Test Drive Unlimited 2 review
The original Test Drive Unlimited pioneered the idea of creating a persistent world that you would share with dozens of other real players at any given time. Even now, although the concept has since been ‘borrowed’ by all sorts of other games, from Fable 3 to Burnout Paradise, there’s still something oddly magical about cruising down an apparently deserted stretch of highway only to suddenly run across a car driven by another real player. Even if the sophisticated feel of these moments is rather ruined by the widespread use of rubbish and/or childishly sexual gamertags!
There’s always the extra frisson of excitement raised by the possibility that the driver coming toward you might flash his lights at you to instigate some form of interaction. This used to be just a head to head race, but now it could also include joining him or her in one of the game’s new cooperative missions.
You can communicate with other player’s Avatars in shops and showrooms too, and join mass online races marked on your game map.
You can set up clubs to invite members too, establish Live parties, and have a go at any of the challenges – of which there are already thousands – created by gamers using the Challenge Creation kit provided in the game.
This all sounds excellent when it’s just written down. But we maintain our view that in practice, the social component of the game has become too dominant, detracting from that essential ‘one man and his car’ mood that made the original game so atmospheric.
Far worse, though, is the fact that at the time of writing, TDU2’s social features just don’t work properly. We haven’t yet managed to access a single challenge created by another player, despite dozens of attempts. The game just tries to connect, before announcing that the servers aren’t working. This sort of thing would be tough to take in any game, but in a game that seeks to be as ‘seamless’ as TDU2, it’s even more horrible.
Thankfully most other social aspects of the game work more consistently, but we’ve still experienced more dropped servers and connections than we should have with a game that’s taken this long to develop. Especially given that Eden had done much of the groundwork for its online features in the first game.
The last word
There’s still a good game tucked away in here under all the pointless and distracting new froth. In fact, people who weren’t lucky enough to experience the original TDU might well find the sequel’s ‘Massively Open Online Racing’ approach quite intoxicating.
However, even these people will frequently feel frustrated by the game’s handling issues, online problems and some aspects of the game’s progress structure. As for people who, like us, adored the original and expected the sequel to make us fall in love with ‘free driving’ all over again, we suspect they will likely come away from TDU2 feeling at best non-plussed and at worst outright disappointed.
Online elements: 14/20
Overall score: 72%
TDU2 cunningly tries to make sure you see its graphical highlights via the Photography sub-mission, whereby you have to track down a bunch of beauty spots and take pictures of them.
However, our personal highlights have been driving over the hills above Ibiza City looking down onto the city below, and whizzing along the same city’s quayside road.
Lad’s night potential
You’d think that all the online features of TDU2 would make it a great game for rounding up a bunch of mates. But actually, as well as the online features currently being fatally flawed technically, TDU2′s online elements are better suited to casual encounters with strangers than arranged games with chums.