The racing game genre is always a tricky field because of how many different types, styles and formats of the expanded field are already available, but for the most part, if you come into it with an arcade entrant that emphasises the impossible alongside a serious injection of addictive fun, you're going to make an impact.
It's funny how few companies try this when you think about it though. For the most part, a lot of games go for the simulation experience; offering up customisable options and deep play mechanics that - for the racing enthusiast - might be the right thing, but for the rest of us who want to just pick up the controller and play, you're left with half-assed Arcade Mode options within these deeper games.
Every once and awhile though, a new entrant comes along to offer that which we're so sorely lacking - a fun, accessible and over-the-top arcade racing experience. We saw it with Excite Truck from Nintendo, Track Mania, Flatout and of course, the current king of the arcade racer, Burnout.
Not content with that manifest though, Disney Interactive employed the talents of Black Rock Studios to create Pure, which in its namesake form, offers one of the most compellingly simple, addictive and fun arcade racing experiences since the days of spending stupid amounts of money on the original Daytona or SEGA Rally.
Pure is a quad-bike racer that does what Excite Truck did, only a lot better (and with much better visuals). It's a simple enough set up: You build a quad (this can be automated), choose a character (from a list of people with arbitrary background information) and then race through the game to unlock new courses, modes, bike parts and more.
Odd as it sounds, while Pure does very little to differentiate itself from what we may have seen before, the overall package is one of polish and well-balanced execution. There's very little to complain about here; handling is spot-on, the visuals are very impressive, and the progressive steps in becoming ever-faster, more daring and therefore able to perform bigger, better and crazier stunts are implemented unbelievably well. It might be a simple arcade game, but the incremental increase in ability only feeds a desire so many other games ignore; instead of giving you uber-jumping and racing powers from the outset you still have to work for the ability and privilege.
Gameplay throughout is based on maintaining a balance between being daring, in control and fast. This all begins with jumps and stunts. Whenever you come to a jump on a track you need to "pre-load", this is a simple case of holding the left analogue stick down just prior to the ramp, then pushing forward at its lip; once in the air, tricks are mapped to either A, B or Y (the latter two need to be unlocked through successful jumps using A-button stunts, however). Landing and performing stunts (not repeated), will then fill your boost meter which can be activated with a push of the X-button (if it depletes too much though, you'll lose your Y, then B jump abilities) and it's in maintaining this formula and balance the game shines.
World Tour Mode progressively unlocks based on how many events in each tier you've managed to place in. There are three events available; Freestyle, Sprint and Race, and each of these have variant track features such as length, jumps and straights. You can also build specific quads (or have them built automatically), that you can use for each event style. So, you might be able to combine a number of quad parts that build a bike more geared towards airtime and handling for maximum utilisation in Freestyle mode, and so on.
The courses designed for each tend to offer a couple of different lines here and there (or just around the bend), and each of these will offer you a different approach to attempting to win (ie going left at a fork on the track may result in a massive leap, allowing you to pull one of the more difficult-to-land signature tricks, while heading right might just offer you a safe straight whereupon you can exercise your boost meter to its fullest).
With so much variant in race approach and gameplay, you could be forgiven for thinking the game is going to be uber-tough, and to a degree, it is. But this is another area Pure shines in, Black Rock have recognised the challenges they've crafted here and have created a number of balances throughout to ensure you're almost never frustrated. Your boost meter, as mentioned earlier, doesn't drain overly quickly like so many other games, equally, screwing up a jump and coming off your bike isn't actually a huge deal as you respawn on the track almost immediately, with no real loss of place (only the loss of some boost or a trick tier) – something that I found really annoying in MotorStorm.
Courses are also designed with a ctach-up concept in mind in that, finding yourself at the back of the pack with no boost can equally be countered thanks to the various jumps and shortcuts available. There's nothing more satisfying than jumping from 12th to second or first before a single-lap is out.
Now, that last paragraph might have made it sound as though the game is too easy, but in fact it's not. While it's definitely very easy to stay in the race, the chances of you lapping other riders or coming in first by huge lengths are pretty slim.
What it means is the game just wants the challenge to be in both the courses and its offered AI. Your opponents often suffer similar fates to you: They may have a flawless race, or they may find themselves stacking too many times and consistently at the back of the pack. It's unusual for a game of this nature to really keep on your toes as much as Pure does, but I can tell you it's definitely a refreshing change of pace.
If I had to scold the game for anything (beyond its cheesy character selection), it would be that with the incredible balance and fun gameplay foundation, it's all over just a bit too quickly (at least from a single-player sense).
Obviously with so many arcade racers out there, much of its lasting appeal will rely upon how long you and a mate or two can slog it out in multiplayer, though in saying that, you and said mate will have to be rooms apart as the game unfortunately does not support any local split-screen multi. You can have up to 16 players online, but nothing with the people sitting on the same couch as you, which is a real missed opportunity here.
Still, I'd be remiss to call off the game because of that. Ultimately Pure, at its core, is one of the most fun games I've picked up in this genre in a long time, and with the overall consensus so far being in the absolute positive, it's highly likely we'll be seeing this series manifest itself down (excuse the pun) the track for future quad-bike high-flying arcade awesomeness.