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Test Drive Unlimited Review

Test Drive Unlimited is the resurrection of a franchise that hasn�t seen the light of day in a few years. Luckily for us they’ve held back some weak incarnations of the game in favor of something much better like what we’ve gotten with Test Drive Unlimited. Due to the nature of the Xbox 360 and its online capabilities, we�ve been given the massively multiplayer online racer. Unlike other racing games we�ve seen over the past few years Test Drive Unlimited (TDU) brings a living world with enough competition to last you a very long time. If you�ve got Xbox Live you can expect several other players to be driving around the isle of Oahu right alongside you. Race against them in organized matches, race them impromptu on the streets for fun, or just run into them head on at 120 miles per hour. It�s your choice in Test Drive Unlimited because you’re not limited to running race after race without any fun in between.

You begin with your choice of a few different drivers, from there you�ll board a plane to Hawaii where you�ll make your new home, but it�s so much more than that. You�ll get to pick your choice of homes, and further down the line, you can purchase larger homes with higher capacity garages for all your sweet rides. You�ll need those too because with over 100 exotic rides to choose from (including motorcycles) you�ll want to stash them all in a nice warm place. Test Drive Unlimited is all about the lifestyle; you can customize your driver�s look, right down to what brand pants or sunglasses they�re wearing. With a nice mix of race modes to choose from Test Drive Unlimited has a lot to offer gamers looking for a new racer to master.

Test Drive Unlimited does a very nice job of graphically representing a real life city in action minus the people. Traffic is everywhere and they do things like use turn signals, stop at red lights and the like. The cars are very detailed and look very much like their real life counterparts. Character models, while small in number also look pretty well. The cars take center stage, but a big focus is on the scenery; tons of trees and foliage, buildings are plentiful and the entire island is huge with no load times to suffer through when traveling from one end to the other. TDU really shows just how powerful the Xbox 360 can be in the right hands.

The music in Test Drive Unlimited does a decent enough job to convey the theme they�re looking for, a little bit of retro, almost �heist film� type of feel. Some mostly unrecognizable soul music, classical, and rock music round it out. It�s fairly decent, but you�ll almost definitely want to replace it with your own custom soundtrack. Rounding out the package the sound effects are good. Screeching of tires, horns (which sound different for every car), and the sound of the police on their radio are all done well. The soundtrack could have used some more music to beat out to, including some hip hop, but what�s done is done and that�s the beauty of the Xbox 360 because you have the ability to rip your own music to your hard drive and enjoy it as if it were actually included in the game.

Test Drive Unlimited pretty much handles like any other racer. However, with a mixture of modes and the inclusion of police roaming the streets looking for people causing traffic accidents, there�s a lot of action interspersed. Aside from the straight forward races against the computer, you�ve got ranked matches against human opponents on Live, or you�ve got a simple pick up the hitchhiker and get them to their destination within a certain amount of time without damaging your car too badly. Plus, tests where you must pass certain radar spots at the highest speed possible, and even some where you go against traffic and try to reach a certain speed, plus more.

TDU is actually a very cool game, but because of a few hiccups that remain in the game it may leave you scratching your head or worse yet, giving up the game in fits of frustration. For one, and this is major, the collision detection is very bad. On more than one occasion I encountered obstacles that for some reason I could run over, but got stuck on and therefore was unable to finish the race. At times you may feel like there is too much to explore and that it�s really hard to do anything at all because the challenges require specific classes of vehicles and in some cases specific vehicles. The other thing is that if you get caught by the police you get a huge fine and they could end up taking all of your money. That�s not a fault of the programming necessarily, but it can be extremely frustrating to have a $100,000 fine that leaves you with next to nothing in your account. This works both ways though because if you drive carefully and learn to master the intricacies of each car then you�ll have a nice challenge ahead of you, but if you want to just flat out burn rubber then you may get a bit frustrated over time. Still, the inclusion of the many different modes should make this game enjoyable to just about everyone. If you don�t want to complete the courier missions you don�t need to, you can just play for rankings if you like. Whatever style game you want Test Drive Unlimited really offers up a decent variety for you.

As mentioned before if you are connected online when you play you will see other gamers in your world driving around looking for something to do. If you choose to, you can challenge them by driving near them, at which point you will be taken to a track to get your race on. Another cool thing you can do is create your own challenge for any other racer to accept. You basically create your own rules, hazards, traffic, etc and prize money if you want. It�s all very cool to be able to take on the challenges from gamers all over the world. The other notable thing you can do is to create a car club. It�s rather expensive, but if you�ve got friends with the game, it�d be pretty cool to create a custom car club and maybe challenge other car clubs to domination of the island.

Test Drive Unlimited has pretty lofty goals as a game, but it lays down a very good foundation for a sequel should that come about. The game really could use some fixing in the collision detection department, but with careful driving those hang-ups could probably be avoided. The computer artificial intelligence is good, but not perfect, a little bumping going into the corners and they can spin out just like you would. It would be nice if there was a bigger selection of music to appease all tastes. The challenge of the game is hard, without being frustrating and the inclusion of multiplayer via the Live service is just plain awesome. The lone drawback to the online portion of the game is that you need players to challenge and at the time of this writing the competition was mostly scarce. Overall, this is a very solid game with some flaws that you might be willing to overlook for some of the benefits of the innovative game play.

Final Verdict

In the end Test Drive Unlimited is a good racing game sprinkled with some role playing elements and topped off with some pretty good online features including multiplayer. Still, you�ll enjoy some of the more traditional stuff like modifying your car, custom paint jobs and motorcycles. If that�s too boring for you, then you may like the courier missions, speed challenges, and the supermodel hitchhikers (think Crazy Taxi). There�s certainly a lot of game here to discover and getting through all of it and earning all of those achievement points will require a lot of play time, but in the end the experience is satisfying. So, if you�ve already mastered the other racing games on the 360 or you�re looking for something different in the racing genre than by all means take a good look at Test Drive Unlimited because it�s much more than your standard racer.

Score

8.5 out of 10

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Test Drive Unlimited Review

Related Information

Posted by: Redeema
Date: October 18, 2006
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Eden Games
Website: TestDriveUnlimited.com
System Reviewed: Xbox 360

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Categories: PC Reviews, Xbox 360 Reviews, PlayStation 2 Reviews, PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, Reviews

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