Let me start by clarifying one very basic and often misunderstood fact about the first Test Drive Unlimited game, and this, its follow-up. This is not a racing game. Yes, there are times when you will participate in car races, but you do that even in Grand Theft Auto. Test Drive Unlimited is a driving game that encompasses and aims to bring to your living room the complete car experience, right from walking into a swanky showroom and inspecting the car you want to buy in minute detail, to taking it out for a leisurely drive along the coast. Like Gran Turismo, Test Drive Unlimited is about a love for cars, but it doesn’t haunt you with realistic car handling nor does it take itself too seriously. Get in and drive; it’s really that simple, and its beauty lies in that simplicity and freedom.
Living the good life
While the basic formula has made it over to TDU2 intact, developers Eden Games have done a whole lot more to build upon it. TDU2 is an open world game, and while in the first game Oahu, Hawaii was your playground, this time there’s a new, beautiful location – Ibiza, while Oahu returns with a significant visual upgrade. Both islands are massive and it will take you well over 20 hours to even explore both islands, let alone completing the missions on them. While the first game had you restricted to the tarmac, the islands are now open to you in their entirety, paving the way for off-road vehicles and SUVs and events revolving around them. You now also have day and night transitions as well as dynamic weather, and the game looks absolutely stunning at night and when it’s raining.
So without even getting into the gameplay, you can just tell from the setting that TDU2 is a far more expansive game, and it attempts to make the best use of that expanse by breaking up player progression into four sections. Events and activities level you up across four parameters – competition, discovery, social, and collection. Competition, as you would expect, involves races, time trials, tournaments, and earning licenses. Discovery requires you to explore the island, find hidden vehicles or photograph landmarks. Social involves making friends online, entering online events and building clubs. Lastly, collection entails buying cars and real estate in investing in them with upgrades. As you can see, the game extends beyond driving and is almost a lifestyle game, but it stops well short of turning into The Sims, and you’re never forced to perform any event you don’t want to. You have complete freedom to play the way you want.
Wanna play with my stick?
The carefree approach to the game extends to the vehicle handling as well. There are three driving difficulties to choose from and even the hardest of them is fairly easy. In fact, the lowest difficulty, at which it is set by default, is the worst. Cars almost feel like they’re on rails, so the first thing you should do when you start the game is change this setting. There aren’t hundreds of cars in the game, but there is a great selection, and the way they’re presented gives them a sense of exclusivity. You’ll find cars either in manufacturer or region-specific showrooms, where you can inspect cars closely, sit inside and have a look at the interiors, and even take them out for test drives. Plus, there are used car dealerships for when you’re short on funds.
The highlights of TDU2, as in the first game, are the long solo driving missions that are just you and the road. Each has a few conditions to be met, such as not damaging the car or keeping your passenger calm by not driving too dangerously. The long cross-island drives are equally memorable, and even more so thanks to the beautiful environs. As I mentioned before, TDU2 is visually stunning, but some of the luster is taken away by the uneven framerates. On a GTX465-powered rig, the framerates still always remained above 30, but never static, which can get annoying. Also, bear in mind that the PC version has an intrusive DRM that requires you to be online each time you launch the game, which sucks because on a few occasions, Atari’s own servers have been offline, locking me out of the game.
Drunk driving FTL!
All said and done, fans of the first game will have no reason to complain about Test Drive Unlimited 2; if anything, it’s a whole lot more of what we loved. For those new to the series, just remember what I said at the start. Go in expecting a driving game, not a racing game, and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Published Date: Feb 28, 2011 04:47 pm | Updated Date: Feb 28, 2011 04:47 pm