Test Drive Unlimited Xbox 360 Review
SEGA’s OutRun may have been christened the beautiful journey along time ago, although much effort has obviously been made to assure that Test Drive Unlimited (TDU from here on) is also a journey to remember. Set on the real-life Hawaiian island of Oahu (complete with a jaw dropping 1000 miles of road), TDU was obviously a labour of love for all those involved.
Developer Eden Games have obviously gone further than arms length to create an accurately mapped and stupidly massive virtual version of the very beautiful island of Oahu. If you are a fan of the colour green, then TDU should be right up your alley with its lively and repetitive surrounding greenery. Admittedly, the sight of the more built-up and lived in areas came as a refreshing change as the persistent roadside foliage never changes from anything but green. Nevertheless it soon becomes easy to understand why miles of Oahu were chosen for the game, if not for its stunning natural beauty, then let’s go with the 1000 (nope we haven’t accidentally added a nought or two) miles of roads, which range from perilous and winding to long fast straightaways. Oahu is a truly wonderful racing destination, and full credit must go to all at Eden Games who obviously had their hearts and souls stolen during development to assure that the amount of love and attention poured into the game was satisfactory.
As a newcomer on the island you’ll choose your driver avatar out of a queue of people, and upon arriving at your destination you are then ordered to rent a car, buy a house (the more expensive it is the more cars you can keep) and later a car of your own to impress your rivals and to anger the cops as you cause chaos with it.
TDU is such a huge and seamless game that you may not need another racing title for a very long time. Eden have certainly done good with making use of the space of the island, which as mentioned earlier, is so big that you may very well make it your new virtual home, and ignore everything else outside the TV screen that houses it. Scattered across the island is an amazing 300+ challenges, showrooms to purchase new motors (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Jaguar amongst them) or bikes from, online clubs, online challenges, tuning shops, clothes shops for customising your avatar, and more.
If you aren’t speeding through Oahu in a race, you’ll be taking hitchhikers and delivering cars to their destination, chauffeuring women, impressing speed cameras, distributing packages, and more. There’s quite a lot of variety to be found, and always something to do that doesn’t involve much relaxing, well unless driving at speeds that turn the environment into a blur is therapeutic for some that is.
For those wondering how you are supposed to make your way around such a large open space, well you may very well be living in the past and haven’t caught up with those rather nifty GPS systems yet. Anyway, you can instantly enter a map of the island with a press of a button, choose a destination and you’ll be directed towards it courtesy of an onscreen arrow and a rather emotionless woman’s voice. This is all well and good as we really enjoy driving our lovely cars with their rather forgiving handling, but some people just don’t like to travel and like something a little more instantaneous. Whilst you do have to drive to every location initially, once you have done so, you can then revisit that location by entering the map screen and magically jumping to it.
If you’re an Xbox Live subscriber then TDU has much to offer you and is actually a revolutionary experience. Successfully crossing over single and multiplayer is exactly what Eden Games have managed to do, thus whatever you are doing on the island you’ll always be online as long as your Ethernet cable is plugged in. You may be doing your very own thing and suddenly a car zooms past with a Gamertag above its roof, well guess what? That’s another person doing their own thing! Much like single player there’s challenges already set up on the island for players to meet up and race, or even better, you or your opponent can flash your lights at each other to issue a challenge, and when accepted a custom racing route can then be set up (start and finishing points). If you really desire, you could race from one end of the island to the other, although we would probably get bored well before hitting the 500 mile halfway point, as we would imagine others would too.
Flaws aren’t something we could find too much of in what was obviously a much loved project during development, although like most the game does have its niggles. Graphically TDU is a bit of a mixed bag, certainly all the interior views of the cars are gorgeous and remarkably detailed to the smallest touch (it‘s a shame you can‘t customise them with some fluffy dice though!), although environment pop-up is a problem and the outside view of the cars reveal some rather unflattering jagged edges. Also, whilst the skies can cloud over, there’s never any rain to contend with, and day never turns to night. To complain about anything else would be churlish; we do really like the gargantuan island of Oahu after all.
Whether you are a fan of racing games in general or get excited over the sight of cars and/or bikes, Test Drive Unlimited should get you really hot under the helmet. Even if you aren’t a fan of the genre or its vehicles, it still would be difficult to not appreciate the amount of work and attention to detail that Eden Games have poured into the game. At the more wallet friendly price of £24.99, there’s never been a better time to make Test Drive Unlimited a part of your collection.