Test Drive 6
There is no shortage of racing games available for the Dreamcast. It seems that at least 25 percent of the Dreamcast library consists of racing games. Infogrames has decided to bring an old PSX friend over to the system to add to the racing library. The Test Drive series had been around forever with versions on almost every system so it was only natural to expect to see it show up on the Dreamcast. The PSX versions always seemed to be so close to being great games but always managed to fall just short -- so does the extra horsepower of the Dreamcast propel the game over the hump into greatness? Unfortunately not, but it is not as bad as some people have been saying.
For those you not familiar with these games, Test Drive 6 is a racing game centered around taking your favorite sports cars out for a drive (or race). Some of the cars are almost affordable while others are out of the reach of most people but the idea of the series was to give gamers a chance to drive their dream car. This year, there are over 40 real vehicles, more than a dozen track combinations, and plenty of upgrades and options to keep you playing. If you can get past the graphics and questionable physics, the game can be quite fun.
I would like to address something right off the top. I have heard people rip this game -- phrases like "worst Dreamcast game ever" and "nothing good can be found in this game" or "I played this game once and took it back to the store as fast as I could." Go take a look around on the Internet and you are sure to hear this. Let me set the record straight right now: this is not the worst Dreamcast game ever. If you are looking for a game to show off the Dreamcast graphics, you will be disappointed but if you really sit down and play this game and start upgrading your car and playing through the different modes, I promise that you will find some enjoyment. It just frustrates me to hear people ripping on a game when it is obvious they have not given it enough time. How can you play a game for one night and then take it back proclaiming that it is terrible?
Okay, now that I have that off of my chest, I guess I should also mention that I do not think this is a great game either. It does have some flaws and it was a bit disappointing. I was really hoping that the problems with the old PSX versions were due to hardware limitations but the same troubles are evident in this version, which leads me to believe that there is a problem in the development. None of the problems are huge or anything but I will go through them for you. The first problem that I want to talk about is the stuttering. Normally I would address this in the graphics section but since it really affects the gameplay, I decided to address it here. It appears that the problem with the graphics slowing down and stuttering in the PSX version has found it's way onto the Dreamcast version. It is very frustrating to have the game slow down when you go into a corner with another car and it is even more frustrating to over-correct to over-compensate for it only to have things smooth out and wind up steering into a wall. The slowdown is weird too. It is not like the slowdown in Sega Rally 2 either -- you will be going along feeling like you are going really fast and then everything around you will slow down and you will lose all sensation of speed. I just wish they had fixed this because it can't be hardware related.
Another thing that bothered me about the game was that it tried to be a simulation with arcade gameplay. The game almost reminded me of Rush 2 Extreme on N64. You will spend plenty of time off the ground, racing down stairways, and hitting shortcuts. Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with that type of game but I did not think that this particular game was supposed to be like that. As I said in the beginning, the Test Drive series has always been about letting you test drive the car of dreams to see what it would be like. This feeling was completely lost the first time I skidded around a corner and got up on two wheels and did not crash.
But all is not bad in this game either. First off, the collection of cars available is awesome. Sure, it is not Gran Turismo 2 with over 500 cars available but the more than 40 cars that are available all kick ass. There are old muscle cars like Mustangs, Cameros and Cobras. There are new cars like Saleen Mustangs, TRVs, and Vipers, just to name a few. There will be a car you can find that will fit your liking, I am sure of that.
A new addition to the series this year is the ability to purchase car upgrades. Once again, it is not nearly to the scale of Gran Turismo 2 but it is a welcome addition. You win money in races and tournaments and you can either save the money to buy a new car or upgrade your existing one. You can upgrade engine, brakes, suspension, and tires. I really enjoyed taking my super sports car and making it even more powerful. In this game, the races now have more meaning than just winning. You can now make bets on races and you can racing for cash.
The game also has a ton of different play modes. You can race a single race, tournament race, a challenge, or a cop chase. Each of these modes offers a different racing experience. For example, a tournament race is a collection of races with small prizes after each and the person with the lowest time across all of the races takes home a bonus. The cop chase has you playing as a cop trying to arrest all of the other racers and it is pretty challenging. The challenges are races where you have to race against the clock and finish before the time runs out. The point is, there are enough game modes alone that you could play for hours just testing them all out. I really quickly want to make two more points about this game. First, I really like the traffic in the game but damn, are the other drivers stupid. Having oncoming traffic really adds to the game and can change the complexion of a race in just seconds but the computer drivers really need to learn how to drive. Next, it seems to me that the difficulty level of the game has been dropped a notch. Test Drive 5 on PSX was very difficult to win -- this game seems much easier.
Okay, I already talked about the slowdown problems so I won't talk about it again. The graphics in this game are nowhere near the caliber of Speed Devils or Sega Rally 2 that is for sure. Your car is overly shiny while the general traffic cars look boxy and bland. The environments are decent looking but nothing to write home about. On the whole, I was disappointed with the overall look of the game and I think other Dreamcast owners are as well but sub-par graphics don't make a game "the worst game." Another thing to keep in mind is that even though these graphics are sub-par, they are still better than anything on the PSX or N64.
This game has some redeeming qualities but it is not the best racer on the system. I did not hate it, nor did I love it. I enjoyed playing it for the most part but just think it could have been so much better. I know it is a port and the first efforts on the Dreamcast from this developer so hopefully next year they will focus on making a great Dreamcast game first and port it out to the other systems second. Keep your fingers crossed because as always, I see potential here for a great game if they can just fix the nagging problems.
Download Test Drive 6
The bread and butter of the Test Drive series has always been the great selection of real cars--TD 6 for the Dreamcast packs 40 licensed American and European "dream" cars." How's this for variety: You'll get to pick from cars like the '55 Ford Fairlane or TVR Cerbera (to name a few). Groovy new Al and 30 tracks are also packed in there. The Cop Chase Mode is deeper as well. Look for this Accolade release in the fall.
This looks and feels like a rushed conversion of a crappy-looking PlayStation game. This isn't surprising though, because that's exactly what it is. If you're looking for the definitive GT racing game this isn't it. The environments look awful, the frame-rate is up and down like a yo-yo, the cars look like they were turned out of Jetlo moulds, and they're modeled so badly you can hardly tell what they are. Quite why Infogrames invested so much in lots of cool car licenses is beyond me--why bother if the cars are unrecognizable? They don't even behave the way you'd expect them to. The tournament mode is divided into different classes--but since when would you pit an F150 pickup against an '82 Lotus Esprit? And since when would you see said pickup outperform the Lotus on the track? The whole franchise is falling apart if you ask me. It looks, feels and plays like a game that's been rushed out. Maybe Infogrames should stop wasting money licensing cars and paying for bands like Fear Factory, Eve 6 and Lunatic Calm to do the soundtrack, and invest some time and money in letting Pitbull Syndicate produce a decent game. We don't need a Test Drive every year. I'm sure if Pitbull were allowed to invest the time in the series they could bring it back on track. As it stands though, this sucks...avoid it.
I'm extremely disappointed in the direction this series has gone. It's lost all its unique personality and style and soiled its name with simplistic, seen-it-before arcade gameplay. The original idea of Test Drive was to experience exotic sport and muscle cars as they are in real life. It's strayed so far from that premise it's nearly on par with Cruis'n' World and other such "blockbusters." Unfortunately fans of this series are in for a real surprise.
Knowing what Pitbull Syndicate is capable of, TD6 is a real letdown. The Al is on the screwy side, the graphics aren't quite on par with what's expected from the system and the frame-rate is poor. Certainty, a better game could've been made on the DC. TD6 has some interesting ideas, but even those aren't particularly innovative (the basic concept for the gambling and cop stuff was in NFS: High Stakes on the PS). Perhaps it was rushed.
Test Drive 6 is back in all its mediocrity this month on the Dreamcast. Despite all its good looks and a treasure trove of ill-licensed alterna-rock, playing through this game again was a real downer. The Dreamcast TD 6 doesn't offer anything new over the PlayStation's version. Sure, it's got a higher resolution and better frame-rates, but the gameplay and physics are still an insult to racing fans everywhere. TD 6 is not worth your time.