Name: Test Drive Unlimited 2
Genre: Driving Sim
Platform: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
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Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a curious driving game if ever we’ve encountered one; part arcade racer, part massively multiplayer online role playing game, part The Sims-style life simulator, it’s ambitious to say the least. You’re constantly bombarded with missions, tournaments, collectables and online multiplayer challenges to the point where you could easily lose hours to the game, but you will have to be incredibly forgiving of the game’s many foibles in order to truly enjoy it.
You take the role of a lowly valet attendant, by chance thrown into the rich-kids world of the Solar Crown racing championship. Over the course of your in-game driving career you’ll have to acquire licences, compete in street, off-road and classic racing tournaments, buy cars to fill your garage with, buy properties with larger garages to fill with even more cars, furnish your homes, take photographs of wrecked cars to salvage and turn into sports cars, chase rivals and many, many more pick’n’mix tasks as you level-up and explore Test Drive Unlimited 2’s Ibiza and Oahu island locales.
Though initially overwhelming, the unique nature of the many challenges make Test Drive Unlimited 2 a real time sink. It’s very easy to intend to head over to a cup race, only to find yourself sidetracked by the hunt of an elusive off-road car showroom. Throw in the inventive online elements (which sees the open world game populated by other real-world racers, always ready to lay down the gauntlet of a street race by flashing their lights at a potential opponent) and the myriad ways you can earn cash and progress through the Solar Crown ranks, and you have the basis for a very robust racer.
It’s a pity then that car handling is so inconsistent. 101 cars feature in total, and you’re offered extensive stats detailing every aspect of their design. We found these had little relation to the experience of actually driving them, with little rhyme or reason to be found between what should have constituted the lust-worthy cars and the beat-up bangers, barring top speed and acceleration. Far too many of the cars had a boxy feel that seemed at odds with their size or in-game stats. Couple this with the fact that many races and challenges have frustrating sequences that seem almost designed to make you fail, forcing you to learn paths parrot-fashion through repeated trial and error losses, and your may find you patience quickly running short.
Presentation in Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a mixed bag to say the least too. Head out into the wilderness, with the game’s stormy weather effects in full force under the moonlight of the night cycle and the game looks a real treat, with filthy cars flying around slippery tracks. Head into town during the day though and the whole thing just looks awful; Ibiza is the roughest estimate of a real-life location we’ve ever seen in a game, with cardboard buildings and streets devoid of life. It all feels very dated, a sense only reinforced by the marionette-like characters who populate cut scenes. Needless to say the voice acting is not of Shakespearean standards.
Test Drive Unlimited 2, while an interesting concept, just never feels polished nor exciting enough to truly warrant your attention. While densely packed with challenges, it is wildly varied in its gameplay and visual quality, all adding up to a game that isn’t quite the equal of the sum of its parts.