Test Drive Unlimited PS2 Review
If you like your environments big then Test Drive Unlimited (TDU from hereon) should satisfy you no end. There’s over 1000 miles of sunny Hawaiian roads waiting to be discovered, and life on the open road is always a pleasant one, taking in all the refreshing green sights, wrestling your steering wheel as you contend with mountain roads, and passing through attractive built-up areas where every building has a swimming pool in its back garden. This racing paradise is certainly a welcoming one, but did the game command us to stay on its island until we had seen all the sights, raced all the roads, and driven all the vehicles?
TDU was released on the Xbox 360 in 2006 to a warm reception, and now in 2007, Melbourne House (Eden Studios developed the 360 version) has delivered a stunning port on the elderly PS2 hardware. Obviously compromises have had to be made, which means lower polygon counts and shorter draw distances, but in reality it’s churlish to compare a PS2 game to a next generation machine that plays host to impossibly attractive titles such as Gears of War, as for what it is, TDU looks gorgeous for a PS2 game.
What’s more severe is that this PS2 version actually lacks some of the content that was featured in the 360 version. There’s no motorcycles or character customisation, and challenges are limited to racing and speeding past speed cameras, meaning there’s no delivery, hitchhiker, top model or vehicle transport challenges. In spite of these exclusions, it’s still a great game, and perhaps Melbourne House can be given the benefit of the doubt for time constraints or lack of space.
To compensate perhaps, new to the PS2 version is the Master Points, which you earn by drifting around corners, catching airtime, slipstreaming, winning races and simply driving your motors. When you reach a certain amount of points you rank up, and additional challenges then become available on the map. It’s a great progression system which feels rewarding, and upon reaching the rank of master you’ll have the right to feel pretty smug about it!
So, with the first small annoyance and mention of the new content out of the way, lets start talking about the good stuff, as TDU’s plusses certainly outweigh the minuses. This is a sandbox racer of massive proportion and many will be glad to call Oahu their home as they speed down the many roads, taking in all the fancy sights, and participating in the enormous amount of challenges and extremely exclusive racing clubs spread across the island. With that said, you’ll soon feel a flood of relief as you learn of your handy GPS system and helpful map screen, which both aid you in directing you around the island. You can place waypoints on the map, in which your GPS system will then direct you towards, and even instantly jump to points of interest that you have already visited, something which shakes off the tedium of travel experienced by many.
TDU’s vehicle handling and varied roads do actually go some way to dispelling the tedium of travel though. The blend of arcade and realistic handling is satisfying enough and this, combined with the ever changing roads, stops one from going to sleep and crashing head-on into an unforgiving barrier. Setting the game on the volcanic island of Oahu was certainly a wise choice, as once you have gotten over how green everything is, there’s much variation to be found in the numerous roads and highways.
Police also roam the island to keep you awake, although they do seem to struggle to keep up the pursue, and if you end up with a monetary fine for your actions, it’s normally following a real botch from yourself. Yes, the boys in blue are a pretty useless bunch, and in spite of those wailing sirens their presence is never really felt.
If you like your cars then you’ll probably like TDU, such is the love and attention to detail that has gone into the game. All the cars have fully modelled interiors to boast about, and when you decide to opt for this cockpit view, you can even open and close the windows to your heart is content, now how‘s that for detail? Vehicles can be won or purchased from their respective dealerships dotted around the island, they can also be upgraded to improve their performance and sold for cash if you need an extra space in your garage. Lamborghini, Lotus, Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, Ford, Aston Martin, McLaren, Shelby, Alfa Romeo and more are amongst the manufacturers that have lent their motors to the game, although, as mentioned earlier, motorcycle fans will be disappointed to learn that their favourite two-wheeled vehicles aren’t featured in this version.
Online was always a focal point, and TDU is actually the first MOOR. Massively Open Online Racing is what those four words stand for, and therefore as you drive across the gargantuan island you’ll also see others doing their own thing, and of course you can challenge them to races by flashing your lights (enabling you to set your own racing route) or seek out and join or host races already placed on the island. You are asked if you wish to go online before beginning or loading the game, and opting for yes results in a game which successfully rolls single and multiplayer into one, allowing you to get on with the many solo challenges or race against other living and breathing players for supremacy.
Test Drive Unlimited is another great title in these late days of the PS2’s lifespan, and it’s a game that offers great value for money and is worth the attention for both it’s single player mode as well as its rather ambitious online mode. It may be a slightly cut-down version, although credit must go to Melbourne House for knocking up a very impressive port on the aging PS2 hardware and getting all the crucial elements working as they should. Anyway, we’re returning to Oahu, it’s the best sunny holiday we’ve ever had!