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Pure Futbol (Playstation 3)

Ubisoft's attempt at bringing action/arcade style soccer to current platforms has arrived in the form of Pure Futbol. This is a streamlined sports title that throws out many of the complex rules in favor of a simpler five-on-five game. There's no off-sides rule to worry about and refs only come out in the most egregious fouls. This makes for a faster-paced soccer game that flows very quickly through each match. Additional special moves, such as Pure shots make the game even more exciting. It's a bit simplistic in its controls, too but this makes for a more accessible game. While it probably won't appeal to purists, Pure Futbol is a fun, accessible title that delivers an entertaining experience.

Soccer isn't the easiest sport to play if you really aren't familiar with the rules. Ubisoft looks to make the game more accessible with their latest action-sports release, Pure Futbol. Instead of the more complex and crowded fields you'll find in most soccer games, the title strips the gameplay down to its bare-bones. There are only five players on the pitch on each side and many of the more esoteric rules such as off-sides aren't included. This makes for a much faster-flowing game that emphasizes speed and style or skill. Pure Futbol's controls are likewise very simple, with most actions assigned to a single button. Using this interface makes tasks such as passing the ball between players and shooting much simpler. Adding to its arcade feel are the power-meters that appear below each player when its time to shoot. If you hit the button as it hits the Pure white section, the shot is much more likely to reach the goal. However, all is not lost if you fail, since shooting with these sections increases your overall team pure meter. When this is full, you'll be able to shoot a single shot that's almost unstoppable for your opponent's goalkeeper. This makes for a generally fast-paced and high scoring match each time. Another ability is the sprint move which allows you to give your selected player a quick burst of speed to run down the pitch or field with incredible speed. The games are played on fantasy courses around Europe and their smaller size leaves less room for error and momentum stopping off-sides or kick-outs. In addition to the main score, you earn Pure points for various actions on the field, such as passing and possession time, but can also lose points if you foul an opponent or lose your match. These points can be traded in for player upgrades and other unlockable content, so its important to keep this in mind when playing.

One of the more entertaining aspects of Pure Futbol's gameplay comes in its approach to fouls and cards. Instead of the traditional method of a ref giving out red cards, your team's total foul level moves up on the meter when you play too aggressively. When this meter is filled up, your team will give its opponent a free penalty kick. Given the game's arcade physics, its pretty much a given that they'll score, so you have to be careful not to let this get you. During each match, you really don't have the ability to perform very complicated passing moves or create set pieces, but players can perform super-pure attacks utilizing a quicktime press of a button which allows for a fairly effective pass most of the time. Chasing after the ball can be a little bit problematic, since the players don't automatically change, making the manual selection up to the player. This can be aggravating if you see a nearby player fail to challenge a charging opponent and can lead to some frustrating goals you know you could have blocked. However, it also works the other way around since the opponent AI isn't nearly as sophisticated as you think it might be. Players looking for a realistic soccer game will probably have to make some adjustments, but the game's ease of play more than compensates for these gameplay flaws. The good news is that the game's nicely tuned-control engine which is both intuitive and also easy to learn in most ways. There are a few things that aren't clear at first, but a quick run through of the tutorial levels should help most players. This approach is very good for an arcade-style soccer title, but there are a few drawbacks as well.

While the game offers quick action, there isn't as much depth as you'd get in a full-fledged soccer sim. There are only about a dozen teams available to play, and they all have limited rosters. Most of the most well-known stars are selectable; this only goes about 6 or 7 players deep for each side. Pure Futbol's fantasy pitches take players to a variety of locations like Madrid and London, but here too, the selection is surprisingly limited. The game does offer several modes of play, with a quick-play mode where teams are selected at random to more organized career modes that give you the chance to play through an entire series of matches on your way to the world championship, but these are somewhat quick and don't really add much to the basic match play mechanics. You can unlock additional players in this mode, so it can be considered worthwhile from that standpoint. Additionally, you can create and use custom players in the game as well, which is a nice touch if you want to see a rough approximation of yourself on the field. Visually, the game looks decent, but its cartoonish renderings of the players and pitches is somewhat odd considering it's supposed to be a more authentic street-style soccer experience. The music is fairly decent for what it is, but don't expect a speaker-rattling soundtrack. Overall, the game has a decent level of polish for its ambitions, but don't expect FIFA-quality player models or full-scale production values. The emphasis is clearly on creating a fun, if somewhat shallow arcade-style game of soccer and in this area is where Pure Futbol delivers on its promise.

Those expecting a sim along the lines of FIFA or PES will more than likely not be all that impressed with the simplistic controls and gameplay action in Pure Futbol. It has some licensed players, but nothing like a full roster. There's a limited number of countries available to play and its career mode is actually really slender as well. This makes this a simple arcade game, that brings a much faster, more cartoony style of soccer to players. Its relatively easy to play, though the higher scoring matches can be a little off-putting. The special moves are fun to use and give the game some flair. Pure Futbol is a fun game, but its lack of depth and challenge means it will probably not last very long in your console. However, it's relatively low price, easy to understand gameplay and simple controls make it more accessible than most soccer titles, so those who don't want to master all the nuances of the sport will probably enjoy this modestly entertaining pick-up-and-play title.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B-

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