rather surprising.)

While the PC version may have the upper hand in performance and graphical quality, the gap between it and the Xbox 360 version of PURE is not enormous by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, aside from the 360's signature blur effects, there isn't a whole lot separating the two save for the obvious difference in frame rates. Even though an interview with one of Black Rock's finest stated that the target frame rate for the console versions was 30, I am inclined to believe that the goal was exceeded. In the end, you've got an excellent performing game that looks and performs great on both consoles and PC. While I was not able to try out the PlayStation 3 version of PURE, I figured the deal breaker would be its online performance over the PlayStation Network, which is known for having its issues. However, the buzz seems to be pretty positive among the gamers who participate in the forums at PlayStation.com.


To conclude, let me emphasize that I did not include a section where I talk about the game's faults. That's because it simply does what it does extremely well. While PURE is not a perfect game, any minor flaws are completely overshadowed by the amount of fun you'll have playing it. Black Rock Studio definitely has another winner on its hands. Sadly, I do feel that the game will go underappreciated due to the lack of publicity prior to its release. After all, a game this fun should not go unnoticed. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, PURE caters to those who can appreciate its whimsical approach to racing. It's definitely a departure from games like GRID, but should hit home for those who enjoy the TrackMania games. The focus is definitely on the amusement factor here. While I rarely hand out wholehearted recommendations, you have mine as I firmly believe that games like PURE are the reason we play video games. It's lighthearted, over-the-top, unrealistic, and above all, pure fun.

  • Excellent handling
  • Intuitive control scheme
  • Enjoyable vehicle customization
  • Largely fun aerial stunts
  • Beautiful graphics
  • Lack of split-screen option
  • Lack of variety in multiplayer modes

PURE takes the serious aspect of off-road racing and throws it out the window with its high-flying stunts and high speed action. You might find better racing games out there, but you'll be hard pressed to find one that's as much fun to play.

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