by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Test Drive Unlimited review
Earlier this year we previewed the latest game in the Test Drive series, Test Drive Unlimited. In it, we mentioned that we were looking forward to seeing more of it when it was released. Well, we managed to get our hands on a copy and were able to take a look at it, just for you.
Start your engines
Right from the installation, Test Drive Unlimited immerses the gamer in a street racing theme in the mould of the The Fast and the Furious movie. Whilst the game installs, you are given various screenshots of what you can expect from the game while being treated to the electronic dance tunes of Soulwax blaring from the speakers. The installation does take a little while, but this certainly gives you the chance to have a once over of the manual and check out the basic controls required for TDU.
Once the game starts up, you are given the option of choosing your on-screen persona. There are a small number of characters to choose from, but then there are some further options to customise the avatar such as hair and facial features. Once your avatar is complete, the game starts up as if you are a part of a movie or TV show where you take off for the lovely Hawaiian island of Oahu. This small interlude to the main game has been well thought out and just makes the intro that much better.
After your plane touches down on the island of Oahu, it is time to shop around for some wheels and a place to get some R&R. You have $200,000 to play with, and with the cheapest accommodation starting at $150,000, that doesn't leave much for a decent car. You can visit a number of display centres and take the available cars for a test drive. After deciding on a bottom of the range vehicle, it is time to hit the streets.
Driving... with an element of an RPG
Yes, you read it right. TDU has a slight RPG feel to it. Having an on-screen avatar certainly helps in this regard, but there are other features of the game that give it that RPG feel. Firstly, to improve your bank balance (and eventually, your ranking as a driver) you will need to complete missions, similar to quests in an RPG. The missions will include delivering a package to a destination in a certain timeframe, driving a new car to a specified location for a client or even driving a top model to her next shoot (for which she will be forever grateful). Completing these missions will result in earning cash from the delivery missions (to be used on improving your vehicle or accommodation) or a special token from the model transporting missions (to be used for buying clothing and fashion accessories for your avatar).
Many of these missions will resemble something out of the Driver series, as the gamer must navigate their way through the roads of Oahu to a specified location whilst dodging traffic and the police. That brings me to the main problem I have with TDU. The police. They only ever decide to chase you if you crash into a number of other vehicles and even then, they can be easily outrun on most occasions. Speed limits are not enforced, and indeed you can overtake a police car at twice the legal limit, drive on the wrong side of the road or run a red light and the police won't bat an eyelid. But if you accidentally bump into a couple of motorists, they are all over you like a rash.
Apart from these RPG-type missions, there is also the racing element. There are two types of racing, time trials (whereby you must navigate a course in an allotted time) and out-and-out racing against other vehicles. Winning these races results in cash. The higher level races will result in more prize money than the earlier races, but are definitely tougher. Having a better car certainly makes life easier though. Of course, there are different car classes, so your top of the range Lamborghini will not be able to race against the lowest level Nissan for easy money.
When you start to think that you are too good for the AI that is on the offer, there is an option to play against online competitors. Customised races can be made and then raced on against friends or strangers alike online for money and fame. This really helps to improve the replayability of TDU, because if you have completed all the missions (which will take a long time in itself), then there is still the online component to the game.
No Pros and Cons at this time