Review: Pure

Earnest "Nex" Cavalli | 9 Oct 2008 20:51
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Take, for instance, the game's customization options. In SSX, you could buy new snowboards for each character and change their outfits, but that was the extent of things. Blackrock Studios seemed to like that idea, but decided it could do things much, much better. Instead of buying an ATV for your character, you're tasked with actually building one. After selecting one of the 23 separate sections of the ATV, you're given 5 sliders indicating speed, acceleration, ability to perform tricks and all the other stats you'd care about in the game. Once you've decided how to best balance your vehicle's parts for optimum performance, you give it a shiny paint job, affix the necessary decals and dub it something awesome like "Death Machine" or "John McCain is a Cylon"- the sort of tag that will inspire fear in your opponents and presumably Kara Thrace.

As if the literally hundreds of customizable parts weren't enough of a content boost for Pure, the game also boasts dozens of tracks, all which feature multiple branching paths throughout. Admittedly, very few of the paths are ideal, and you'll always want to follow the quickest line throughout each track, but it certainly offers more variety and terrain to cover than any other arcade racing title I've played.

Continuing my theme from earlier - the one about Pure being similar to SSX (not the anti-Branagh theme) -- the game also shares SSX's most notorious flaws. Your opponents are always faster than you are, but have what is known as "rubber band AI." If you're doing poorly, they'll begin to crash more often, and if you're doing very well, they become almost inhumanly talented. The idea is that this keeps the races tense, but in practice it generally creates some truly bizarre difficulty levels.

To wit: I took first place in my first attempt on the second, third and fourth racing events, but I had to replay the very first event almost six times to place first. Then, on the fifth race, after an hour of replaying the same event, I never placed higher than 12th. It's a great credit to the game's design that Pure remains enjoyable even with such a frustrating string of opponents.

Of course, in Pure's defense, when you tire of inhuman computer opponents, you can always take the game online. Multiplayer modes on offer comprise all the racetracks and event types from the single player game - standard race, trick race, dash - but also give you the option to sprinkle the tracks with power-ups. These aren't Mario Kart-style weaponry, but instead give players instantaneous access to their "Signature Tricks" or double their score.

Even better, through the seven to eight hours I spent online playing the game, you're rarely stuck waiting in a lobby for more than 5 minutes and once the race starts, lag is a non-issue.

In all this talk about Kenneth Branagh, I've almost completely neglected his most important role: That of Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This man, this pure thespian, was heard to remark to one Harry Potter: "Spooky how the time flies when one's having fun." Though Branagh (the actor) and Lockhart (the character) were most likely not speaking of Pure, I find the quote to be almost universally useful, and doubly so in the case of Disney's game. It's entirely possible to cite the game's flaws or decry it as a derivative piece of fluff, but by the time you remember to do any of that, you'll have already been playing the game for hours, and enjoying it the entire time.

Bottom Line: It's not perfect, but Pure is the true successor to the SSX series.

Recommendation: Rent it if you never enjoyed SSX. Otherwise, as The Bard said, "Buy the damn thing, jerkass."

This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

Earnest Cavalli is now going to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream (unless he falls out of bed).

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