I'm a big fan of warning labels, and Black Rock's new offroad racer has a doozy:
WARNING: The trick-racing experience in this game is pure fantasy; please do not try these moves in real life.
That first line sets the tone for the rest of the game. Pure is a rocking, rolling, and often ridiculous, ride. Suspend your disbelief, straddle your ATV (when I was a youngster they used to call them Quad Bikes - although, to be fair, that's a stupid name), and prepare to do battle with gravity.
Though Pure is ostensibly a racing game, that is in truth only half of its parentage: there's almost as much of it that is an extreme sports game. Be prepared to make the most of every bump and every hillock to pull off exciting tricks. And as for cliffs and ramps... they're where the stunts get really death-defying (I say death-defying, but in fact, I'm convinced that your avatars are actually the living dead, because the idea that I could survive the number of times I've fallen, smashed face-first into rocks, or been crushed by my trusty wheeled steed, threatens even disbelief suspended by 2-inch-thick wire cables). Realism be damned! Standing up on your ATV while it is in mid-air; performing hand-stands; coffins. Don't be shy: what makes the game so much fun is how forgiving it is. Try for that flip - even if you screw it up and land on your head, you'll be planted right back on the track, and barely even lose your place.
Ironically, racing purists might find this a little irritating. However, it makes Pure a very accessible title, and encourages players to get the most out of its most fun aspect. Just switch off your brain, and enjoy the view from your hundred metre jump...
And you will enjoy it. It may be just a flight of fantasy, but it looks fantastic. My initial impressions of Pure were dominated by its eye-candy. Though the ATVs themselves (not that they look in any way bad) don't offer much in the way of beauty, the landscapes are breathtaking. From California to Italy, and even to our own corner of the globe (there are a couple of New Zealand tracks, including one on Tongariro), the vistas offered in Pure could easily be tourism posters (in our case, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that the NZ Government had funded the use of locations here for just that reason). And the close-up terrain is great too. Even ground textures and grass aren't bad - and once you're moving, the game's speed blurring effects make even the less graphically intensive items look excellent. Lack of vehicle damage is a slight disappointment (there aren't any explosions either, but I can't really argue with that decision - why mar the beauty of your surroundings?), but more than made up for by the highly entertaining physics of your body as you fall off (or fly off) your bike. Guaranteed to ellicit concerned outbursts from onlookers.
It's a fun game, and no mistaking. But, being an off-road title, it has ups and it also has downs. Sadly, Pure is beautiful, but also shallow. Even being able to play tracks the other way around doesn't make twelve a large number. There are no vehicles other than ATVs (and, while you can customize your ride, the system for doing so is pretty clunky). Once hit your stride, the single player World Tour mode is unlikely to hold you for very long – and, really, that's about it. Good as it is, there just isn't much to the game. For the weekend: great. But is it worth owning?
To my mind, Pure really runs aground in terms of multiplayer. Though it offers great online gameplay, it is to my mind simply inconceivable that there would be no split-screen possibilities. Won't somebody please think of the bored friends?!
It really is a tough game to judge. If you're after something short term – maybe a rental – then Pure is great: it's an adrenaline shot administered by a supermodel. But after a few days, you will very likely realise just how vacuous that supermodel is (how little Pure offers in terms of longterm gaming).