If you think racing games are dull you clearly haven't played Disney Interactive Studios' Pure. Quad Bike racing games have always impressed with their big jumps and impressive draw distances, but they've struggled to generate the level of excitement gamers wanted. Pure is the most extreme extreme sports game we've ever played, delivering endless insane jumps, crazy tricks and some of the best visuals you're likely to see in a racing game this year. It doesn't half play well too. It's time to put your ATV preconceptions behind you.
Core to Pure is the trick and boost system. Tracks are littered with jumps and it's essential you catch big air from these and perform tricks while flying high (or not so high) in the sky. Simply driving off the top of a ramp won't do much, but if you pre-load a jump (pulling back on the left analogue stick) and then leap from the peak (push forward on the stick) you gain extra height and more time in the air. The more time you have, the more tricks you can perform (one of eight directions on the left analogue stick combined with a face button) and the more boost you earn.
Although it sounds fairly complex it's an incredibly simple system. As your boost meter increases new tricks are opened up, eventually giving you the option to perform a special trick. It's up to you whether or not you go for the big trick or use your boost more regularly in order to nip about the track quicker - a choice that depends a lot on the type of event you're taking part in.
Pure splits on-track action into three distinct event types. Race events combine plenty of jumps with standard racing, where your finishing position is the all important factor in determining the points you're awarded. Sprint events take place on shorter tracks over a larger number of laps, and here there aren't many jump points at all. The goal is once again to finish as high in the finishing order as possible, but there are less opportunities to gain speed boosts.
The final event type is Freestyle, which is by far the most complicated and the hardest to master. These events are scored on points earned through performing tricks - chain tricks together (a counter shows how long you have between tricks) and you'll earn more points. The problem is that you have a set amount of fuel per lap, and if you run out it's race over. Scattered about the tracks are pick-ups, awarding you bonuses like score multipliers, instant special tricks and fuel meter freezing. In order to place highly and not burnout after a single lap you'll need to choose the correct route, score points for tricks wherever you can and pick up the required power-ups before your opponents snatch them from you.
Pure doesn't offer the most in-depth career mode you're likely to see in a racer (this isn't a Forza or PGR) but the various stages will take some time to work through and can be played with each of the A, B, C and D Quad Bike classes. As you progress through the game you'll earn upgrades which you can install in your custom Quad (creating your Quad looks brilliant and there's a huge amount of scope to make something individual). Don't expect any hardcore setting tweaking, but it's pretty impressive stuff for an arcade racer.
Other than the main career mode in which you work towards being the No.1 ranked Quad Bike racer in the world, you also have a time trial mode and single event option, if you fancy a quick spin without having to compete against an increasingly tough set of opponents. Sadly there's no split-screen (a missed opportunity in our book) but there is online support for 16 players. During our time testing out the online portion of the game we encountered some slight lag during full 16-player races, but on the whole the game performed well and ranks amongst the most exciting online racers on any system.
We've already touched on how incredible Pure looks, but it's so important to the overall enjoyment you'll get from the game that it deserves another mention. We're pretty convinced that it's the best looking arcade racer ever released. It's hard to get a good look at the gorgeous backgrounds that stretch miles into the distance as you're hurtling around a track at breakneck speeds, but when you do catch a glimpse you'll be gasping for air. It certainly doesn't look photo realistic, and GT fans will no doubt say it doesn't look anywhere near as impressive as GT5: Prologue, but it's a very different game. Audio work is top class too, with an excellent assortment of licensed tracks, impressive effects (audio almost cutting out as you reach high altitude is a particularly nice touch) and an announcer that isn't annoying.
We found it hard to pick a clear winner between the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of Pure. Both look brilliant (although they do suffer from some slowdown now and again), both support 16 players online and if you've got a new Dual Shock 3 you'll lose none of the subtle rumble effects Xbox 360 gamers get. For Black Rock's first next-gen game they've done an excellent job and delivered a multi-format title that's nigh-on identical on all platforms. PC gamers can obviously run the game at a higher resolution, but you are going to need a pretty impressive PC in order to get a stable frame rate.
We defy you not to enjoy Pure. In an age where simulation reigns supreme, Pure's over the top arcade fun is a refreshing change of pace. Somehow Black Rock has managed to make a game that is infectious, spreading the joy to all who touch it, even to onlookers who gather around the TV in awe at the incredible visuals. If you enjoy a good racer Pure is a no brainer. If you think you don't like racing gamers, Pure could be the game to change your mind.