Growing up in the small town Midwest, I spent quite a bit of time with ATVs, both for recreation and for work. From an early age, several safety pointers were repeatedly drilled into my head, making me a responsible operator. I think I broke each and every one of those rules within the first twenty seconds of Pure, the newest extreme racing game from Disney Interactive Studios. And while I had a blast racing around the hills and jumps of the track, I just couldn’t help thinking I’d seen this all before. I usually try to avoid referencing other titles when reviewing a game, but the entire time I was playing Pure I just couldn’t help thinking it was “SSX with ATVs”. This isn’t a bad thing, certainly, as I thoroughly enjoyed the extreme snowboarding series, but players looking for something truly groundbreaking won’t find it here. On the other hand, those looking for a solid (and gorgeous) over-the-top racer will undoubtedly have themselves a blast.
I usually don’t play a lot of racers, but I had little trouble quickly picking up the basics of Pure. Players pick a driver from a handful of (mostly cosmetic) choices, build themselves a vehicle from a decent selection of parts (or allow the game to build it for them), and then hit the dirt. The controls are intuitive and responsive. The lower right shoulder accelerates, the lower left hits the breaks, and the left stick steers. Several places in each track allows players to jump to grab some air time, accomplished with a quick flick of the steering stick. While in the air, players are able to perform some fairly insane and physics-defying stunts. The trick controls are quite simple, being nothing more than a combination of one of the buttons and a left-stick direction. Tricks can be tweaked with the application of one of the shoulder buttons for additional style. As tricks are performed, a boost meter fills up, both opening up options for ever-more outlandish tricks and giving players some juice for their booster. This booster gives players a nice burst of speed but is limited to the quickly-depleting boost gauge. Of course, players must successfully land the tricks for them to count, something that I had a bit of trouble with at first. I spent much of my early runs launching my driver into orbit, or into cliffs, or simply grinding them into the dirt beneath my ATV. Thankfully, each driver is completely impervious to injury, and they soon get back into the action.
Once players completely fill their boost meter, they have the option to pull off a super trick. Should they managed to grab enough air time to complete this trick, they will have the ability to pull this off for the rest of the race, regardless of boost levels. As a bonus, pulling these super stunts will completely refill a boost meter, giving players a much-needed edge in the race.
And, yes, although the drivers are pulling tricks like crazy out there, much of the game is a race. There are actually three types of events, Race, Sprint, and Freestyle. Race is just as it sounds, a few laps of the tracks with a nice selection of ramps and air time, allowing players to hit their tricks, juggle the boost, and outpace their opponents. Sprint shortens things up considerably, with smaller tracks consisting of fewer trick opportunities. Here, it’s vital for players to eke out each ounce of time, catching the perfect part of the track, grabbing what little air and trick time they can, and conserving their boost for those perfect moments. Finally, the Freestyle is all about the tricks. Players are given a gas limit, rather than a time limit, to pull off as many crazy stunts as possible. The tracks are modified with extra ramps and some floating bonuses, such as extra points, more gas, or boost increases. Completing a trick nabs players extra gas to keep going, crashing burns gas away uselessly. Successful tricks nab points, with higher point totals going to more difficult tricks. Chaining tricks together adds multipliers to the point totals, allowing players to quickly score some very impressive marks with a well-placed jump.
Single-player options allow both single events, and a World Series run. This World Series is where players will unlock most of the goodies and tracks of the game. As players make their way through the Series, they play through Race, Sprint, and Freestyle events across the provided tracks. Scoring well unlocks better ATV parts, allowing players to improve their machines to keep up with the competition. Winning a particular race will unlock some premium stuff, making it important to ace every possible event. Premium ATVs are also necessary for heading online against human opponents, as there are some scary-good racers out there right now.
The tracks themselves are just hands-down beautiful. In addition, they are all quite well designed, with plenty of air time and challenge when needed. There aren’t an overwhelming number of tracks, but the care taken in the design of each makes up for this. Likewise, the ATVs themselves (and the drivers) look great and handle just as well. At first, the controls felt a little squishy, but as I improved my machine with better handling parts this soon disappeared. The music and sound effects are also top-notch, working perfectly to throw players into the extreme racing vibe.
When all is said and done, Pure is simply a blast to play. It’s quick, energetic, and over the top in all the right places. Fans of the extreme racing games will find a lot to like here, from great gameplay to incredible graphics and presentation. Sure, there’s nothing groundbreaking here, but it’s been a while since I was drawn into this type of game, and I had a blast the entire time. This one’s definitely worth a look.
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