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Thursday | December 8, 2016
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Test Drive Unlimited 2 (PC)

Test Drive Unlimited 2 (PC)

Test Drive Unlimited 2 - PC Review

Test Drive Unlimited 2 (PC) Review

Growing up, no matter how beautiful our home or perfect our lifestyle that itching exists to pack up and leave, explore new cultures and countries and take in some of the blissful sights around the world. In the words of the late, great Carl Sagan "We were hunters and foragers. The frontier was everywhere. We were bounded only by the earth, the ocean, and the sky. The open road still softly calls. Our little, terraqueous globe as the madhouse of those hundred, thousand, millions of worlds." Strange then that the more we evolve and progress the less we actually have to do to explore the planet, as all of these wonderful sights can be made available to us at the touch of a button.

In recent years entire virtual worlds have been developed, seeing gamers transported to renaissance Italy or even the rings of Saturn. Still, nothing quite compares to being immersed in a virtual world based on the real thing and Test Drive Unlimited has set the pace when it comes to doing so. When Eden Games released that title it was one of the most ground breaking racing simulators to date; being the first racing game to introduce the idea of a massively multiplayer online racing and giving players from all over the globe the chance to interact, challenge and exist among many like them. Not only that but it also featured over 1000 miles of roads modelled on the picturesque Hawaiian island of Oahu, driving fans were instantly hooked at the simplicity and elegance of the game. Since then there have been several attempts at improving on the core features of Test Drive Unlimited from a number of different titles, yet each one has lacked that same sort of attraction, the heart and the pureness of the original. Can its successor, Test Drive Unlimited 2 fare any better?

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Gameplay
Well at first glance it seems that Eden Games have gone the extra mile with the sequel, introducing not just some new features, but an entire new location for players to stake their claim to be king of the road, namely everyone’s favourite party island Ibiza. After an introduction which whets the appetite players will begin their career as a lowly car valet on the party island who is given a shot to show his driving ability thanks to a reality television series – very post modern – which gives entry to the Solar Crown championship; a racing event that will have players darting through the narrow streets and rambling through the rough off-road terrain of the two beautiful islands. Players must start by earning their stripes by obtaining their driving licences which will eventually see them behind the wheel of some of the most luxurious on and off-road vehicles on the planet. Once behind the wheel players will be thrown into the deep end and must partake in every type of race imaginable including point to point dashes and speed tests.

In career mode it is a long way to the top and players must earn levels before unlocking the newer material, 60 to be exact, with 15 each split into 4 categories; Competition, Collection, Discovery and Community. With three difficulty settings it is also easily accessible to any skill level. Competitions are as expected where players must work their way through the multitude of single and multiplayer races in the quest to being the best driver. Collection is, once more, exactly what it says on the tin. Players are required to accumulate and customise cars, real estate whilst kitting out their avatar with new clothes and accessories. Discovery pushes players to explore the virtual worlds and document them with photographs, taking in the sights and looking for the many car wrecks on the islands. Last but not least is community which rewards players for making the effort to become part of the online world and progress can be earned through co-op racing, partaking in club races or simple player challenges.

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As our career progresses we begin to earn more and more money whilst rising the ranks, unlocking extravagant new cars to race in whilst continuing to improve our driving skills and earning new licences. Once we have progresses enough in the game it is time to jet off to the island of Oahu featured in the previous game and the remodelling job done in TDU2 looks stunning. Driving through the twisting roads can be great fun whilst some of the sights are lovely- such as the fabulous sunset whilst cruising along the main strip. It’s even better knowing that everyone playing at that moment in time is taking in the same sights as us thanks to the global day/night cycle and dynamic weather system.

Although taking part in the tournaments and competitions can be great fun the unique and attractive thing about Test Drive Unlimited 2 is that it’s about more than just the racing. The game is an online hub for social interaction, players can set up their own race clubs or group challenges, visit a remodelling shop, get a haircut or even some plastic surgery – which hilariously requires players to wear post-op bandages. After purchasing an apartment friends can come over to take a look around or just take a free drive around the 2000 miles of road available. Of course when cruising the island players can be challenged at any time by others who are feeling slightly racey, even an impromptu flash of the lights can trigger a dash for an invisible finish line just like it would for boy racers all over the world in their sooped up Vaxhall Corsa’s. The depth of the game really is something else and that’s before we even begin to scratch the surface given our measly 3 days playing time.

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Indeed players can find themselves lost in their second life for days on end due to the sheer amount of detail gone into making it just that, a second life where players can live out their playboy dreams of owning real estate in San Antonio or driving their very own Aston Martin. When the huge amount of detail or tedious racing gets too much the opportunity is always there to shove it all and take our cruiser for a ride to the beech front, ramp up the accelerator and listen to the howling exhaust whilst taking in the beautiful sights of the island. Escapism at its best.

Yet for all of its brilliance the game isn’t devoid of problems. The PC version has been hit by a number of catastrophic bugs which, hopefully will be fixed in the coming weeks so we can’t really go too mad about that. Character models are atrociously put together and the voice acting is almost as bad, as the game progresses it can become intolerable. Although the scenery can at times look spectacular the graphics still make the game feel like it was made two or three years ago, at least, whilst the handling of the vehicles made us think we were playing ridge racer. Of course the game was never going to stand up to the likes of GT5, or NFS: Hot Pursuit when it came to these elements but had a bit more time and effort gone into them TDU2 could have been damn near perfect, or at least much more polished.

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Graphics
The islands of Ibiza and Oahu are picturesque, so trying to recreate them in a virtual world is no mean feat. In some ways Eden Games have done brilliantly though and as players spend more and more time playing the level of detail gone into making the islands becomes clear. The global day/night cycle is a good idea and when watching the sunset on the beach front in San Antonio players will see some nice touches such as how the sun reflects off the road, yet for all of the world put into making the world perfect, Eden Games have dropped the ball when it comes to almost every other aspect.

The overall world detail is really lacking, such as basic textures on surfaces (e.g. windows) or fields of very generic, bland looking plants. Additionally player models look laughably out-dated whilst the cars pale in comparison to the likes of Gran Turismo. Although they never set out to create a racer like GT5 it’s still a huge let-down that they didn’t build on what they had whilst also taking the good points from other popular racers out there.

It is a real case of console-itis where no extra work has been put into the PC version, something which is clear from the way the onscreen menu stretches out rather than scales, looking less than ideal when we enable extra wide resolutions.

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Audio
Players are left in no doubt about which island they are driving on thanks to various high-tempo house and dance tracks from the likes of Deadmau5, Paul Van Dyk and Passion Pit whilst the untouchable Paul Oakenfold also débuts a track from his new album. Of course it’s not all dance and fast beats and for the more mellow rocker or indie lover there’s a selection of tracks to play whilst cruising the highways or back-streets of Hawaii.

Of course they had to find a good soundtrack in order to drone out some of the engine sounds which, at times sound not unlike Donald Duck playing an accordion. On the higher spec cars the engines do sound much more realistic and perhaps even "good", yet in the earlier stages of the game our advice is to turn that music way up. Them when outside the car things just seem to get worse thanks to the dreadful voice acting, something that really should have been looked at before releasing the game.

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Summary
Eden Games have managed to take the first Test Drive Unlimited game and expand on it, offering an immersive and beautiful virtual world that will have players hooked for days on end. Yet that’s about the only thing that sets it apart. Graphics remain very out-dated whilst the actual car handling can be infuriating at times as players must battle with pretty much every cars chronic understeer. The social side of the game is truly fantastic and offers plenty of bang for our buck yet when players purchase a driving game they want to play a driving game; not a virtual representation of Facebook. The game is also in need of a patch to resolve a few bugs, a number specifically about online elements.

In the end Test Drive Unlimited 2 leaves players feeling frustrated due to the huge amount of wasted potential. It’s similar to a bottle of 2in1 shampoo/conditioner. It tries too hard to incorporate too many things whilst failing to deliver on the most basic. Still, for anyone keen on spending hours of their life driving through the beautiful backdrop of Ibiza and Oahu whilst conversing with online friends, TDU2 does the job perfectly.

Gameplay 75/100 Although there are elements that are brilliant we have to judge this as a racing game, and there are just too many problems with the racing elements of the game. Very disappointing.
Graphics 80/100 The beautiful backdrop of Ibiza and the stunning island of Oahu look good. Shoddy character animations and disappointing cars let it down.
Audio 85/100 A fantastic soundtrack is marred by awful voice acting and strange sounding cars.
Value 85/100 For only £24.99 the game offers plenty of bang for its buck with hours and hours of content there to enjoy. Although not a perfect racing game it’s definitely worth a play.
Overall
(Not an Average)
80/100 Not the best driving simulator in the world but some of the features incorporated are great. Another casualty of a rushed release where a little more time gone in development could have resulted in a far better game.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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