Test Drive Unlimited
We've Seen Free-Roaming driving games before, blit the idea's never been used to its full potential - and certainly not online. Test Drive Unlimited looks set to change all that though, with an entire Hawaiian island as its setting and over 1,000 miles of twisty tropical tarmac for you to lay some rubber on.
As well as the picturesque landscapes rushing by your window, the island plays host to a bevy of car dealerships where you can purchase new vehicles, a local police force ready to issue fines, a variety of CPU challenges (from standard races to tasks like transporting a vehicle without taking any damage), a selection of clothing shops and even houses to buy. Owning a home offers the opportunity for bigger and better garages to store your vehicles in, while the clothing options give you the chance to ridicule other people's dress sense when they wind down their in-game windows.
Developers Eden Games have assembled a pretty impressive garage of cars for you to choose from too, with over 125 licensed vehicles wedged in. And don't worry that your career will begin with a clapped-out Fiesta either - pretty much every vehicle rates quite highly on the desirability scale. Whether it's a gentleman's Aston Martin, a nimble Lotus or a bit of American muscle you're after, everyone's tastes are catered for. What's more, your choice isn't just limited to four wheels either, with a selection of bikes adding yet more variety.
TDU will feature plenty to do, both on and offline, but where the game really promises to shine is in the multiplayer. Borrowing liberally from the massively multiplayer genre to create its own little niche ('MOOR' or Massively Open Online Racing), TDU will see you cruising the streets besides other online players. If you fancy starting a race, it's simply a case of flashing your lights, setting the waypoints on the map and kicking their butt. You can even place wagers or race for pink slips.
As is standard for the genre, you can tune your car with official parts as well as organise car clubs where you and your racing chums can chat, trade and organise online competitions and races. And we're sure that if you want to, you can do doughnuts in a Honolulu carpark too.
This community factor looks set to add another dimension to the normally staid world of racing games, and could really separate TDU from its rivals. With the PC version also receiving a hardcore mode to cater for sim enthusiasts, TDU should please car nuts and GTA fans alike. Our driving gloves are waiting...
Download Test Drive Unlimited
In the past racing games have focused only on the actual race and upgrading or buying new cars. Now Test Drive Unlimited doesn't deviate from that formula but it does add an interesting twist to the pure racing games we've seen in the past. Test Drive Unlimited takes the basic format, adds a little of the Sims, sprinkles a little Grand Theft Auto, throws in a dash of Google Earth and we get' Well judge for yourself.
The premise for Test Drive Unlimited is set around flying to the Hawaiian island of Oahu to take advantage of the lifestyle, sun, and of course racing. When you arrive on the island a couple of things become clear. First, the Sims aspect comes into play as you select a house to buy and move in. As you win races around Oahu and your winnings increase, you can sell and purchase new homes and cars, but also make changes to your wardrobe and appearance. That leads to the next aspect which is the ability to roam around Oahu at will. We of course have seen this before but in this case the entire island of Oahu is accurately mapped in detail which adds an extra flare to roaming the island. As an extra bonus, the map view of the island is done with an approach similar to Google Earth. It gives an excellent feel for the size of the island and gives the game a strong sense of realism.
Test Drive Unlimited definitely sets this game up well, but the ultimate success of it depends of the gameplay. The good news is that the gameplay is solid with only a few bumps in the road. Most of the gameplay will meet your expectations. Aspects such as the control of the different cars which are rewarding to drive, the different cars handling noticeably, well different, and the AI reacting to your movements all gives the races some flare. Probably the most notable deficiency is it's hard to get a sense of the speed you're driving at. Whether you're going 40 mph or 90 mph, it was hard to really tell a prominent difference.
The video and audio aren't going to take you places you haven't been before. The video does justice for next-gen expectations with detailed cars and beautifully rendered environments on Oahu but the audio is slightly lacking as it misses the mark on realistic sound effects.
Overall, Test Drive Unlimited racing fans will more then get their money out of this game. It flows well, plays well, and has high replay value.
In the world of Ridge Racer, Gran Turismo, and Need for Speed, the Test Drive series has always played fourth fiddle. Unlimited, set across an open-ended Hawaii, tries to change that hierarchy, but it still feels like we've been there and done that. It's possible that the online action could add some much-needed character.
Screw island fever get behind the wheel (or handlebars) of more than 125 customizable licensed vehicles and enjoy 1,000-plus miles of pavement in sunny Oahu, Hawaii. Keep your 360 online and you'll find competitors popping up all over this free-driving vacation destination.