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Disney takes on MotorStorm in this new ATV brand - and wins...
- Very slick visuals and presentation.
- Enjoyable World Tour thanks to Freestyle.
- Impressive 16-player online.
- A little too much customisation.
- Take away 'Freestyle' and its a little samey.
- Character gestures aren't well developed.
Having launched its core portfolio earlier in 2008 with the lukewarmly received Turok, Disney Interactive Studios is taking on a new role as purveyor of the ATV racing genre, courtesy of Black Rock Studio - formally Climax Racing - based in Brighton. With a rich heritage in racing titles, from the Moto GP series on Xbox to the ATV Off-road franchise on PlayStation 2, Black Rock seems like the ideal outfit to bring a whole new facet to the house of the mouse.
Despite launching on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC , there's little doubt where PURE's main rival comes in 2008. Sony's Evolution Studio is putting the finishing touches to MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, which aims to once more capture the off-road imaginations of PlayStation 3 owners within a matter of weeks. With that in mind, how good is Disney's foray into the 'X' class of sports - TVG pulled on some overalls (and a safety helmet) to find out...
Wave Race With Wheels...And Mud.
Focusing the bulk of the single player experience into a ten stage 'World Tour' that takes in the high hills and drops of Thailand, Italy, and the USA across thirty tracks, PURE's gameplay is split between three very distinct race types: 'Race', 'Sprint', and 'Freestyle'. The latter of which is perhaps the key to what makes this one of the standout titles of the early autumn.
But before the action even has a chance to kick in, players have to complete what is a refreshingly short tutorial on PURE's more unique features. The idea of 'pre-loading' ahead of jumps by pulling back on the analogue stick is one area that some may find fiddly at first, especially when the combination of button presses are taken into account. However, the curve is relatively gentle thanks to three tiers of trick difficulty, which open up according to the level of boost built up throughout a race.
A mammoth eighty plus tricks are available to use in the game, with the likes of simple 'bar hops' and '90 degree nics' joined by more unconventional (and increasingly fantastical) moves like the zen-tastic 'Shaolin Funk' and 'Horse Boxer' Special Tricks. These in particular are indescribable here, aside from their sheer incredulity, which is only added to by the near-silent soundtrack when they're being pulled off. Pure magic. Naturally, there's a temptation to throw tricks into the mix of a race at practically every opportunity, with over-confidence leading to bone-crunching crashes and cliff falls. 'Risk versus Reward' is at the heart of PURE's gameplay, in a matter not seen for several years. What the gameplay offers is this: Wave Race with wheels, and lots of mud. Of the three race types, there's little doubt where PURE really shines, and that's the Freestyle mode.
Whereas the Race and Sprint modes are little more than what they say on the tin - Sprints in particular are more technical, reducing the opportunity to perform tricks to just one or two places over the course of their short races - Freestyle throws in a very solid and engaging experience. Heavily score-based, the mode integrates more ramps to courses, with various pick ups that multiply points and add more boost power along the way (though you tussle for them against the aggressively fearless AI opponents), together with a combo dynamic. But there's more. An ever depleting fuel gauge is added to the interface, a time limit for players to amass their score, which can only be topped up by pulling off tricks or completing laps around the circuit. In this mode, it's points not position that matters most, so don't worry if the other ATVs are racing by - take the time to pull of a triple trick jump (if there's the time), race off to the next ramp, and add to the points multiplier!
Ditching tricks or crashing causes the fuel to drop ever quicker to that fateful empty tank, whilst executing repeat tricks in succession (like the other two modes) results in smaller amounts of boost to be added. It's an increasingly frantic mode, which becomes ever more so during the later events when the AI rack up mammoth scores and multipliers. Being human therefore means that the urge to do 'just one more trick' often leaves you with a mouth of mud and a few fractures - but pull it off, and the buzz rides high.
One For The PUREists?
Perhaps it's no surprise that in a console generation where the buzz phrase seems to be 'user-created', PURE features a wide and varied set of customisation options. In fact, players build their own ATV out of tens of components from handlebars to engines, to sprockets, to brakes, and even mudguards right after the racing tutorial. Spreading the extremes of the components means that players can (eventually) build the ultimate racing or freestyle ATV, though it's difficult to stray too far away from a murky middle ground unless the game is left to 'quick build' for itself.
But whilst it's decent of Black Rock to throw in such a level of customisation, we have to say that half-way down the list the desire to get up to our elbows in dirt overtook us - we didn't care about which aesthetically pleasing mudguard or handlebar grip we wanted, and we certainly didn't care about which decal to use where. It's understandable that there'll be some out there who'll lap up this sort of attention of detail, but we didn't.
The usual smattering of riders and their background stories are available to choose from, each with their own Special Tricks to perform, though there's little difference to how their perform in comparison with one another. All of them could feature in a US teen drama and we can just be grateful that this attempt at throwing some personality into game is barely touched upon - we don't need a soap opera playing the background when there's racing and stunts to do! That said, some variety in the insults and gestures when collisions or overtaking occurs would be beneficial, and prove to be one (rare) area where PURE is weaker than MotorStorm.
Beyond the World Tour, the solo ATV efforts of the Trial mode, and the one-off races, there's also more to be had from PURE. There's plenty of multiplayer action to be found, with Black Rock opening up the PURE experience for up to an impressive sixteen racers to take part online over Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. This is perhaps where PURE's strength really can shake up the 'most popular' lists, which continues to be dominated by shooters or demos. Let's hope there's plenty of gamers revving those engines come release day.
The soundtrack is another area where PURE really does stand out, with music from Pendulum, The Answer, and Wolfmother (yet another use of the Aussie band's 'Woman' track in a videogame), all reinforcing the high tempo action. Everything seems to fit, with the rock/indie mix of tracks only helping to strengthen the almost 'Skate'-like visuals and filters that make PURE look like an impressive treat for gamers.
There's little doubt in our mind that PURE beats MotorStorm: Pacific Rift's apparent lacklustre experience, and that's thanks mainly to the refined tricks system, the Freestyle mode, and the sixteen player online gameplay. Whereas Turok struggled in the murkiness of blandness and unoriginality, PURE offers a mud-slipping, cliff-jumping thrill ride that has come out of nowhere.