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Pure

They were going to call it Vertigo... but sadly that name was already taken

The Black Death. It's not a standard gaming metaphor but somehow it fits for this kind of thumb-taped-down, brain-loaned-out arcade racer. Not because Wario or even Biff from Road Rash ever skulked across medieval Europe spreading a sniffle with a wave of their bony claws. More because, much like the bubonic plague, karting games used to be massively important and relevant, and hugely infectious.

And that's what the boffins at Black Rock Studios are aiming to make significant once again: that competitiveness, that aggression, that level of messy enthusiasm. But instead of leader-seeking shells, they're using gravity in an effect they call 'Vertigo Rush' - though it smells more like 'Aarrggh' to us.

It's a lot like a leap from SSX - the size, the scale, the tricks and the fact that such Newtonian niceties as gravity (and the fact that the landing would in reality force your thigh bones through your pelvic cavity) are forgotten. Instead you see vast draw ranges, eye-pulverising detail and stylised young 'uns, throwing shapes to a variety of (currently placeholder) rocking tracks.

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However, there's more to Pure than just the sound of the wind rushing through your painfully fashionable trousers - but until the Freestyle mode is revealed to us, not a huge amount more that we can tell you about.

Off-Road Rash
So while our experience remained as hands-off as an Afghan naan thief, it's obviously basic but brisk stuff. There is no weight shifting to worry about, just a stick-thrust to 'load' the suspension before a leap. Pretty much any trick can be landed, even one 'performed' with all the dignity or dexterity of an air-dropped llama. And if you do take a spill there are no ignominious rag-doll flailings, just a flash of a logo and you can rejoin the race.

So instead of boot-bumping or throat-kicking your way to the podium, you jump the bumps that bleed off your speed and time your take-offs. Well, it's that or use your trick-earned boost to find shortcuts hidden through the seven labyrinthine locations. 'Thinking vertically' is the phrase banded around because sometimes the only way to find these on-high paths is with a shot of turbo. And when you do, so will the 15 other racers competing to also find that shortcut.

The driven snow
Your motivation to win the 50 events of the Pure World Tour (taking in all manner of locales and weather conditions) will come from a reward structure that stems from the traditional slathering of branded bike upgrades and racing bits. But in keeping with the approach of Pure, auto-options will do the tweaking for any non ATV-owners out there (ie the rest of us non-Americans). And what goes for offline will also count for online too so that means each event will include 16 riders, split by class of bike and type of event into Race, Sprint and Freestyle modes.

Zoom

Of course there are still rough areas. At the moment the AI is uninterested, unaware and uncompetitive (which is pretty realistic teen behaviour, but not ideal for competition); Online is still off-limits, as is the Freestyle mode with its promise of a new game mechanic, by Disney decree. But if the sheen seen so far can be maintained, we can see it spreading worldwide.

Less 'kitchen sink' than MX Vs ATV, Pure so far lives up to its name. It looks and sounds good, but we'll need some real play time before getting too giddy.

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