Review: Pure

Earnest "Nex" Cavalli | 9 Oct 2008 16:51
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Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude,
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

William Shakespeare wrote that. It was part of Henry IV's soliloquy in his eponymous play on how damn hard it is to be king (regardless of any objections held by Mel Brooks). It seems that in those days, as soon as you gained a modicum of power, or popularity, or a shiny crown, or even a particularly delicious pig, some brigand (often Kenneth Branagh) was waiting to poison your family, convince you that your wife was cheating on you, or stab Mercutio for no damn good reason.

We no longer live in an era best portrayed by classically trained actors (and, to a lesser extent, John Leguizamo), but the message that Shakespeare was trying to impart is as important as ever: Despite your past triumphs, someone is always going to be waiting to knock you off of your throne (and that someone is generally Kenneth Branagh).

Don't believe me? Take a look at the SSX series. For years, Electronic Arts had patented its own brand of arcade-style racing action that was more focused on huge tricks and stylish flair than the actual racing. It was a huge, much-loved critical and financial success in a time when absolutely everyone saw EA as a black-hearted corporate behemoth. When you create a game that good, it simply doesn't matter how many puppies you've kicked.

Then, EA got a bit complacent. The first SSX was amazing, the second was phenomenal, hell, even the third was way above average, but when the company started partial-birthing titles like 2007's SSX Blur, things started getting real average, real fast.

As in The Bard's allegorical Julius Caesar, it was inevitable that someone would try and take the throne. If EA wasn't still too busy swimming in a Scrooge McDuck-ian vault of gold coins earned from sales of Spore, the recent release of Pure might have elicited a breathy "Tu quoque, Disney?"

Pure, you see, is Disney's attempt at creating an arcade style racer, via developer Blackrock Studios. Instead of following EA into the world of cartoonish snowboarding, The House of Mouse has opted to capitalize on the popularity of driving dangerously overpowered off-road vehicles, often while drunk - otherwise known as ATV racing.

Key in on that huge difference between Pure and the SSX games. Are you clear on that? SSX is about snowboards and Pure is about ATVs. Still with me? Good. Otherwise, the games are essentially twins.

Remember racing down a hill in SSX, hitting a jump, and clicking a few trigger buttons to launch a string of tricks? Exactly the same thing happens in Pure, down to how you "tweak" your tricks to earn even more points. Hell, even the "Signature Tricks" seen in SSX are present here. Like that earlier series, once you've built up enough energy by completing enough ridiculous aerial stunts, Pure offers you a flashing reminder that you can pull off your ultimate maneuver. Then it's a simple matter of finding a jump large enough to give you sufficient air to actually attempt the thing without splattering your corpus across the side of a mountain.

Of course, the tricks aren't just for show. In the score attack modes, they allow you to earn huge amounts of points, and in the racing modes, they are your sole opportunity to pick up "Boost," which pushes your ATV to ludicrous speed and allows you to overtake the 16 other racers you're pitted against.

At this point a lot of you are zipping your pants up, buckling your belts and packing your books into your backpack, wondering why you bothered reading about yet another obvious clone, but if you walk on this review right now, you'll miss the key twist. Yes, Pure is strikingly similar to SSX, but in many ways, it's even better.

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