I’ve been playing Test Drive Unlimited 2 on my PC for over a week now and, unfortunately, I can’t wait for the team behind it to solve the server issues and hold back this review until everything works as it should. If you ask me, I think that a game should work properly at launch – after all, that’s why you keep it in a “Public Beta” stage for a while – to fix bugs, not just get press coverage. I am sure I’m not the only one who feels this way, so let’s move to the next part, but not before giving you two possible subtitles for this review to choose from, the name of two songs I love a lot: “Heaven and Hell” and “Diamonds and Rust,” both express the feeling I got after over 30 hours of Test Drive Unlimited 2 game time…
Test Drive Unlimited 2 Review – Introduction
When I write a game review, I usually stay away from other reviews until I write mine, but this time I broke this rule. Fortunately, one early review was enough to make me go back to it – I can’t say exactly where I read that, but one guy was asking himself why was the first Test Drive Unlimited game so popular. Well, the answer doesn’t lie in its greatness, but in the fact that it had virtually no competition back in the days of its launch. Add some original elements to that, and the result is a game that becomes successful, yet has a lot of problems and it’s still far from being what could have been.
Some could go as far as considering Test Drive Unlimited 2 a slightly improved version of the first TDU game and, to be honest, I agree with them somehow – basically, we’re talking about a game with two islands – Ibiza and Hawaii (exactly the O’ahu island from the previous TDU), a bunch of cars (over 100, for now), some elements picked from Sims and an interesting twist that brings a casino into the game (only available when connected to the game servers), replacement of the bikes with offroad vehicles, as well as other minor variations.
On the other hand, we’re talking about the 10th game in franchise that was born way back in 1987 and, even more, this is something that a lot of people consider it the most wanted car racing release of 2011. After all, it’s available for the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 and, of course, Windows PCs, so virtually all gamers can get it. Now, there’s only one question remaining – is it worth the price of the full game, then additional DLCs, or not? I guess that’s what we should see in today’s review, after all… so let’s get to it, shall we?
Test Drive Unlimited 2 – Story
If you want a real story in a racing game, then I think you should see a movie. Seriously, there’s no big deal here, and if you hear about massive multiplayer racing online, then you should know that the “online” part is, at least for now, really problematic, so… let’s stick to the single player story, all right?
The story and the cutscenes are pretty lame, but the dialogs and voice acting are nothing but horrible. The idea is that you start the game in a dream, then you wake up in a rather tough reality as a valet being offered an alternative to being fired for being such a dreamer and have to build your way to the top to prove your worth. Wow! I don’t want to spoil any of the pleasure (maybe I should use quotation marks here…) of discovering it all, since the entire story of the game can be nicely put into three words: drive, buy, drive. I know, I know – those were only two different words but, in the end, you’ll see I’m right.
Your character can move up from level 1 to 60 and these levels are being pushed higher by four separate categories: Competition, Discovery, Collection, and Social. Other than that, it’s all down to the three words I mentioned in the previous paragraph. The story… there’s no actual story, as I said – just a bunch of cutscenes thrown into the pot together with atrocious dialogs, but at least the driving could get pleasant, so let’s leave the story aside and talk a little about the technical requirements and achievements of this game!
Test Drive Unlimited 2 – Sound, Graphics & System Requirements
Back in the days when I got my hands on Test Drive Unlimited, I had a Radeon X1950 Pro video card, paired with the same processor and memory setup that I use at this time and everything was just great. Now, I use the same AMD X2 4000+ Brisbane 2.1GHz@2.5GHz CPU, 2 GB DDR2@837MHz with 4-4-4-11 CR2 timings, Sapphire HD 4770 video card with 512 MB GDDR5 750/3200MHz@830/3400MHz, 1TB 7200rpm Samsung HDD with 32MB buffer and a fast Internet connection (about 10MBps up, 100Mbps down), all on the same good old system running Windows XP SP3 Professional. Some of these hardware components are more than three years old, but despite the fact that my CPU/mainboard/memory trio is way behind the average gaming computer of today, I was able to run Test Drive Unlimited 2 with high quality settings and 8XFSAA at 1280X1024, the native resolution of my monitor. Some of the screenshots at the end of the article are even taken using very high quality settings and 8XFSAA, but when I use such settings, I feel a noticeable frame rate drop. Enough said that TDU 2 works like a charm on my system using high settings and 8XFSAA, much better than I even dreamed of!
While the above part sounds interesting, I noticed some really bad issues with the graphical part – while the cars you can drive look great, some glitches can be noticed here and there (go to internal view and watch the gauges carefully or check your headlights carefully), while the AI-controlled cars that drive around the two islands look just like they were brought back from Need for Speed 3… but at least some landscapes are great, weather effects also look pretty cool and, despite the problems I noticed here and there, I really love the inside view.
When it comes to sounds and music, I must say that I love some engine sounds and I hate others (sometimes, I feel like driving around some kitchen appliance, not a car). The soundtrack is horrible – you get to “enjoy” two radio stations, one of which plays some really lame techno music, while the other, entitled “Hard Rock Radio” is even worse – having a British electro-pop band that I’ve never heard of featured, but no trace of names like ZZ Top or AC/DC was enough to make me laugh, not to mention the dialogs and ads that you can hear. All in all, the audio experience is way below average and, if you add the sound glitches, it becomes horrible! (just as a side note, I am using the onboard audio chip and, while I only had problems with a very small amount of games/applications, I guess it could be my hardware setup’s fault, too – but only for the glitches, not the silly music and dialogs!)
Test Drive Unlimited 2 – Gameplay
Driving around the huge world of this game can be quite pleasant, despite the fact that most cars suffer from severe understeer, but you also get to be chased by the police (this part is really bad, in my opinion – I only had a few chases so far, but I’m not planning to get engaged in another one anytime soon – you’ll see for yourselves why…), take girls home, fill the adrenaline gauge of various guys in search of excitement or help other guys follow their girlfriends and find out they’re cheating on them. A lot of excuses for driving around, sometimes against the clock, sometimes the purpose being to drive as smooth as possible and get to the destination untouched.
Test Drive Unlimited 2 Licenses
I know for sure that some people will get really annoyed by this part, but I enjoyed a lot the trials I had to go through to get my licenses. In Test Drive Unlimited 2, there are a few car classes and, for most of these classes, you’ll have to earn your license. Some of the missions you’ll go through when trying to get a license are pretty tough, but if you don’t get mad and drive carefully, you can’t miss. This part reminds me of the Test Driver part from Need for Speed: Porsche and scores a lot of points in my book. Great, just great, despite the fact that some challenges here are pretty easy/boring…
Test Drive Unlimited 2 Races
As you move up and gain levels, more and more races become available to you, but there’s nothing really special about them – in most cases, we’re talking about normal races, sprints or races against the clock. Sometimes, you’ll have to race against a rival, beat him/her and win his/her car. Pretty familiar, right? Well, there’s nothing really original here, but if the first races seem like a piece of cake, wait until you start rolling at 200 mph, then try to say that again!
Test Drive Unlimited 2 Multiplayer
In theory, multiplayer racing in Test Drive Unlimited 2 should be awesome, especially since you can also go spend some money at the casino when going online, not to mention the challenges you can create and share with your friends, the multiplayer challenges that need to be completed to help you level up, but… multiplayer has a MAJOR issue: when you create a player profile, it has to be online or offline. If you create an online profile and you’re engaged in a single player challenge while the connection to the server is being lost, you’re simply thrown out of your challenge. Think about this happening in a 20 miles long mission… and that’s all I will say about multiplayer – I paid for the game just for this part and it seems I got ripped off, that’s all.
Test Drive Unlimited 2 Cars & Handling
As I write this, there’s no trace of any BMW in Test Drive Unlimited 2. That would surely have added a lot of positive karma to my TDU 2 experience, but I think I’ll have to live with the stuff they added here: current models from Volkswagen, Chrysler, Ferrari, Aston Martin, as well as a few great classics. No need to give you names, you can see some of these cars in the screenshots at the end, so…
… if we move to the handling part, I guess you weren’t expecting this game to provide a driving sim experience, because it clearly doesn’t. To be honest, I think the cars handle OK. Not great, not horrible, just OK, but the game physics sometime make you laugh. For example, I could crash into a truck at 100 mph and throw it away spinning, while crashing into a smaller car at 95 mph could result in my car freezing like it just hit a tank. I think it’s enough to say that there’s a topic on the official TDU 2 forums dedicated to such funny stories, and that should close this chapter, too.
Test Drive Unlimited 2 – Quick Gameplay Facts & Tips
During the game, you can waste some time buying accessories for your character, such as sun glasses, pants, gloves, shoes and all that. Nothing to keep me going here, but in case you’re also a fan of that incredibly popular franchise known as The Sims, I am sure you’ll be delighted!
When buying your second house, be sure to check a real estate agency – you could swap your old house with a new one and get a serious discount!
If you bought the game and you keep having problems with the multiplayer part, as I do, just create one offline profile and enjoy the single player challenges – there’s plenty to keep you busy for quite a while, trust me!
I know it may sound ridiculous, but the best Test Drive Unlimited 2 tip for those who didn’t purchase it yet is to hang on for a while – if all those problems present at this time won’t get solved in a month, then this game shouldn’t ever be on your shopping list!!!
Test Drive Unlimited 2 – Final Words
As I was saying in the first paragraph, Test Drive Unlimited 2 hangs in the balance between diamond and rust. In the end, it’s all in the eye of the beholder and, to be more realistic, in the updates that will arrive in the near future. Free updates, not DLCs that will come to add things like additional cars for a price – this really sucks, since the game itself doesn’t sell for 15 bucks.
Anyway, the idea is that Test Drive Unlimited 2 could have been great, yet it’s surely far from that. Here you have my scores:
Tilt Factor: 7/10
Overall: 7/10 (not an average)
When I see people comparing this to the last Need for Speed game and saying that one should buy that instead of TDU 2, I feel like killing someone. The reason? After less than 6 hours of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit I was really bored, yet after over 30 hours of Test Drive Unlimited 2, I’m still eager to drive around, buy more cars, complete more missions… maybe even dress my character with more style, so I guess this is it – far from perfect, yet the perfect racer to waste your time with. What do you think?