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The Xbox’s love for Outrun continues with Pure Chase 80’s. Like Horizon Chase Turbo, Slipstream and Hotshot Racing before it, Pure Chase 80’s is nostalgic for a time when shiny red sports cars accelerated towards a pixelated horizon; where the only means of cornering was a drift; and straights were spent pumping your fists to a banging midi soundtrack.
‘80s purists might be banging their fists on the keyboard, saying that ‘Chase’ in the title must be a reference to the classic Chase HQ. That may be true, but Pure Chase 80’s, in its gameplay, doesn’t feel particularly like Chase HQ. It’s more towards the Outrun end of racing. Your opponent, more often than not, is the timer, and – while there are a few bosses, and more on those later – you’re rarely chasing after them. If you loved Outrun, Power Drift or Daytona, then you will know what Pure Chase ‘80s is all about.
Considering Pure Chase 80’s is a title from a lesser known studio (FuriouSoftPhoenix have only dabbled in budget puzzlers before this point), it looks reasonably on-the-money. It doesn’t lift its art style from one particular game, but there’s a touch of 32X Virtua Racing to the trees and rocks, while we get some early Carmageddon vibes from the cars. It has the odd tendency to opt for griminess and darkness on many of its tracks (it can often feel like you’re playing through sunglasses, which might be the point), but generally it captures the heightened technicolour of an ‘80s arcade game.
Musically, it does the job too. It’s not got a track that we’d immediately add to our Outrun playlist, but it’s hi-octane enough to keep things moving. We’d have taken more Riiiiiidge Raaaacer-style commentary, though, but that may just be us.
With the pad in the hands, though, Pure Chase 80’s immediately feels sub-standard. It’s something that improves with time, but you’re constantly accounting for it. The problem is in the handling: when you turn a corner, the car automatically drifts, but all of the weight and control is in the car’s rear-end. You’re controlling that thicc bottom around corners, desperately trying to keep the bonnet out of reach of other cars. And there’s so much inertia that doing so is intensely difficult. Moving from one lane to another while turning is virtually impossible, as gravity won’t let go.
On straights, Pure Chase 80’s feels better, but only moderately. It’s still difficult to move from lane-to-lane (you must have a few bodies in the boot), and it sacrifices feelings of skill or speed as a result. When it chucks traffic, rocks and bombs at you, and it does that plenty, it can feel like trying to nudge a rhino while it’s stampeding.
It’s also surprisingly simplistic. You’re shown the controls when Pure Chase 80’s is booted up, and there’s only two on there: accelerate and brake. There’s no manual drift or boost, and certainly nothing that would differentiate racing from any other title. It’s a Plain Jane, and we were often jamming buttons on the controller just to see if it did anything.
As a counterpoint, once you learn to lead with the butt and anticipate obstacles way, way in advance (not always possible, by the way, as Pure Chase 80’s doesn’t draw a lot of them quick enough), it is possible to complete the races and have something approaching a good time. We learned to drive close to obstacles to give ourselves wiggle room for the next, and some opportunities for borderline-cheating cropped up. Some snowspeeder-like vehicles felt impassable until we learned to hug the outer walls, where they often didn’t bother to drive. At other times, we learned that some things – tumbleweed, helicopter bullets – aren’t worth dodging. They don’t total you, so we just kept calm and carried on.
We found the adrenaline surging, and had the occasional good time. The game’s two bosses (remixed throughout by changing their rules) were standouts, as we bounced bombs back at a battleship, and overtook a Lancaster-like bomber. They mixed up the formula, keeping things simple but finding a way to be thrilling. And some track sections were good fun: a forest sequence switched out traffic for jumps, while a Space Harrier bit chucked statues at us, and dropped pyramids down from space.
For every good bit, there was a bad bit, however. The previously mentioned snow-speeders on a tundra level are a wild difficulty spike and always generated an involuntary sigh, while Pure Chase 80’s occasionally tries to wring more variety out of its levels by repeating sections, but turning the lights out. On darker levels, it’s simply not possible to see upcoming walls and cars, and we brute-forced our way through them.
What pours sugar into Pure Chase 80’s tank, though, is the complete lack of longevity. There are three ‘missions’ available here (the third is unlocked after finishing one of the others), but we’d be charitable if we said they were wildly different. They are, effectively, one track with three different difficulty modes: Mission A is easier than Mission B, which is easier than C. Each mission is made up of a dozen or so ‘chunks’, as you move from ice to desert to forest, for example, but those chunks are the same – sometimes reordered – for each mission. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule – the Space Harrier ‘chunk’ is exclusive to C, and the bosses have new rules added – but, generally, you’re playing the same stuff repeatedly, often with identical track layouts.
Duck out of the missions and explore the main menu, looking for alternate modes or new ways to play Pure Chase ‘80s, and you won’t find any. There are no highscores, multiplayer modes, mirrored tracks or unlocks. The only motivation for replaying is the three tracks themselves, and a bevy of achievements that are unlocked by completing a track with minimal crashes or with a lot of time on the clock. As you’d probably guess, it’s not enough. Not for £9.99, anyway.
And we couldn’t leave without addressing a couple of elephants in the room. At the end of Pure Chase 80’s three tracks, you get a cameo. An extremely odd, ‘did I just see that?’ cameo. Considering this person is notoriously litigious, and it’s clearly, definitely them, we hope that nobody on their legal team spots Pure Chase 80’s. And we’d like to take a moment to shine a light on hilariously bad translations in the game. “There’s a boom in your car!”, says the title screen. “Too late! Bomb exploited!, says the Game Over screen. All of these were high-points for us, of course.
Pure Chase 80’s is a fling with an ex. For a fleeting moment, it reminds you of a past love – in this case, Outrun – and leaves you pining for an older time. But it is exceptionally fleeting: all feelings of joy evaporate after an hour or so, and you realise why you moved on in the first place. Pure Chase 80’s may offer some pure racing fun, but it has almost zero substance and longevity to back that purity up.
You can buy Pure Chase 80’s from the Xbox Store