Pure Review (Xbox 360)
Pure is the latest ATV entry on the 360, and it comes from Black Rock Studio and Disney Interactive. The game revolves around stringing together long sequences of tricks and catching a massive amount of completely over-the-top air in some seriously gorgeous environments.
And just like that, I’ve explained pretty much all there is to do in the game.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a fun game. A really fun game, even. It’s less like an ATV Offroad Fury or MX vs. ATV Unleashed, and more like SSX on quads. It’s great -- even fantastic -- in short doses, but is missing a "core pull" to really keep me coming back to play repeatedly. Within the first hour or two, you’ll see pretty much everything that there is to do in Pure, so the rest of your time will be spent attempting to fine-tune your trick technique.
And there is a lot to fine-tune. Much like previous ATV games, the control scheme for the actual vehicle control is unchanged. Pre-load the suspension with a downward push on the left stick during your ascent up a jump, and press it back up upon liftoff to launch into the stratosphere. The triggers are used as gas and brake. Nothing new to see here, but "if it ain’t broke…"
Quad racing is back on the console nearest you with Pure.
Where it starts to differentiate itself from the pack is in the trick system, which is expected since most of the game revolves around it. With most ATV games you can choose tricks in the air, usually revolving around a couple of buttons and a directional push on the left stick. Pure mixes it up by only allowing you to use your weaker tricks (all on the A button) at first, and once you build up enough "juice" you can progress to B, Y, and eventually special tricks by using both the left and right bumpers.
What this does is two-fold. Firstly, it gives you a steady progression to work toward. As you land tricks, you build the aforementioned juice. The more juice you have, the quicker you unlock the next tier of tricks, which starts the cycle over again. The second (and less obvious) mechanic that it introduces is completely mental.
During the course of the race, even after you have unlocked your entire compliment of tricks, a single crash will knock you down a full set. If you have your special tricks unlocked, for example, and you eat dirt, then you’ll probably lose those in addition to your "Y" tricks. Then, it will take a few more tricks to earn enough juice to unlock all the tricks again.
So the mental game of matching the trick to the height you’ll get on the next jump is a huge part of each race. If you’re coming to a small jump, you’ll almost always have time to bust off a small "A" class trick. If you are going to cross a canyon with a 300-foot drop, you’ll have more than enough time to bust out your "Y" repertoire.
It’s a fun little system that always makes you think about how to go as fast as possible. You want to land the tricks to earn the juice to turbo, but using the juice burns the meter, which could take away your better tricks.
I can see my house from up here! (I hope this works)
In addition to that, if you spam certain tricks you will receive less juice, so you’re also going to be keeping track of how many times you’re throwing out the same tricks during a race. It’s a constant tug of war between speed and tricking, which is exactly what the developers were aiming for, I’m sure.
Another innovative thing that Black Rock Studio implemented is the bike creation mechanic. You don’t have licensed ATVs in Pure. Instead, you construct your own from the ground up. You choose the frame, shocks, A-arms, engine, sprockets ... everything. As you progress through the various series, you’ll be rewarded with upgraded parts for your quad.
The method of upgrading the vehicle itself, however, is a bit clumsy. You have a "New!" icon next to parts when you enter the garage, but you have to manually sift through the entire list of parts to find out which ones are newer, and what the improvement is.
A system that displays the part, as well as its positive or negative change on the ATV ratings, would have been nice. Perhaps a simple "equip now?" button on that window would improve it too. Anything to streamline the cumbersome process of reconfiguring your quad when you’re awarded a new component would have been welcomed.
When you do finally put that quad together, though, you’re in for a visual treat. The entire game has a polish to it that hasn’t been seen before in an ATV game. The bikes are incredibly sharp and well-detailed, and you also have your custom paint scheme and graphics package on them.
Yeah, the graphics are pretty good in this game.
The racing environments themselves are flat-out gorgeous as well, with no noticeable "tricks" to disguise hardware limitations that I saw. You'll just see miles of terrain that you can gaze at (and you frequently will when you’re several hundred feet in the air), as well as great mud and puddle effects. It’s a very pretty game, and quite a "show piece" for your friends who don’t have a 360 or an HDTV.
But for those of you who actually HAVE friends (don’t look sheepish, we’re all gaming dorks in this industry), you’ll be sorely disappointed by the complete exclusion of a split-screen mode. I wanted to get some split-screen racing in with my son, who absolutely loves ATV games, and found that there was absolutely no same-console multiplayer. That will be a deal-breaker for some people, especially since the single-player portion isn’t exactly the deepest pool in the neighborhood.
You see, your entire experience in the single-player game will probably revolve around the World Tour mode. That’s where you’ll get to build your quad and go about the process of moving through the top 100 ranks by racing in 10 stages. The races start out fairly simple and quick, but as you progress through the stages, they get considerably more difficult and quite a bit longer.
Throughout the World Tour, you’ll be racing in one of these three race types: race, sprint, and freestyle. Race and sprint are very similar, but think of a race as a standard race on a long, winding track. Sprints are races on tiny little tracks where lap times may be in the 20 second range.
In case you just look at the screenshots, yes, you can race in this game as well.
Freestyle races are the most innovative of the bunch, however. You have a limited supply of fuel, and the only way to get more is to hit the fuel power-ups scattered around the track (usually they are in mid-air and you get them by jumping towards them). Extend your fuel by stringing together trick sequences to build a multiplier; then rush to the next jump and do a trick before that multiplier ticks down to zero; and then you boost even further after that.
It’s a nice change to the traditional timed freestyle races in previous games. While one character may be busting out huge tricks and outscoring the other racers, he may run out of fuel before the more efficient riders do and lose the event. You need to quickly get from jump to jump to keep your multiplier going, and also make sure that you don’t run out of fuel before everybody else.
You also have a Time Trial and a Single Race mode, but the World Tour is pretty much the entire single-player game. I already noted the lack of split-screen multiplayer, but it’s worth mentioning again. Also, a straight race mode where you don’t have to pull all the tricks if you don’t want to (maybe a normally-refilling boost meter on a timer) would have been nice for the more race-oriented gamers.
What all of this adds up to is a game that may last an afternoon as a decent offline racer. I personally didn’t have a huge pull to keep plugging from race to race, as the formula of "trick to go fast" wore a bit thin after the first couple of hours. Everything after that was just going through the motions -- at least for the most part.
Luckily, the online component will save the game for a lot of people. All of the single-player modes carry over to the online portion, complete with a 16 player field that can be mixed and matched with any number of human and A.I. riders. Hosts have a lot of options with which to work, configuring their sessions however they want. The lag has been minimal, with very few disconnects as well.
A capable online component is a requirement for a game that has such little depth in the single-player arena. If you are enamored with the single-player, then you can hop online, join a Freeride, and just go nuts or learn the tracks better. But at the end of the day, you’ll only get the longevity that most gamers require from a title if you play multiplayer a good amount. There’s simply no real draw to go back and replay races over and over again like in some other racing games. Your mileage may (and probably will) vary.
Pure, at its heart, is a trick game. As a trick game, it scores very high. The problem I have is that there’s really not much else to do in the game, which may not bug some people, but may really annoy others. What it does, it does very well. But how long most gamers will want to actually do it is the question.
For me, it wasn’t very long. I felt like I’d been playing the same basic physics and core gameplay for years with the Unleashed and original Motocross Madness games, and the new trick system wasn’t enough to make it feel fresh and innovative. It’s a lot of fun to date Pure (a weekend rental), but I’m not sure I’d want to marry it with a purchase.
Gameplay: The trick system is fantastic and fluid. It’s easy to string together huge tricks that bring a smile to your face the first few times.
Graphics: Stellar. Everything looks fantastic, from the bikes to the riders to the environments and the mudslinging.
Sound: Something I didn’t hit on, because it can all be said here. Very simple, with a decent soundtrack and believable engine sounds. Pretty much all there is to it.
Entertainment Value: Great for a weekend diversion. You’ll have an enormous amount of fun for the first hour or two. Most gamers will probably find a steep decline in fun factor after that, when you’re performing your 300th no-hander.
Learning Curve: Simple to learn and fairly simple to master pretty much sums it up. The difficulty comes from memorizing the tracks and the different routes you can take. The learning curve will vary from person to person purely based on memorization ability.
Online Play: Performs beautifully, and if you’re going to buy the game and play it extensively, you'll spend most of your time online
Score: 7.5 (Entertaining)