Test Drive Unlimited 2 Review
Game: Test Drive Unlimited 2
Developer: Eden Games
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC (PlayStation 3 version reviewed)
Usually, mixing the massively multiplayer online (MMO) genre with anything other than the RPG genre hasn’t gone down very well. Most people could probably count the titles on one hand that have even attempted it. Most people would then go on to assume that a racing game would be the last thing to be made into an MMO. Most people would be wrong.
Test Drive Unlimited 2 from Eden Games is exactly that, a down to earth, relatively realistic racing game with all the usual features of an MMO sprinkled in for good measure. Socialising, questing and PvP – it’s all included in Test Drive Unlimited 2, but does it work? Read on to find out.
STORY: When talking about a game that’s primarily about racing, it’s difficult to talk about the story. There generally isn’t one. If you had a storyline in Gran Turismo 5 or the next Ridge Racer you would automatically dismiss it and get straight to the racing instead. That being said Test Drive Unlimited 2 does, at least attempt to put a storyline into the game. It’s not good, not by a long shot, but it helps give somewhat of a reason behind why your character has suddenly turned to the life of a famous race car driver.
Basically, you start off the game as a down and out valet who fancies themselves as the next big thing on the race track. You’re given the opportunity of a lifetime to take part on some kind of racing reality TV show and off you go. You’re required to buy cars to take part in championship races, beat your rivals to the finish line and then, eventually, beat them in a one-on-one race and take their car. It’s your typical rag to riches story and, in that respect, there’s nothing new here. Eden Games have made a decent enough attempt at including a proper story in a racing game, but it’s not something that would be particularly missed if it wasn’t there.
GRAPHICS: For the most part the graphics in Test Drive Unlimited 2 are beautiful. The cars look stunning, the buildings/streets are recreated with amazing visual detail and the effects applied when driving at full throttle make you feel like you’re actually travelling at breakneck speeds. The only major problem in relation to the graphics comes when you look at objects from a distance. Anything that’s more than a mile or so away looks blocky and awful, like something from an original PlayStation game. This wouldn’t usually be noticeable if it wasn’t for the photography missions, where you’re tasked with searching out areas of the island to take photographs. Most of these missions involve taking photographs of the scenery with lots of objects in the far distance and doing so shows off this particular flaw in a spectacularly obvious fashion.
The cars themselves look great, you can tell a great deal of care and attention went into accurately reproducing the look of each of the vehicles available in Test Drive Unlimited 2. Everything down to the fibres in the upholstery of the cars can be inspected which adds a sense of ownership to each of the vehicles you’re buying. Instead of being just a string of data, that fact the you’ve inspected each of the cars down to the minutest detail before laying down that cash makes the cars feel like they’re actually yours. Maybe you’ll be a little more careful when driving at 200mph this time.
SOUND: The audio is one of the most disappointing aspects of Test Drive Unlimited 2. Whilst the cars themselves sound quite good, as you would expect from a racing game, just about everything else associated with the auditory side of things isn’t as well crafted. The voice acting sounds stale and boring, with very little in terms of passion from the characters. Even the voice actors that seemed to put some effort behind their character performance more often than not just came across as obnoxious.
As bad as the voice acting is, the radio stations are definitely the most disappointing audio related feature. Nowadays you would expect a racing game to offer a decent amount of music, from a wide range of genres on offer, but that isn’t the case with Test Drive Unlimited 2. There are only two radio stations to choose from and neither offers a great deal of choice. More often than not you’ll hear the same song about three times during the course of a couple of hours. It quickly gets to the point where you’ll find yourself turning the music off just so you can listen to sound of the engine or the waves crashing on the sand. Anything else just isn’t really worth listening to.
GAMEPLAY: For the most part, Test Drive Unlimited 2 plays like the majority of racers available at the moment – handling wise and in terms of the way it is set up. You start from the bottom of the pile as a lowly, no-name, wannabe, race driver and you have to work your way to the top by winning yourself prizes and competitions. In order to get to those championship races you have to buy the right kinds of cars and to be able to afford those “right kinds of cars” you need to have the cash. That’s the point where the MMO aspect of the game kicks into high gear, if you’ll pardon the pun.
If you want to earn big bucks in Test Drive Unlimited 2 there are an avalanche of methods at your disposal. You can choose to play the races that are available to you, either offline or online, although online is definitely encouraged through that fact that there are a lot more of them available, for people of all skill sets. The other option is to attempt the challenges that are dotted around each map, usually netting you a cool $3,000 – $10,000. These methods are certainly slow, but it is an MMO in the truest sense of the word and you can’t play an MMO and not expect at least a little bit of a grind. Just ask any World of Warcraft player, it’s pretty much all they do.
Being a racing MMO, the online portion of Test Drive Unlimited 2 is very much alive and integrated seamlessly into the main game, which (in case you didn’t know) is set on the islands of Ibiza and Oahu. The world map is littered with small orange icons on certain sections of the roads, you just have to drive over them and start the online race. Providing there are people to play with, of course. If you win, you get the cash, lose and you won’t. It’s really as simple as it sounds in that regard and it’s one of the game’s strongest points. It doesn’t try to sugar coat it or make it stand out in any way that’s obtrusive to the player, it’s just there when, and if, you want it.
That’s the easiest way to get online and play with other players, but it’s by no means the only way. One of the most fun ways to get into a race with another online player is to just find them driving around town, having their own fun, drive next to them and flash your headlights. This will send a notification to that player informing them that you’re interested in an instant race, if he/she chooses to accept your proverbial glove on the table then it’s on, first one to the finish line wins and takes the money as well as a few points that go towards your online ranking. If you fail to win, however, you’ll lose online ranking points as well as hurting your pride and, let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than that.
LONGEVITY: The fact that Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a MMO means that the replay value is just about as high as you can get with any game. There is a little bit of a grind at times and as a result some of the content can become a little repetitive, but that’s just the nature of the genre. The other side of the MMO genre also applies here too though, if you put the time in the rewards are substantial and very impressive. That fact alone is enough to get most people repeatedly coming back for more.
VERDICT: Thanks to a vast amount of content and a seamlessly integrated online mode, Test Drive Unlimited 2 is one highly enjoyable racing game. However, the enjoyment of any single gaming session relies heavily on the stability of the servers at that point in time. If the servers are unstable or down, the games enjoyment factor suffers immensely. Make no mistake about it though, when everything is running smoothly, there is no other racing game available at the moment that is as unique, content-filled or fun to play as Test Drive Unlimited 2.