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Review | Test Drive Unlimited 2

Testing, Testing

Format: PC/Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 | Genre: MMO racing | Publisher: Atari | Developer: Eden Games | Release date: 11/02/2011 | Price: £39.99

Peter Willington trawls Ibiza in a plethora of different vehicles thanks to TEST DRIVE UNLIMITED 2.

THE DIFFICULTY in reviewing TDU2 comes not from its technical hiccups both pre and post launch, which has seen servers being down for several days limiting access for many players to large portions of the game, nor in its release amongst a crowded market of easily comparable AAA titles. The difficulty in review instead comes from pre-conceived expectations from those that will come to consume its sun drenched brand of motor sport. Its position in the racing genre has certain implications, most notably that this latest from the long running Test Drive series is about exactly that: racing, an area of expertise in which the title is sorely lacking.

After an admittedly excellent opening reveal in this story of sun, sand and super cars, you are tossed to the bottom rung of elite racing, a “nobody” in Ibiza where the primary pastime appears to be taking high performance vehicles and competing against the local inhabitants. Issues in the game’s design immediately surface, most notably unconvincing voice acting driving a story forward with as much grunt as a FIAT Panda – “we have all your favourite racers, Miami, the Wilder Brothers, Stuart” – a confrontational difficulty curve that allows you no time to adjust to TDU2’s uneasy balance between a simulation and arcade experience, plus a city that feels unpopulated and indistinct from borough to borough.

Why so serious?

After obtaining your first license, required to enter the initial Classic tournament, you’re thrown into a championship that will crush every ounce of spirit you have for the game. Make one mistake here and you’ll be out of the running, requiring a needlessly lengthy restart process. You’ll make a bunch of mistakes initially too, as Test Drive is very much a game about the angle and consistency of surfaces, which it doesn’t make particularly clear until the ninety minute mark and the dirt races rear their muddy heads. Each car has a sense of weight, or severe lack of, at odds with its sim ideals, ensuring you’ll hop, skip and skid across the tarmac with alarming regularity. To combat this, a steadier pace is required as well as a more thoughtful assessment of the road in front, a task made all the harder by a camera that either has too little directional finesse from third person, or is too low to see what’s coming from first. Plumping for the best-of-a-bad-situation that is the bonnet view, you’ll often find yourself spending a third of your time with your eyes directed at the on-screen GPS map for earlier warning of the numerous ninety degree turns that will be required of you. It’ll distract your attention from what’s front and centre, often resulting in collisions with the ever present, ever suicidal traffic inhabiting both Ibiza and Hawaii, the game’s second location.

The intelligence of your racing brethren isn’t much better either. Competitors will “do a Gran Turismo” by ploughing into your vehicle with little regard for their personal safety, yet stay out of their way and they’ll race flawlessly, rarely changing positions in the pack, taking each corner with robotic precision. They’ll also come out of any scrape with you as the victor, making for some frustrating instances of being shunted off the road accidentally, only to see them scream past you without incident. When this is all played out to a soundtrack that has two radio stations playing some of the most banal, no-name rock and urban tripe accompanied by presenters that make Chris Moyles sound positively understated, featuring “comedy” ads that shoot for GTA and hit Driver 3, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a wreck of a game, a write off. If you were expecting a stellar racing title then this is absolutely headed for the scrap heap. Nothing about its championships are fresh, there’s no meaningful variety to the different race types, no gob smacking visuals to dazzle the senses, no significant challenge beyond keeping your car on the road.

Continues…

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