Would you like to know how it’s like to live in Hawaii, drive around in nice cars, adorn yourself with nice clothings, live in a fancy house and make your living as a street racer? You can do all that in Test Drive Unlimited (TDU), the latest release of the Test Drive series.
Like what I mentioned earlier, you make a living as a street racer in Hawaii. Your objective (as usual, just like any other game) is to climb to the top, or at least in this case – RACE to the top.
The game starts off with a brief introduction where it shows you taking a flight to Hawaii. It doesn’t explain anything like what Need for Speed (NFS) : Most Wanted or Carbon did. All you do is choose your character as your avatar, rent a car, find a house, find a car and that’s it. Then all you do is go about racing, get some moolah and upgrade yourself. Pretty simple eh? I wanted to choose a hot girl as an avatar but then I decided to go for guy character instead, I don’t know it just didn’t feel right.
Anyway, enough of my masochistic preferences and let’s get back to talking about the game. For those of you who played the previous 3 releases of the NFS series, you will find no problem adapting to TDU, in fact you’ll probably found it to be all too similar. It’ll be harsh to say it’s a copy-cat as they added a lot more things that you don’t find in NFS series yet at the same time a lot of the elements in this game are all too familiar – nevertheless the game isn’t a bad one despite its similarities, I personally found TDU to be a great game to enjoy.
You get more flexibility in TDU, instead of living in a safe house or garage – you actually get to choose a range of houses or condos that are beautifully designed and some are placed at breathtaking locations. Even the first house that’s available for you looks great while the other bigger ones in store – man, they’ll even get you into MTV Cribs if you really do have one like that. The bigger the crib, the more vehicles you can own.
As if that was not enough, you get to buy / sell / trade houses. You get to change clothings. Instead of the usual 4-wheeled vehicle, you actually get to go on motorbikes as well. Cool eh? And the missions come in quite a variety, besides the usual races like lapped races, sprint race (point A to point B) and timed races you get missions like delivering a Ferrari long distance, delivering a package within a stipulated time and so on so forth. In fact, you could even attempt to pick up girls….. well ok actually there’s only 1 girl in the game. Sorry, not DoA Extreme Beach Volleyball here.
As you win races, you gain more points. That opens more races for you to participate in, and some races have criterias that you have to meet before participating, like owning a Category C car for example.
Yes, the cars come in various category, you get to see 4 vital stats for the cars. Tuning and ricing of the car is at a minimal, so don’t expect any NFS style tuning or modding. Speaking of cars, they have a really extensive range of cars available for your picking, just drop by any of the shop of a particular brand and pick what you want.
So now, you have your car and your crib so the next best thing to do is to go out and ruffle some feathers. I did that, and I turn out to be some speeding time-bomb. TDU offers more realistic control of vehicles compared to NFS series which is geared towards arcade style racing. Right from the start, I disabled the game’s drive-assist features and went manual driving all the way. It was really fun, a few races and a basket’s worth of civilian vehicle casualties later I manage to be a lesser time-bomb – I mean really, how could you not say you’re not a speeding time-bomb when you’re going at 200kph most of the time?
The game is fine but I’m a bit fed up of the controls. I’ve played so many NFS games before, if I tapped the downshift button twice I’m sure I’ll bring gear 5 to gear 3. This is not the case with TDU, after a few failed attempts to downshift as I expected, I decide to test it a few times and I could safely confirm that the game somehow isn’t responsive. Downshifting from Gear 3 to reverse isn’t a simple rapid 4 taps. What’s more annoying was that there were races where I upshift my gear to 1 before the countdown starts, somehow the game will shift the gear back to N for me just before the countdown finishes. I don’t know how on earth it happens but it happened.
Other things I didn’t like about TDU would be that it autosaves a game. I can’t find any option to disable that. So unlike NFS:Most Wanted where you could finish the entire without any fines by saving and loading profile, this game forces you to take fines – I got a fine that reached nearly 30k and I didn’t get to escape that. Damn!!
Some other annoying stuff for example, like in other games pressing ESC would escape from the current menu. In TDU, pressing ESC would actually bring up a few new option windows instead of escaping your current.
The game wasn’t helpful in explaining how the police chase system work either. It was neither explained in the manual, nor in the game. At one point I was actually at a lost on how to lose those cops, even hiding up a hill area for a few minutes didn’t help.
Graphics & Sound
The game isn’t a stunner in both departments. I have mixed feelings about the game’s graphics. It runs well at 1680×1050 resolution on my 2 generation old 6800 Ultra. Compare it to NFS:Most Wanted that was released in 2005, Most Wanted actually looks way better.
On the other hand TDU doesn’t look bad either, in fact it’s far from being bad. It’s clean, the cars are well detailed and you have parts flying all over when accident happens. It’s clean, trees and buildings are nicely modelled, as you travel along the coast you’ll enjoy the shades of green from the trees and there are nice textures on the road too but it just doesn’t have the OOOMPH. Another thing I really miss would be motion-blur effects as they truly give a sense of speed, however TDU does apply some form of blurring effect on the sides instead of the entire screen.
I like the fact that I could turn my head left and right to make sure the traffic is clear before moving out of the my position but heck, I really don’t use them. I’ve not have a habit of doing so in any game and don’t intend to do so. 😛
What about Soundtrack? Well other than the default music for the various scene, what TDU did great was that it allowed us to customize our own ‘radio station’. It’s not just EA’s style of having a pre-set number of songs in which we can choose which one to play, TDU allows you to actually place MP3s (or playlists and shortcuts) in some folders and make your own channel!!! Yup!! So if Linkin Park is your taste for racing, then you get it!! Of course, that means you have to provide the MP3 to the game.
Sound effects on the other hand are pretty simple, bangs sound like banging of tin cans, honks and engines were fine.
Now this is the part of the game that makes it a winner, TDU allows you to connect to their game server and be part of an environment. What environment? Get this, you and your buddies could actually race against one another on the island. Not enough? You could even trade cars, have gatherings and whatever there is.
This is a great move from the developers, games from the NFS are basically just connecting to the servers to join races and that’s it, there’s no sense of community. On TDU, it’s virtually having actual individuals living on that island with you and you could actually drive around town and bump into old friend Harry.
The only annoying thing is that IF you created a profile without enabling Gamespy ID (required for online gaming) then the profile will not be able to connect to TDU servers……FOREVER!!! Yes, so if you played like 40% of the game and decided to go online, forget it – you’ll have to create a new account to log in.
Despite the many things I’ve complained about the game, I truly enjoyed it as I find the game to be a refreshing approach towards racing-based game.
Racing game generally is about racing, all the way! This game on the other hand adds personalization and even allows unrestricted interaction, of course there’s no option for you to bash up Dirty Joe for making a move on your girl. Come to think of it, they could actually involve Street-Fighter style combat in race games.
PC Specifications Used
Processor : AMD X2 3600+ @ 2.5ghz
RAM : 1GB DDR2 667
Graphic Card : BFG 6800 Ultra 256MB
Monitor : 20″ Dell Ultra-sharp Wide-screen LCD