Review: Pure

Pure.jpg I like to think of Pure as this generation’s SSX. It’s an over-the-top, balls-to-the-wall, bladder-quaking extreme sports racing game with a heavy emphasis on pulling off death-defying tricks that would make Evel Knievel crap in his red, white and blue jumpsuit. Take out the snowboards and snowy mountains in favor of ATVs and expansive dirt and mud filled tracks and you’ve got Pure.

Pure perfectly balances breakneck, edge-of-your-seat speed, smooth, effortless controls and driving physics that manage to deliver sound realism when grounded yet are absurdly unrealistic (in a good way) when airborne. It is so much more than some shallow arcade off-road racer too. Thanks to a well balanced trick and boost system, the game has a subtle layer of strategy you may find surprising. Within each race you have to constantly decide when to go for big air and a crazy string of tricks to power up your boost and when to forgo risk, stick to a lower altitude and use your earned boost to speed by the competition at the most opportune moments. How much boost you have stored up also relates back to the types of tricks you’re able to perform. The trick system is tiered, you see. As you fill up the boost meter you gain access to more advanced tricks (including spectacular special tricks at full capacity), but as you use boost power and the meter drops below certain levels your ability to pull off the flashier tricks diminishes.

This tiered trick system is remarkably deep with over 80 different aerial maneuvers to experiment with and a combo multiplier that rewards your skill at quickly linking together successive tricks.

The track designs Disney’s Black Rock Studio were able to create are another standout feature to the Pure experience. From the timberlands of Wyoming to the tropics of Thailand to the frigid glaciers of New Zealand, Pure’s 30-plus track environments take you all across the globe to real-life locales rendered with such pristine detail and beauty you’ll probably have to wipe drool off your chin at least once a race. Seriously, the expansive vistas you’ll see while towering high above the below will make your jaw drop to the floor in awe. These tracks are so much more than the typical “drive around in a circle” tracks you’re used to in racing games as well. Multiple routes and hidden pathways are in mass supply, ensuring that every race and every lap is different from the last.

Pure’s mode lineup is fairly predictable for a racing game. You’ve got your World Tour single-player campaign, single races, time trials and that sort of thing, with three individual event types including Race (standard 3-lap race to the finish line), Sprint (short 5-lap race on small, close-quarters tracks), and Freestyle (trick event to beat out the competition with the highest score). 50 events in all, the World Tour isn’t particularly long or complex, but the difficulty is balanced nicely to gradually increase with each stage without ever getting too hard or too easy. As you complete events you’ll also unlock new parts to use in creating and customizing your own garage full of personalized ATVs. At any time you can assemble a new ATV from the ground up, starting with the frame and engine before getting to all the minor details like paint schemes, handlebars, body shape, tires, bumpers and so forth. The customization options are unbelievably robust, enabling you to get under the hood and build the four-wheeler of your dreams in great detail.

With the World Tour only of moderate length, online play becomes the key feature for extended replay value. Many of you will likely be disappointed that Pure contains absolutely no local multiplayer content whatsoever (no split-screen, no nothing), but for me (someone who hates sacrificing viewing real estate for split-screen play) online play renders any form of local play obsolete, especially when it’s as good as this. It doesn’t get much better than blazing around a track bumper-to-bumper with 15 other racers all battling it out to reach the finish line first.

Racing games in general don’t get much better than this either. A publisher largely known for budget kiddie fodder and licensed TV/movie games, Disney really pulled a rabbit out of its hat with this one, folks. Pure is pure fun. It’s a terrible pun, I know, but it couldn’t be any truer. If I had to vote right now Pure would get my nod as racing game of the year.


+ Spectacular track designs
+ Deep, intuitive trick and boost system
+ Precision controls
+ Stunning environments and detailed ATV models
+ Awesome ATV customization options
+ Intense online play
+ Bumpin’ soundtrack

– No split-screen multiplayer
– World Tour mode could’ve been deeper

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on Xbox 360, also available for PC and PS3.
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Developer: Black Rock Studio
Release Date: 9/23/08
Genre: Action Sports/Racing
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-16 (2-16 online; no local multiplayer)

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!