Test Drive Unlimited 2ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Available on Xbox 360, PS3, Games for Windows.
Single player career, Multiplayer and Co-op modes support two to eight players
HDTV - 1080p native resolution (optional 480p, 720p and 1080i)
In-game Dolby Digital Audio
Driving Wheel Supported
The writing of this review was delayed by the author for over two-weeks. The reason for the delay is that since launch Test Drive Unlimited 2 has been plagued with bugs on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. The online modes did not work and there were issues with the multi-player functions, such as players not being able to create a Club, participate in co-op challenges or race in race challenges. Issues with the servers also prevent anyone from trying to start the game in "connected mode" or connect to Xbox Live or PSN. Some players' save files were corrupted forcing them to start a new game with a new profile. This catastrophe of corruption scrubbed almost forty hours of game play from the game save of a good friend of the author.
Atari should be credited for doing their best at informing the TDU2 community of the progress on patches for the game and the issues the patches would address on the TDU2 website, Facebook and Twitter. They have even gone as far as offering free downloadable content as a thank you to the community for the patience and support they have shown for Test Drive Unlimited 2.
The latest report from Atari via Twitter on March 10, 2011 is: The patch will be available Monday, 3/14 at 1am PT (9am GMT) will be a patch that should address many of the outstanding concerns that some of the community experienced on PS3 and Xbox 360. The TDU2 community has been a great support to the development team and we look forward to rewarding your loyalty soon with free DLC content. We should be able to provide dates once Microsoft and Sony approve the content and will update the community as soon as they are expected to go live.
In an effort to fully review the game the author delayed hoping the patch would have come sooner. It didn’t so the review offered to the reader is incomplete, much like Eden Games/Atari’s Test Drive Unlimited 2 is incomplete.
I love racing games. I really enjoy open-world/sand box games. Role playing games are one of my favourite “time sinks” on a gaming console. A good story, online multi-player and co-op play are key components to the gaming experience in my view. Eden Games/Atari’s sequel to their 2006 release Test Drive Unlimited has all of those things and more; but, is it enough, or is it too much? More importantly, does the amalgam of RPG, Sand Box/open world play work in an Arcade Racer? Is it a combination that fans of racing games want? I was more than willing to set my sights on Spain’s Island of Ibiza and the US’s Island of Oahu, Hawaii to find out for myself. The result was the most “Yin and Yang” gaming experience I have ever had.
Eden Games/Atari’s Test Drive Unlimited 2 offers a mixed bag in the visuals department. The islands of Ibiza and Oahu look like Ibiza and Oahu. The islands have been replicated very accurately with the assistance of satellite imaging. The reproduction accuracy of the two locales is also the game's downfall since the draw distances falter to the point of being jarring. This faltering of the horizon is exaggerated when screaming down a straight stretch of road at top speed. The same problem of distance was noticeable and somewhat excusable in 2006 when Test Drive Unlimited was released, but is less forgivable now. When compared to other open world/sand box racers, such as the Codemasters' FUEL, which doesn't share this stumbling vista malady, it is just not acceptable.
The cars look good, but not to the same degree of detail as Gran Turismo 5 of Forza 3; they are on par with Need For Speed Hot Pursuit. The environments are well drawn and are good graphical representations of Ibiza and Oahu, which you'll notice after venturing to either locale at Google’s Streetview. The cut scenes and characters are portrayed in a serviceable manner, but they are far from stellar. The interiors of your homes, car dealerships, clothing stores, car tuning shops, hairstylists, etc. are well crafted but point out what may be the first noticeable flaw with game play. What will TDU2 be when it grows up? It tries to do so much graphically, but it does nothing well. It offers mediocrity at best. For a game with a story line revolving around looking good, Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a bit plain and very rough around the edges.
The game sounds good. The cars all have the obligatory roar of engines and squeal of tires. The collisions sound flat. Not as flat as the dull “thud” in GT5, but they are lacking the spectacle of the crash epitomized in Need For Speed Hot Pursuit.
As the story unfolds for our hero another glaring deficiency rears its head — the writing is terrible. The radio announcers are annoying while the dialogue of your race rivals is cliché and seems hell bent on characterizing every person in the world as an ”Ugly American.” Not only is the portrayal insulting to citizens of the US, but it questions the intelligence of Arcade Racers as a whole. Another pitfall to the cut-scenes is that they are not “skip able” so the player is regularly punished with the sight of some incompetent businessman who seems obsessed with throwing good money at our hero just so he can make it to his meeting on time, or the poor girl at the side of the road who is prone to car sickness as you gingerly drive her home for the promise of cold hard cash. In a game that relies on well written dialogue with compelling voicing to forward the story, it fails miserably. Even the game’s sound track is predictable and generic, but forgivable, as many arcade racers yearn for a hard driving beat as they careen down the road at break-neck speed.
Your introduction to this massive driving world of Test Drive Unlimited 2 begins with a dream sequence that sees you as a valet at a classy hotel, being tossed the keys to a Ferrari. Your birth into the TDU2 world is actualized as you power the car through the highways and by-ways of Ibiza. You are rudely awakened from the dream as you crash back to the painful reality that is TDU2.
Eden Games/Atari’s Test Drive Unlimited 2 is an open world playground of fast cars, hard racing and a fast buck. Grand Theft Auto and Mafia 2 are free roam games fuelled by crime. Fallout and Oblivion are free roaming character building RPGs. Red Faction is an open world game founded in destruction. Forza 3 and GT5 are not open world but are sim-racers grounded in structured races and finely crafted detail. TDU2 goes in a very different direction by offering the player the paradise islands of Ibiza and Oahu with mile after mile of asphalt streets, dirt and classic tracks to dominate, explore and challenge your driving passion.
At the outset of your awakening, you are given a trailer to live in and a choice of three cars, (asphalt, classic or off-road). You begin your career by completing driving missions, collecting cars, accumulating real estate, furnishing spaces, buying clothes, and visiting the friendly neighbourhood plastic surgeon for that all important look. TDU2 tries to be the coolest looking driving kid on the street, but in the end it seems that TDU2 doesn’t know what it wants to be.
When you play Eden Games/Atari’s Test Drive Unlimited 2 for the first time you will be shocked by the way the cars handle. I recommend not choosing the Muscle Car as your first ride because the control makes it almost unplayable. As loose and unresponsive as the cars seem at first, as you begin to upgrade the handling, power and braking components, the cars will begin to go in the direction they are piloted, with practice. One should remember this is an arcade racer/driver and not a sim-racer like GT5 or Forza 3; but it isn’t a yank the “E-brake” to drift around a curve racer like Need For Speed Hot Pursuit either. The player has to think about how to tackle a race event or mission, because sometimes that bump to pass over-take may not be the best choice.
All the upgrades to cars, homes, clothes and the player’s own look come from earning experience points and money in four categories, that include: Competition (racing, completing challenges); Social (making friends in the game, race against other people, joining clubs); Discovery (discover all roads, take photographs of specific locations, find car wrecks); and Collection (buy cars, houses, furniture, clothing/basic needs). There are also ten bonus levels available to those who got the TDU2 Casino Online DLC/Pre-order Bonus from EB Games/GameStop, earned in the casino alone. In order to get yourself that hot car (or home, or haircut, or face) you’ll have to earn money. This is where the grind begins with completing the varied challenges on the huge islands from simple delivery errands to freeway-burning top-speed challenges. All of this grinding for XP and cash feels very “been-there, done-that.” Coupled with Eden Games/Atari’s Test Drive Unlimited 2's unforgiving physics mechanic, there was more than one occasion where my controller came close to being hurled at my screen due to unseen obstacles. For instance, I would clip an invisible rock or curb as I was about to win a race, which suddenly placed me last as I struggled to wrestle my car back onto the road.
Buying houses means more garage space, higher levels means more money. More money means more cars, more cars means more thrills. This is where TDU shines, because when you have enough money to buy yourself a really fast ride the open road suddenly becomes very interesting. But, for me the interest faded quickly as I found myself hypnotized by the sameness of the asphalt ribbon before me and the dirt tracks that befell me. You can also earn cash in how you approach driving in this massive world. In free roam, if you choose to try your hand at performing stunts, drifting through turns at high speeds, dodging crashes and traffic you will earn F.R.I.M., yet another way to earn cash for the important upgrades. Exploring the island lets the player find vehicle wrecks that will unlock exclusive vehicles at the used car dealerships on the islands. The player can also walk out of the car in vehicle shops, player houses, clubs and the optional casino DLC. Your character can be transformed by changing hair, clothes, physical appearance, attitude and facial features. I got bored very quickly with the grind of the game's play.
A strong component of Eden Games/Atari’s Test Drive Unlimited 2 is the social aspect. At the time of this writing this is where the game failed horribly. The TDU23 severs have not functioned, except sporadically. When I attempted to create a club, enter a co-op race, or otherwise try to engage in the social side of the game, I was met with “The TDU2 Severs are not available at this time.” Even the optional DLC Bonus Casino has not worked fully. For many players the, “getting out for a cruise with friends” is a big part of the driving game experience, and so far they have been denied this pleasure. As stated in the caveat, Atari has recognized this failure and is working to remedy the problem. One gets the impression that part of the failure is a product of the success of the game. TDU2 was purchased by more people than Eden Games/Atari could have forecast and therefore the servers were not as robust as they should have been.
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