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Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC - Xbox 360 version reviewed.
Wow. I didn't see this coming at all.
Pure is a nice reminder that not everything in the games industry is predictable. A new property from a new name, Black Rock Studio, and Disney Interactive, it was one of those games that I thought looked vaguely interesting but didn't exactly set me alight with fevered anticipation. I was expecting a decent off-road racer, nothing more, nothing less. Maybe I should have known better. In a previous life as Climax Racing Studios, Black Rock were responsible for the MotoGP series, several titles in the ATV Offroad Fury franchise and the under-rated Rally Fusion. None of these games have caught the mainstream imagination in the way that, say, the Need for Speed or Colin McRae titles have, but I really hope that Pure just might. To be honest, I love it to bits.
On paper it might not sound too promising: an arcade quad-bike racing game with a stunt mechanism reminiscent of the SSX snowboarding games. Basically, you perform stunts to earn boost, holding back the left stick to charge up power before each jump, releasing it as you take to the air, then pressing the A button in combination with different directions of the left stick to pull off different manoeuvres. On landing successfully your boost gauge charges, but cleverly you don't have to use it. Instead, you can keep charging it so that you can pull off bigger and more impressive stunts. Save enough, and you can access intermediate stunts using the B button. These take a bit longer and prove a bit riskier, but earn you more boost. Save more and you unlock the Y button expert stunts. Save even more, and you can even pull off an epic, grandstanding super stunt. It might not be entirely original, but it's a great system, and one that encourages you to balance short-term needs vs. long-term tactics. Do you use your boost now to stay in the race, or hold it back so that you get the bigger payback later?
On the screen, this cool mix of gameplay comes alive. To my mind, Pure is the most madcap racing experience since Motorstorm; one where fifteen riders race over rollercoaster landscapes, flying through the air and frequently smashing into the ground. Your fellow riders aren't aggressive in the way that, say, Motorstorm's can be, but they certainly play tough and there's no obvious 'rubber-banding' going on. The handling and physics, meanwhile, are precise and gritty, not quite hitting Motorstorm's incredible seat of the pants feel, but certainly approaching it. It's the tracks, however, that are the stars of the show. Pure's courses aren't merely undulating - they're chock full of monstrous jumps, terrifying ridge paths, intrepid climbs and sudden drops. They demand your constant attention.