Review: Test Drive Unlimited 2
Test Drive Unlimited 2 can best be described as a bad joke. Not the kind that is completely unfunny but the kind that disappoints because it’s got the right idea but the delivery is just all wrong. Sadly though, the game won’t having you smiling for any reason because its sole purpose appears to be to wipe the smile off your face no matter how good your mood or demeanour.
- Worth The Time?Hardly
- Things LovedAlways online multiplayer, interesting crossover mixed-genre concept, not much else
- Things HatedLimited freedom, sketchy gameplay, horrifically bad visuals, disgusting custcenes, misdirected effort, tries to do too much, annoying radio stations, myriad glicthes, instability of the game, very little to do with massive environment, unreliable multiplayer servers
- RecommendationThe kind of game for people who look at their hot girlfriend and say, "Mmm, needs more of a goatee and a tail and two more arms and possibly a penis."
- Name: Test Drive Unlimited 2
- Genre: Racing
- Players: 1-32
- Multiplayer: Online
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Eden Games
- Publisher: Atari
- Price: R400 (PC), R600 (PS3, Xbox 360)
- Reviewed On: PS3
I played the first game, believe it or not and I have to say it was very forgettable if not below mediocre. In fact, the only reason I actually enjoyed it was because it had a massive environment to explore and there were a lot of really awesome cheats for it that made the game quite fun. Let’s see how much of that heritage has been carried through, hopefully TDU2 can survive without the cheats.
TDU2 disappoints from the get-go with a freakishly atrocious few opening cutscenes. They look like they were put together by the same guy who does the crowd animations in FIFA. They chronicle our hero, a down on his luck valet who has just been fired for sleeping on the job. However, the chance of a lifetime comes along when the rich bitch who got you fired in the first place hires you off the street to be her chauffeur. That already makes hardly any sense but it gets worse when she makes our guy a wager that if he can get her to a studio recording in time, he will get the chance to race in her very exclusive and very prestigious Solar Crown series. Shouldn’t it be his job to get to places on time?
Surely it can’t take much to construct a plot that is at least paper-thin. I’ll do it right now just to prove the point. He’s a driver for one of those town cars you can rent out, he’s driving her around and she notices the skill with which he commands his vehicle. She proceeds to invite him to her exclusive racing series. Done, it’s really not that hard to sew a mediocre story together which will serve as the premise for everything you do in the game. What these opening cutscenes expose you to is the absolute lack of effort that seems to come through in many aspects of TDU2 and the freakishly hideous character models.
The cars don’t look too bad, if not a bit rough, but the environments are amazing, if you’re used to mid-range PS2 graphics. However the character models which you will encounter in cutscenes and while exploring are grotesque. Although your character interacts face to face with them, and they feature in cutscenes, every character model looks like it was made on Google SketchUp and is accompanied by atrocious voice-acting to the effect that cutscenes feel like vinegar being poured down your throat straight after you’ve had a tonsillectomy.
Despite these problems and the fact that there are many more, TDU2 does have some good ideas floating about. You start out on the party island of Ibiza having been entered in the Solar Crown racing series and must choose a car to begin with. After which you will have free reign to go wherever your fancy takes you on the island. Later in the game, you’re let loose on Hawaii as well. You take part in races to get by on the island and level up to unlock upgrades and items. You level up along four independent gauges: Competition, Discovery, Collection and Social. They’re all pretty much self-explanatory except Social which makes really no sense in a racing game, but is part of the developer’s vision of creating a racing RPG that blends traditional racing with conventional open-world RPG-type elements. More of that later though. As you level up within each sphere, you increase your Global level unlocks content from car upgrades to customisations for your character such as clothing and accessories.
It’s not as if all you do is drive though, because you can buy property with the money you earn, walk around in said property, decorate, put your car collection on display, buy new clothes and explore shops, if you can find them. There’s a separate dealership for all manufacturers which can be explored and where you can even buy accessories for your character to go with their new Ferrari. You can even help random people on the street out with some cash if you’re into that sort of thing. This is all more like padding to fill up the game than anything else, but they’ve been clever in forcing you to partake in this sort of stuff by adding the Social Gauge, without which you probably won’t be able to unlock all the good stuff. You can also unlock new cars by finding wrecks on the side of the road and there’s the feature to take pictures with the tap of a button, which is nice, but there actually isn’t much to do on the massive island environment.
There is practically no justification for the huge open-world map. Shops, properties and the like are all clustered within several hubs and are connected by huge gaping expanses of nothing but scenery. In some games this wouldn’t be a problem, but you really don’t want to enjoy the scenery in TDU2 because it isn’t all that pretty. The environments are plucked straight out of a Tony Hawk’s game on the old gen consoles unless I’m mistaken. Your character can also only get out at predetermined spots. So you essentially spend most of your time driving between hubs with very little else to do. The island may as well be the size of a shoebox for all that it offers. The draw distance, in keeping with the overall theme, is ludicrously short and you can only see the equivalent of several dozen metres ahead of you at most times with the environment just popping up out of thin air basically.
The overall visuals are grossly disappointing though. The cars don’t look too bad and even come with fully detailed interiors, but everything else is hideous. The environments are poorly detailed and look awful. The sound is something I don’t usually bother with because it’s pretty good in every game but here it is noticeably poor. Cars sound very samey and boringly monotone somehow while some of the other sound effects are like nails on a chalkboard. The sound that gravel makes when you drive over it is like that of grinding teeth. There are radio stations to choose from as well but they are all crap and filled with 1-2 hours of bad music.
The gameplay is where you may expect TDU2 to salvage some respect and pick itself up but sadly it doesn’t. It attempts to find the middle-ground between arcade and simulation racing and camps out there without any luck. Cars have no feel and seem removed when driving and subsequently offer no excitement, but they don’t drive realistically either because every car handles like a boat and the physics is begging to be strangled. Cars swing about wildly off-road if they’re not designed for it and every vehicle sort of floats around corners, even Ferrari’s and the like. Crashing is also something that you should definitely avoid because the slightest contact with the curb or an outcropping feature and your car will be thrust into a ferocious barrel-roll or violently uncontrollable spin. Whatever they were going for, it’s ended up being more of an irritation than a finely blended synergy.
The multiplayer is truly the only redeeming quality of this game because it actually is quite great. Despite the fact that you need to play TDU2 with its bad graphics and sketchy gameplay and all the rest, it’s still good somehow. The multilayer is always on and so you will come across other players as you explore the island and challenge them instantly by flashing your lights, should you wish. You can even bet money on the outcome of the race which could go toward buying your character that set of Maserati racing gloves you’ve been eying. It’s also really cool how as you’re driving you can actually hook up with other players and go about as a group for a casual Sunday drive. The multiplayer is not exempt from problems though because there has been constant trouble with the servers across all platforms ever since the game launched and so the feature is erratic and unreliable, but when it does work it is really good fun.
Perhaps this justifies that massive island as well, so as to accommodate all the players. The biggest upset though amongst all this is just how unstable the game is. It’s like the French in a war – just give up at the slightest sign of trouble or anything at all really. There are so many graphical glitches I can’t even name them all. Opponents randomly spawn in front of you when a race starts, only to speed off leaving you in a cloud of dust. The ‘return to road’ feature when you’ve gone off sounds like a good idea, but it is so broken that it slows you down more than anything else and is actually hindering because it spawns you ahead of the checkpoint you were meant to go through. This means you have to turn around go through the checkpoint and then proceed with the race, all because you went two inches off the road and found it impossible to steer back on because of how crap your car handles. The game also threatens to crash at the slightest speed-bump and will almost probably break down should you take a meager corner too fast.
Test Drive Unlimited 2 is not a good game, not by a long shot. It has promise and some really interesting elements to it, but nothing is properly executed. Everything has the feeling of being done half-assed. The gameplay is sketchy, the visuals are appalling and the glitches can literally make it unplayable. The concept of a crossover game that blends genres together is actually interesting and much like the wave of crossovers in the motor industry that has produced some interesting and some horrid cars, we need to see some more experimentation in gaming. Why not mix Plants Vs Zombies with The Sims or Portal with DoA: Beach Volleyball? For that reason, I respect TDU2, it tried something different in combining a racer with traditional open-world RPG elements. It’s like GTA IV (which I despise) except it focuses on cars instead of being your cousin’s little bitch.
It tried something different and it didn’t work. So what, move on. If you want an open-world racer, don’t buy this; if you want an RPG, don’t buy this; if you want a 3rd person sandbox, don’t buy this. It has all those elements and it is evident that it could have made more of an effort to pull it off but it doesn’t. None of the elements are executed well and even the rather fun multiplayer is plagued by unreliable servers. All that you see is a lot of misdirected effort that could have gone towards making a better racing game. Well, actually not all that much effort because hardly any was put in to make this game, clearly. Whatever aspect of Test Drive Unlimited 2 appeals to you, there’s a lot of games out there that do it better.