|MTV and THQ continue
their partnership in MTV Sports: Pure Ride. Pure Ride is a snowboarding game with a great
title, a mixture of pro and imaginary characters, lots of real product licenses, and a
whole lot of play modes. Its a real improvement over last years lackluster MTV
Sports: Snowboarding, and demonstrates the improvement of the MTV franchise. For folks who
cant look forward to the PS2 snowboarding titles, Pure Ride is not a bad choice for
this years virtual shredfest.
Lets face it: Snowboarding games have gone about as far as they can on the PlayStation. Pure Ride is a good example of just how much can be done on the system, and its also a good example of the limitations game designers have been facing. Graphically, the game is not much to look at. That is, its not any better or worse than any of the other dozen snowboarding games weve seen come along in the last few years. The design and interface are comfortable and very contemporary, so the game looks like it was made in 2000, but levels and characters still suffer from the same holdbacks as previous titles. Trees are woefully two-dimensional, snow is chunky, characters are hard-edged and suffer from pixilization. Pure Ride suffers even more in two-player mode, where your rider is stretched out as if in a funhouse mirror. Still, these graphics complaints most likely cannot be addressed on the PSX. It would take much higher framerates, polygon counts, and better particle rendering than Sonys freshman attempt can muster.
Now that weve given the nod to the biggest drawback of Pure Ride, we can focus on whats really good about it. THQ has packed in all the basics weve come to expect, and thats the biggest strength of the game, plus theyve added a couple of new features. You can zip into a single player game via the Express Pass mode, or just cruise the mountain in Free Ride. Of course, the Tour Challenge mode is where you get to earn more mountains, riders, and boards. In Specialist mode you get to test your skill at any particular aspect of a Tour: halfpipe, slopestyle, and big air. The Stunt Mode sets you up on bizarre runs that require you to execute difficult tricks, such as sliding a sequence of rails and making a huge jump while collecting little icons. The requisite Head to Head mode allows you to compete on different runs with either a trick score or time goal. Unfortunately, there is no way to compete for a combo of trick and time. And to top it all off, there is a Build a Mountain mode that allows you to set up your perfect run.
Overall, these modes are pretty great. The mountain editor has been improved since Snowboarding, so now there are more obstacles, ramps, and rails you can place in better templates. Each mode takes you to a different country, such as America, Japan, France, Canada, etc. The hills do look quite different, and some feature massive drops over highways bristling with traffic. The hill design is very good, providing the opportunity for some big air and fast turns. Stunt Mode is an especially good innovation it gives the game a feel not entirely unlike Tony Hawks Pro Skater.
As with all of the MTV Sports games, the soundtrack is as edgy as the design. Why dont we hear music like this on MTV? I dont think Ive ever seen a single video for any of the artists featured on this soundtrack on MTV ever. Included are tracks from Bender, the Freestylers, SX-10, American Hi-Fi, Incubus, El Pus, Gravity Kills, and Greyarea. The game has a cool function that allows you to pick which tune youll ride to, and they dont skimp you by just giving 30 second samples of the songs. You get the whole tune, for better or worse. Trust me, the first time you screw up and pick Cris Vrennas "Snowboarding Theme," youll be more careful about what you do during the load screens.
There are the requisite imaginary riders featured, many of whom are back from the original Snowboarding. There are also pros that you can unlock, including Michelle Taggart, Blaise Rosenthal, Brad Scheuffele, and Marc Montoya. It makes sense to have both reality and fiction represented in Pure Ride. The game straddles the border between straight-up arcade snowboarding and realistic, sim-style riding. Aspects of the mountains are very realistic, but there are also some insane gaps and drops. The control is also very simple, reminiscent of the old Cool Boarders titles. Your X button controls your jumps, press it again to attach to a rail, R1 and L1 increase or decrease the speed of your spin, and everything else does tricks. To flip or spin, simply push the right direction on the D-pad.
Overall, MTV Sports: Pure Ride manages to do just about everything right. The gameplay is varied and challenging; the controls are simple but effective; the pros are represented, as well as a whole bunch of licensed boards and clothing. The problems is not really with Pure Ride, but with the stagnation of the snowboarding genre over the past year or so. These games have always pushed the limits of the PSX, and in many ways theyve maxed out the systems possibilities. Well have to wait for the next MTV/THQ snowboarding team-up on a next generation system to get a game that really makes you want to go get it. I know the fans need a new title for the new season, and if thats you, then go out and pick up MTV Sports: Pure Ride. But if youre looking for something revolutionary, something that will blow your mind, keep looking.