Test Drive Unlimited 2
The first Test Drive Unlimited never managed to become the best racing game on the market, but it did bring ambitious innovations like an open world with the island Oahu, and of course the possibility to cruise and race with your friends on the hot asphalt. That the driving model fell short and the integration of avatars wasn’t all too great either, are things we gladly forgave.
In the meantime we’ve put titles like Hot Pursuit in our console, including their way to race with friends (which is nothing less than brilliant) and also Gran Turismo, DiRT and Forza haven’t been standing still. In other words: the competition is bigger than ever for successor Test Drive Unlimited 2 and the expectations are therefore a lot higher.
To be honest, those expectations aren’t completely fulfilled and the game still suffers a bit from the same problems as the original. Absolutely unique in the genre, but also not properly worked out and too dubious. I’ll explain the latter: this game needs to find a perfect balance between realistic and arcade driving behaviour, and with perfect examples of both extremes in other games there is no way the devs would be able to complete this challenge. Too bad, but not unexpected and it needs to be said: the floaty driving model has been improved a bit and will only frustrate after some time when it becomes clear that it’s also no deep enough. Certainly go look at the options and search for the setting that works best for you, I found the more realistic settings to be the easiest ones.
Add to that the challenge to make this driving behaviour fit on the realistic roads of the recreated Ibiza (and later also Oahu), both completely open and driveable, added with some kind of Second Life in which you can build your character, dress them up, buy houses and have a social life, and you know that it isn’t just about – beautiful looking – cars. The islands look great and are more varied than you would think. Those that have been on Ibiza already know that its little surface combines urban and rocky areas, has green as well as dry parts and that there are of course also beaches, big roads, and small paths. Good choice to go racing eventhough the cool atmosphere of Ibiza is brought down a bit by the stiff and clean graphics of your virtual main character and his friends and world.
You play TDU2 in your way and in your pace. I sometimes caught myself just cruising around for fifteen minutes, radio on, windows down, enjoying the view and the realistic weather, day- and night simulation. Or in other words: this game isn’t the best in anything, but does offer everything you can expect from a racing game and lots and lots more.
This is also why developer Eden Games to not only reward you for doing classic races or challenges. Experience points can be gained in different categories (competition, discovery, collection and social) which combined determine your ranking. This way you get original assignments and all kinds of things to pass the time. There are points for buying houses, making certain pictures, discovering new roads (you can also go off-road with one of the tougher terrain vehicles), a crashed car or remote store, and building your car collection and character.
In a more classic way you get rewarded for winning races of finishing challenges that are made by the community. Again: something for everyone but at the same time there are certain aspects you’ll like less than you had hoped as you always need to progress in all categories to reach the maximum level 60. The latter also hasn’t been made more pleasant by an overload of menus, movies, explanations and sometimes unnecessary complicated structures behind it all. An open world can be a bit more inviting and menu-less for us, especially in a game with so many possibilities.
A bit more about the racing then. The assignments are varied and at times even a lot of fun. You sometimes will have to finish a flashlight race or get to undertake longer missions. It’s just too bad that the standard races like point-to-point or time trials are often quite boring due to a lack of surprises and very standard AI opponents. Human pilots are preferred and it’s here that the improved online capabilities step in.
The auto clubs are some kind of gild in which gamers can unite and spend time together on or besides the road. They’re also ideal for those that want to design their own races and throw them in the online world. With co-op possibilities (like “Follow the Leader”) and even chases that remind of Hot Pursuit there’s plenty of new to find for those that put some time in the community and the built-in multiplayer.
In short, Test Drive Unlimited 2 isn’t for everyone. It offers tons of features and possibilities so that there’s something for everyone, but you won’t experience the pure arcade action like in Burnout or the rock-solid simulation of GT5. What you do get is a world that makes you dream and the chance to cruise on a recreated island with a car you probably will never be able to afford in real life. That on top of that you can build out your character, do all kinds of races and missions or explore the multiplayer is the cherry on the pie. A unique game that has its own downpoints but also has an appeal that makes you forget these shortcomings.