E3 Hands-On: Pure

When firing up a racing title hailing from the garage of Black Rock Studios (formerly Climax), you can usually bet that the ensuing gameplay will be one of painstaking realism and detailed simulation. But this time, the developer behind the MotoGP series has decided to tone down the simulation elements of its new ATV racer, Pure, while simultaneously giving it a heavy dose of the extraordinary.

In Pure, you and 15 other fictional riders will take on 36 different tracks that span across a variety of the most vertical environments in the world. In the case of our demo, we spent time with two different locations: Timber Falls, a high altitude mountain range, and Ocotillo Falls, a treacherous desert containing a graveyard for jet liners. Tracks such as Timber Falls are made all the more intense with breathtaking vistas that sport draw distances of up to 30 kilometers. This gives a very natural sense of vertigo when launching a four wheeler hundreds of feet into the air as the camera angles downward, at some points showing off the entire mountain range.

Now, when we say hundreds of feet in the air, we mean it, because Black Rock wants you to have the most fun possible when navigating elaborate tracks like Timber Falls. Their goal is to create an “exaggerated reality," by letting players acquire ridiculous heights, and busting out some sick tricks while hanging amongst the clouds. But you won’t be pulling off no-hand supermans from the get go, as the game challenges you to start off with simpler maneuvers first using the A button, and after nailing a few of those, working your way up into the expert tricks using Y. Don’t believe for a second that Black Rock as gone all Tony Hawk on us, as tricks will factor into your racing performance through a boost meter that will fill during your skilled acrobatics. Pressing the X button at any time will allow you kick things into high gear, leaving your opponents with plenty of individually rendered pebbles flying into their faces.

So as you can see, the stunt system is married to the racing gameplay by having it earn you that extra edge over the competition. If you do happen to take a spill, and there was plenty of that going on during our initial play session, the game keeps the action rolling forward by restarting you moving at full speed, so there‘s never a slow moment during a race.

Adding more depth to the concept of boosting are the many branching paths found throughout each of the tracks. Certain routes will contain more jumps, and thus opportunities for you maximize your boost meter. Heading in another direction however will lead to a shortcut, albeit one that can contain thick mud such as in our race on Timber falls, which did enjoyably adhere to our rider but also slowed us down, causing the need for, you guessed it, boosting. We were told that boosting is also key to exploration, giving you that extra push off of a jump to areas you may not have been able to reach otherwise. This not only adds a bit of a quasi-platforming element to the game, but also gives you motivation to return to the same tracks and search for better ways of racing them.

In case some of you MotoGP fans were beginning to think that because of this lighter approach to racing, ride customization would not be included, you thought wrong, quite wrong. Since ATVs are generally composed of far fewer parts then say an Ilmor GP, the team decided to start you with nothing more than a bare metal frame, and let the choices take off from there. Utilizing a wide array of real world licensed parts that have effects on a bike’s five different performance attributes, players can conjure up nearly 60,000 different variations of custom ATV’s that can be used in any of the games single or multiplayer modes.

Now if you’re like me, and your experience with ATVs only goes as far as a videogame, there is an option to automatically tune your ride and lean the construction towards competing in different modes such as race or freestyle. For the real hardcore, Black Rock told us that the customization feature can be used with in an even more precise manner by designing bikes with specific tracks in mind. Players can only begin creating so many different rides at first, but will unlock more garage space as they progress in the world tour mode.

During our playtime, we found Pure to be fairly easy to pick up and start racing, with realistic handling and sliding on messy dirt roads that never left us crashing at every corner like a sim racer. Accessibility aside, Pure is still coming with a wealth of customization options and surprisingly deep race-driven gameplay with the stunt and boosting system. Black Rock looks to be crafting a complex, but not frustratingly complicated, off-road racer that should satisfy most gamers, as well as the people who are probably sitting on their ATV while reading this article.

Pure is slated to release September 2008 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

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