Test Drive, Limited…
Test Drive Unlimited 2 is all about chasing the dream – literally. Your introduction to the game is a dream sequence straight from a cheesy 1980’s aspirational feel-good film, in which you are speeding along a sun kissed coastal road, behind the wheel of some exotic Ferrari. As with all dreams however, you are eventually hauled back to reality (if you can call this reality!) with a single sharp tug, and then the real work must begin – winning yourself racing permits, earning money and generally spending most of your time behind the wheel of some of the most desirable cars in the world, speeding around Ibiza.
Developers of TDU2, Eden Games, have taken a rather radical approach to the open world idea that has become so popular in recent years by lovingly recreating the island of Ibiza in meticulous geographical detail, as well as adding a sprinkling of moronic, drunken and generally annoying twenty-something Americans. As with most of the people you may happen to meet in Ibiza, TDU2 is obsessed with its vanity and beauty, but isn’t much of a looker itself. In fact, it’s rather plain Jane – cut scenes are pretty standard and rough around the edges, especially in comparison to TDU2’s main rival’s Gran Turismo and Forza and the infamous ‘pop-up’ scenery is ever present as you floor your expensive car into the distance. This free roam world, despite feeling large and well-populated with the aforementioned Americans lacks any real soul and ultimately feels hollow -yet at the same time, as a background to some high octane, high speed car based shenanigans our recreated Ibiza is also somewhat magnificent, and certainly the closest many of us will ever get to touring Ferrari’s around the White Isle.
To get by on the White Isle, you’ll either need to get a bar job and spend all of your time cleaning up drunken teenagers sick, blood and other bodily fluids, or you can earn some serious cash by completing one of the 60 missions offered to you across the island, in any way you see fit – as long as it’s behind the wheel of a car. Missions are dotted around the large island, and are actually rather varied. From classic races along mountain passes to top-speed challenges along the islands high ways, all of these missions have been done before in better games, but TDU2 is a lot of fun, if frustrating at points.
From the moment you turn the keys in the ignition of your brand new sports car, the open road calls to you
If you have not yet played either of the Test Drive Unlimited games, let me explain why so many joy pads have been thrown away in sheer frustration and anger at the mercy of the unforgiving TDU handling model. Test Drive Unlimited has a split personality – at times it tries to present itself as a serious racer like Gran Turismo, with true-to-life physics and realistic handling. At other times, it would rather be an automotive wet dream, like Need for Speed, where any car can be thrown around a hairpin corner at 150mph and everybody walks away from car crashes with nothing by a sense of relief. The result is that cars in TDU2 are simultaneously twitchy and unresponsive, and sluggish but also too fast. At times you find yourself performing amazing feats of automotive ballets, and other times you must hopelessly watch as you plough off some Balearic back road into a wall.
Once you are earning those big bucks, you need something to spend it on, right? If you are so inclined, feel free to scout the islands real estate, from houses with more garage space, to entire islands for you to claim as your own private playground. Of course, most of your money will be spent on shiny new cars – there is a genuine thrill when you enter a posh car dealership, hand over a wad of hard won cash and get handed the keys to some vehicular beast.
From the moment you turn the keys in the ignition of your brand new sports car, the open road calls to you – and this is where TDU2 really shines. Forget about your missions and simply enjoy the island. Don’t feel you have to stick to the roads however – buy an SUV and go exploring as you traverse any terrain the White Isle may throw at you. With the gentle purr of your engine, a few beats from the radio and a perfect sunset, this feels more like a relaxation technique than an adrenaline fuelled racing game.
Test drive Unlimited 2’s car based MMO structure somewhat stretches the imagination, but stumbling upon another player and initiating a race with a single flash of the headlights is an exhilarating experience, and had I any knowledge of illegal street racing, I would suggest feels like the real thing. However, the online connectivity is rather unstable, and several times found myself half way through a race suddenly alone, my opponent having lost connectivity and simply disappearing.
Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a strange sort of experience; a game which wants present itself as completely free form, allowing you to play it however you see fit, but constantly badgers you with phone calls, GPS markers and cut scenes to make you play it by its own rules.
The Bad: Feels hollow, awful handling system, some connectivity issues.