The best things are often the most unexpected.
360, (PS3, PC)
Black Rock Studios
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By John Keating
Black Rock Studios certainly know what they like. In a nod to creativity and craft over trappings and sales, the boys from Brighton have selflessly stuck it out with the niche genre of ATV off road racing. Despite public indifference to modified lawnmower japes, Black Rock are looking to offer something very different this time around, and have ramped the adrenaline meter to breaking point. They just wont let this battle go without a fight.
Their latest effort is Pure, and it's like an Orange Tango slap in the face to most gamers out there... and a broadside that will have many at Motorstorm HQ agog. You don't have to be a hick called Casey, Kyle or Todd to enjoy this; Pure is a surprise assault on the senses and it seems that Black Rock have finally got the cocktail right. Two parts eye candy, one part speed, a dash of petrol head gush and a glacier control system cherry atop for everyone to enjoy, possibly even casual Johnny Fifa.
Pure is very aptly titled. Designed from the ground up to encourage soiling, Pure blends outlandish breakneck racing, fantastical mid air tricks and bone crunching wipeouts that give rise to an arcade tangle of high octane madness. Right from the outset, you're treated to beautiful tracks and vistas, with grandeur, scale and seemingly infinite drops to keep you on the edge of your seat, all primed and begging to be tamed. This is not a simulation by any stretch of the imagination, this is what is known in the whooping and hollering trade as 'extreme to the max', and ATV racing is all the better for it.
The key mechanic within Pure and possibly its biggest asset is the tenderly crafted trick system, which is pivotal to progression through the game. Each track is beset by some of the most ridiculous ramps that only old Mother Nature can shape, and it's these which will have you jostling for position against your competition. Upon approach, you are encouraged to ready your character for a spine-splintering trick that can be nailed with a flick of the left analogue stick.
It's a very familiar system for SSX fans, and if successfully landed, you're rewarded with some Nitros Oxide fuelled fun, which you can choose to store or burn off. If you are lucky enough to chain enough tricks together and store enough boost, further death defying activities are made available, and yet more reward is on offer. It's a balanced system, which forges tactical racing with serious risk taking. Go high enough up the chain and you can attempt the Special Tricks for some serious boost capabilities and general showmanship, but get it wrong and you're left to pick the dirt from your dentures.
The single player aspect to Pure is a very straightforward affair. Options and modes can be abstracted over and Black Rock will be thankful for that as frankly, depth is not a strong point - but that's a secondary concern. The campaign mode is a World Tour championship, splitting the 36 courses over 10 group stages, encompassing various locales from around the globe. The tour throws up three types of track butchery, each demanding different skills and tactics, whilst pitting you against a dozen other lunatics hell-bent on preventing your success. Race mode is the standard chequered flag scenario with a good mix of long tracks, with incredible jumps and heart in your mouth moments. Sprint is a short race with only one or two chances of air, usually a tight matter where every second counts in getting ahead and crossing the line first.