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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Pure (Playstation 3)

This is an excellent off-road racing ATV title that allows players to perform some truly impressive tricks, make massive jumps and burn up its tracks with a truly awe-inspiring sense of speed and momentum. The game offers a good selection of play modes, extensive customization and upgrade options in its single and multiplayer modes. Pure's course design is superb and brings a sense of extreme danger to each race with multiple paths, massive jumps and tight corners making each race a battle. Its outstanding visuals move at a consistent frame rate, along with its intuitive controls and challenging AI, make Pure an exciting title that delivers quite a visceral racing experience that's highly recommended.

Pure is one of those sleeper titles that doesn't seem that impressive until you start playing it and delving a bit deeper below the surface. Initially, it seems like a standard extreme racing title, with the usual crazy extreme characters, over-the-top announcer and loud, hard rock music. All of these elements are present, and most players will probably not expect that much from it. It seems like just another mindless racing title offering little new or innovative. Perceptions change when you reach the first massive jump and what an amazing sense of speed and place it provides. After you go around the laps a few times, you begin to realize that these are more than leaps of faith, but opportunities to perform some truly awe-inspiring stunts and tricks. You can gain more air by pre-loading your vehicle, which causes your rider to crouch a bit on the ramp upward. As you reach the edge of the ramp, you can explode into the sky, then press a sequence of buttons to perform massive tricks. There are two basic types of tricks, stunts where your rider grabs the handlebars and kicks his legs out, stands on their head and other moves. Getting back into riding position before you reach land is essential, since a successful trick adds to your energy bar, which you can use to give yourself a jolt of speed that moves you ahead of the other riders almost instantaneously. The other types of trick at your disposal are flips and spins, where you can rotate your vehicle while in the air for some truly massive points. However, you have to time these tricks as well so you don't end up crashing headfirst into the ground. These have the dual penalty of losing not only the potential points, but a significant amount of time as well.

This is a cool, if somewhat predictable system but the twist in Pure is that instead of merely allowing you to go faster, you can also choose to wait, saving your energy until the thrill bar fills up. Filling up your special meter allows you to perform more advanced tricks, which can give you massive points, and refills your thrill bar much faster. However, you can lose these abilities when you miss tricks, crash or let the thrill bar stay filled for too long, which is definitely frustrating. You also need to use your boost wisely, since you lose the ability to perform the more advanced tricks as you use up your energy. Unlike many other action-sports racing games on the market, which are relatively mindless, Pure is definitely a game of momentum, where the player's ability to chain together tricks and moves is rewarded while not doing so is punished with a futile finish placing your rider at the back of the pack. It's system of risk and reward makes for a challenging and addicting game where you have to challenge yourself to perform wild stunts without making mistakes. Your opponents aren't pushovers, and you'll have to fight them for every inch of ground in the game, where other games use fairly easy AI. It's fairly easy to lose your place if you don't have the boosts and tricks on hand, so you'll have to time these moves if you want to win the race. Pure's courses are impressive from both an aesthetic and design standpoint. Their wildly inventive construction means that they pose significant obstacles along the way. You'll have to contend with large corners, steep hills and giant leaps to contend with throughout. There are dramatic changes in terrain through each course with players encountering sand, mud and dirt sections, sudden curves followed by massive aerial jumps and more. This makes memorizing each course a necessary part of winning.

Once you've won the race, you'll earn points that you can use in your garage to customize and upgrade your vehicle. Instead only giving players a few generic parts, Pure goes all the way and includes more than 60,000 unique, officially licensed add-ons that can truly make your ATV your own. There are two ways to unlock new parts, by winning races where some become automatically available, and by using your accumulated points. The garage menu is easy to use and straightforward in approach, which makes it easy to upgrade your vehicle. In addition to these options, players can race in several unique ways. There are several types of races included in Pure and each requires a different strategy. Standard races take place over several laps on long courses, and test the player's endurance and skill, these are where you need to make decisions on when to use your boost powers and tricks. Pure also includes shorter Sprint modes where the races take place on much shorter tracks and require a more aggressive attention on pure speed. These are fun, especially if you want to clear courses for quick points. Finally, there's the arcade-style Freestyle mode, where you are given a limited amount of gas and have to attain a high score by performing tricks before your tank runs dry. You can earn extra gas by performing high-level tricks or by running over power-ups. Each of these race types is available in Pure's world tour mode, where you are given a series of tournament events to compete in, and earn points by finishing them. Win enough points, and you'll unlock the next stage. In addition, winning races unlocks additional items that you can use to customize your vehicles, extra ATVs to use and even additional courses. Progression through the stages occurs relatively quickly and you'll quickly find yourself in the higher rankings once you get through the initial stages. The single player races can be quite intense, but the game also offers excellent online support for up to 15 rivals at the same time, which makes for some frenetic racing action.

From a visual standpoint, Pure looks superb with its realistic ATV's and riders responding brilliantly to each element in the race. You'll get an immediate sense of speed during the races because the action moves at a consistent and fast 60FPS throughout. This helps to immerse you into the action very quickly. The game's crash and stunt animations are spectacular and dramatic, and helps to create a sense of speed, vertigo and height that makes for an absolutely breathtaking experience. Most of the game takes place from a behind-the-player perspective, which can be annoying, but it's a small detail in the larger scheme of things. One other area where Pure falls a shade short is its music, which feels really generic at points and becomes annoying in a hurry. Likewise, the announcer's constant chatter will likely get on your nerves in a hurry. These are problems, but they're relatively minor compared to the game's overall quality. While it seems somewhat generic at first, Pure's extensive and intense aerial tricks system really helps to set it apart from the pack, and this helps it to create a sensation of speed and velocity that's quite impressive throughout. Add intuitive and responsive controls and you have an excellent off-road racing title that should make quite an impact for those who like their racing action frenetic and intense.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B-

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