As a rule I avoid the racing genre the same way I’d avoid running toward a burning house, or waking a sleeping lion. It’s a genre reserved for sadists who enjoy nothing like the feeling of being overtaken through the last corner. The only exception to this rule is the Burnout series, which is a shining beacon in that dark forest inhabited by the Gran Turismo’s and Forza’s.
Pure, a title from Black Rock Studios is the second racing game to win my heart. It’s an adrenaline pumped, testosterone fuelled take on the extreme sport of ATV racing (that’s quad biking to you and I). Just like Burnout excelled at turning knees giddy with its insane blur of near misses, unlikely jumps, and tarmac-melting speed, Pure eclipses other racers with its mix of mile high jumps, aerial acrobatics, and off road terrain pummelling pace.
Black Rock waste no time explaining concepts, hurling you straight into the hands-on-handlebars tutorial. As you tear through the first track the voice-over explains the fundamentals: expeditious racing marries unfeasible trickery through a sun-laced backdrop.
The tricks themselves are integrated with slick simplicity. A simple case of pre-loading before each jump (pulling back on the left thumbstick), then flicking forwards grants you extra air time, after that any combination of the A button and a left-stick direction results in a unique trick. As you perform more of these simpler tricks your thrill bar fills and more impressive tricks become accessible through the B and Y buttons. Though these yield more points in the scored mode, and generally heighten the ecstasy, they’re a finer risk, taking longer to land, though there’s no penalty for falling off the ATV passed the second or two wasted and any combo.
Once the thrill bar fills, the special trick is unlocked. Through the highest jumps pressing the bumpers initiates the most absurd tricks (air guitar, barrel rolls). Though they take longer to complete, they yield huge score bonuses and adrenaline spikes that give Pure its identity.
It’s no real surprise then that the best of the three modes (including a standard Race mode, and a fast paced Sprint mode) revolves around chaining these tricks together for scores frequently stretching to the ceiling of the hundred thousands. The aptly named Freestyle mode pits you, as with the other events, against fifteen rivals fighting for the abundantly placed power ups, striving to reach the next jump and thus keeping the combo counter aflame. Nailing the combo that propels you from zero to hero is a real kick and where Pure plays its most remarkable hand. It’s here as well you’ll find yourself hooked, make no mistake this is addictive gaming.
The racing genre is as much devoted to the race as it is looking pristine and Pure doesn’t let down. The extensive customisation gifts each ATV its own unique appearance and the environments are both lush and vibrant. Character models on the other hand are dry and bland but that’s a minor flaw in an otherwise rich canvas. Consider it a crinkled corner.
If Pure wasn’t retailing for £13.57 there’d probably be room to protest the overall length. It’s rarely challenging and the World Tour mode, which consists of fewer than fifty events, can be completed relatively quickly, though it helps to know the tracks well, particularly in Freestyle. It also becomes necessary later in the game to revisit any races you haven’t won in order to unlock improved parts for your ATV. Outside of World Tour however, there are scarce few modes though online integration does boost the limited replay value.
Despite poor sales Pure is one of last years hidden gems, an adrenaline fuelled expedition into the unlikely, equally arresting world of ATV racing. Retailing at less than £15 it deserves the attention of racing fans avid and casual alike. That’s more than likely you then.