by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
How does the car handle?
As you would expect from a driving game, the controls are very simple. Using the keyboard, it is simply Up Arrow to accelerate, Down Arrow to brake, and Left and Right Arrows for steering your vehicle of choice. All these controls can be configured to suit the gamer. Personally, I found the use of a gamepad controller slightly easier than the keyboard, but, of course, this would be dependent on the gamers' preference.
As well as the driving controls, the other game controls are simple and intuitive. The menu system is well laid out, so that everything is easy to find and you can simply make any changes you require to the game's configuration such as audio and graphics.
An island map is also included which really helps when you are trying to find the numerous races and time trials (or indeed trying to find your way back home for some relaxation). The in-car TDU GPS is another feature that helps you find your way around the 1000 miles of roads on Oahu. Once a location has been selected on the map, the in-car navigation system directs you to your destination.
Take a look out the window
From a graphical perspective, Test Drive Unlimited is a joy to behold. Being on the Hawaiian island of Oahu definitely helps, as the scenery is stunning. There are bustling city streets (in terms of cars, not pedestrians - I don't recall seeing a single pedestrian apart from the hitchhikers), beautiful mountain highways which are reminiscent of the original Test Drive and forest areas where the sun shimmers through the trees. The variation in locales helps in making the game more interesting. But it is not just the scenery that is variable, but the weather conditions. Although I have not yet driven on wet roads, the sky can turn dark with menacing clouds. This gives the locations a dramatic effect.
The characters themselves are well drawn with quite good detail. It must be said, though, that many of the NPC's seem to look very similar except for the hair colour and their choice of clothing. But having said that, this game is mostly about the cars.
With so many cars on offer (125 fully licensed vehicles), one could imagine that the developers might have taken some liberties with the vehicles and their in-game appearance. But this is not the case. It seems as though each of the vehicles has been individually rendered so that it is unique from the other vehicles available. But not only that, the cars can also be tailored to suit the gamer, with options such as exterior colour (red cars are faster aren't they), interior trims and type of wheels (standard or alloy).
Turn on the Radio
Audio in Test Drive Unlimited is superb. Vehicle sounds are authentic, with each vehicle having its own particular revving and gear change sounds. Car collisions also give an authentic metallic bang and scraping noises. Of course, if you were a good driver, then you would not hear these crash noises at all. Police sirens wail, and the sound of police radio conversations can be heard whenever the 'fuzz' are attempting to get you to pull over. Speech in the game is also been done amazingly well. Different NPC's have heir own accents, whilst the in-car navigation system has a voice that is clear and easy to understand.
One of the really cool features of the game comes in the use of the car radio. You are able to listen to music whilst you drive. Test Drive Unlimited comes with a number of great tunes, but if none of them suits your tastes, then you have the option to choose to upload your favourite tunes from your mp3 collection. Imagine listening to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody whilst driving your Jaguar around the street of Waikiki. The head-banging scene from Wayne's World would not be done justice, but it would be fun nonetheless.
Take it for a Test Drive.
There are plenty of driving/racing games on the market these days, and certainly a few that are mission-based, such as the Driver series or the GTA series. Test Drive Unlimited has surpassed most, if not all, in its category. The missions are well laid out, can be done in any order the gamer chooses and can be done numerous times as well. Then there are the races and time trials. Then on top of that, there is online play, meaning that not only can you beat the AI, but you can attempt to beat your friends and other racers on-line as well. Combine that with the fact that the graphics and sound are just awesome and the vast array of character and vehicle customisation available, Test Drive Unlimited has plenty going for it. Look out for it in a game store near you.
No Pros and Cons at this time