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Test Drive Unlimited is the newest in the line up of games that you may remember playing quite a few years ago. Published by Atari and developed by Eden Studios, the game was released on multi-platforms for the Xbox 360, PC, Playstation 2 and PSP.
The newest rendition of Test Drive takes the game to a whole new level and is forcing its competitors to do the same. It recreates the whole island of Oahu as accurately as possible and lets racers drive anywhere and everywhere. Just out of curiosity, I drove around the entire island and it took well over an hour Ė it is that big!
The gamer is presented with a very interesting style of game. Gone are the days of picking a track and a car then racing. Instead, the gamer starts a career game, picks a character and starts off living in a house. From there you must go to the car dealership with a limited amount of money and purchase your first car. The game has a real-life feel - you own a house where you can store a limited amount of cars, you have to drive to car dealerships to buy a new car, cruise the streets to find a race opponent or challenge and go to the local store to buy some new clothes.
Before you get scared off by all that driving, the game features a great map showing all the different locations from the car dealerships to the races, and at a click of a button a person can quickly transport to that location instead of driving. Players are able to win money by doing numerous things, including set races and working on missions like car delivery or even picking up hitchhikers and driving them to specified locations in a certain amount of time or with a limited amount of damage. As you work your way up in the ranks more car classes will be unlocked, you will be able to afford more cars and bigger and better houses.
The game features a wide variety of cars and bikes, most that people will never buy or try. A great benefit of the car dealership is the ability to test drive for a limited time a car or bike before you buy it, that way you will be able to truly tell if that is the dream car you want sitting in your garage.
One of the biggest drawbacks I found with the game is the controls, but that may have been my fault. As with most driving games the best experience isnít playing them with a keyboard, but itís usually still is very possible and enjoyable. I found it very frustrating and it required a high learning curve to play with the keyboard. The steering was too sensitive and it was hard to keep the car from doing a burnout while trying to accelerate slowly. Changing the sensitivity setting still didnít fix the problem.
After getting used to the controls it was time to try a bike on for size and that is quite an experience. The bike was extremely hard to control and steering was very difficult. I spent most my time on the grass instead of the pavement. Unfortunately, the motorcycles proved difficult to control and took away from the game more than adding anything to it. For a game as impressive and extensive as Test Drive has been so far, it was a disappointment to see these kinds of controls. If the controls on the PC would have been better, this could have been one of the best racing games we have ever seen.
'Car detail is nothing short of amazing and goes into great detail on every car, even letting the gamer roll down the windows.'
Moving on, Test Drive looks spectacular in the graphics department. One of the benefits of the PC version is the ability to customize the graphics to suit your particular gaming rig. Turning everything on high, I found very little slowdown while racing around the beautiful island. The largest amount of slowdown was while inside the house on the menu screen selecting options.
Car detail is nothing short of amazing and goes into great detail on every car, even letting the gamer roll down the windows. Another welcome touch that is often missed in racing games is the in car view with dashboard and full interior. Well done Atari! The islandís environments are very well detailed and make you feel like youíre driving down a true Hawaii road or highway. You will experience everything from the local plantation to airplanes flying high in the sky and plenty of local traffic.
The soundtracks in the game are numerous, featuring a radio system in which to choose music. Different radio stations will have different genres and thus have a select amount of tracks. To be honest, I did not care for many of the songs and often kept the radio off. With this feature off donít expect silence. I left it off in order to hear the roar of the V8 and the scream of the Lamborghiniís engine as I raced down the highway swerving in and out of traffic. The engine sounds are extremely well done and sound very similar to their real life counterparts.
The game shines once more with its online counterpart, perhaps one of its biggest features. The online mode places online racers into the actual island of Oahu together, cruising along the streets. Players can then go and search out a fellow racer and challenge them to a race. The online portion of the game will bring you back playing the game again and again. This was a very next generation way of presenting online. Well done again Atari!
In my opinion, the worst feature of the game is the police system. Anyone who has played NFS: Most Wanted will be sadly disappointed by the police system in Test Drive Unlimited. The police work on a severity level system, however if you simply bump into a civilian traffic car, they will immediately be alerted. Since itís hard to steer cars it is very easy to crash or even bump cars at any amount of speed. Bump a car again and the severity level will keep increasing. The police cars AI system is also unintelligent and not as strategic as it should be - they will randomly swerve and do odd things to try and stop you. Once they have you stopped expect to pay a hefty fine depending on the amount of damage you have done. I would have loved to see a higher quality police AI system and chase system put into the game.
Overall, Test Drive Unlimited is a great game with a ton of features. The career mode will keep you busy for a long time as you win more and more in order to buy that beautiful house by the ocean with an eight-car garage. Once you beat the career mode the online mode will let you show off your skills against people all around the world. With the games intuitive online mode, its always fun to have a race against the gamers cruising around the island waiting to take you on.
|Gameplay||7.5 / 10|
|Graphics||8.75 / 10|
|Audio||7.5 / 10|
|Lasting Appeal||8.5 / 10|
|Overall Score||8.5 / 10|