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gaming since 1997

Test Drive Unlimited

Test Drive Unlimited is a racer that has always looked promising to me. After a previous preview I was pretty confident about what the total game would be like. Let’s see if it held up to the promise.

Let’s start with one of the game’s strongpoints, the graphics. Only words of praise fit here. It’s too bad I don’t have a Ferrari Enzo standing in my garage to compare, but as far as I can see, all available vehicles are very well modelled on the outside as well as on the inside. When you’ve bought a new car, you might find yourself taking a minute to look around and admire your brand new cockpit.

And it’s not just the cars that are very beautiful, the roadmap of the Hawaian island Oahu where the game takes place is also rebuilt to perfection. Through a kind of Google Earth interface you’re able to revist all the places you’ve been before. And if you haven’t been somewhere, you’ll get assistance from an intelligent GPS that makes sure you end up where you want to.

So the graphics are stunning, but what about the handling of the cars, the gameplay? I must say that while I was playing, I missed something that kept me playing, some kind of storyline. Because even though the storylines in racers can be very lame at times, they give you something to look out for while in this game, you’re just driving from race to race and doing some sightseeing in between.

Luckily the way you drive from race to race and the way the cars handle are both alright. Sometimes the cars can spin off if you’re not careful, but once got the hang of it, they are easy to get under control. The bikes on the other hand aren’t quite as good as the cars. They react a bit too nervous to be able to speed through town with confidence.

There is little to say about the sound. It’s possible to put on the radio and choose some stations but that’s nothing new. The sound coming from under the bonnet is much more interesting if you ask me. The engine noise is nicely finished so it’s the perfect soundtrack to put the pedal to the metal.

The amount of cars you’ll be able to do that in is also very good. Almost all the supercar builders are respresented in the game with their own virtual car shop. It’s just a shame that some brands like BMW aren’t available. Bike enthousiasts will probably complain about the fact that there are way more cars than bikes, but I see them more as a nice add-on to the cars.

Last but certainly not least, the challenges. If you want to race offline, there are a few special missions on top of the regular circuit, sprint and top speed races. In these missions you’ll have to play taxi for models, pick up hitchhikers or do some courier work. It’s just too bad that you don’t get a lot of money by doing these things. The real money is in car transportation where you’ll have to drive someone’s car from point A to point B with as little damage as possible. There’s even a bonus when you do this flawless.

Things get way more fun when you take your cars online, because that’s what the game was made for. Besides the creation of your own challenges and so on, you will also be able to see other players cruising around the island when you’re not doing anything. When you meet someone you can also challenge them: flash with your headlights, choose a destination somewhere on the map and off you go, all nice and easy.

Too bad there are also a few problems with this system. For instance, you won’t see all the players that are online, wich makes challenging a certain player somewhat of a challenge on it’s own at times. Although this might sound bad it isn’t really that hard and the lousy offline AI will push you towards the online competition automatically, two elements that make sure the online part is the most important. There is also some kind of online market for used cars built in the game, so you can go out and search for a bargain to expand your virtual colection.

Test Drive Unlimited tries to bring the offline and online world closer together and even succeeds at moments. Of course, if you’ve played the game on Xbox360 this version won’t have much to offer you. But if you’re looking for an a-typical racer that has a unique online system and you haven’t tried this game yet, you really ought to

Our Score:
8.0
related game: Test Drive Unlimited
posted in: Atari, PC, Reviews
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