Massively Open Online Racing. That’s the unique gaming genre that Test Drive Unlimited’s developers, Eden Games, ended up creating with the first game. And it certainly caught on, with many players on the servers of the first game to this day. So when the sequel was announced, we just had to have a look.
First thing’s first, the word ‘massive’ simply doesn’t do the game justice. Test Drive Unlimited 2 comes with not one, but two fully explorable islands, including an updated version of Oahu from the first game, and an all-new virtual recreation of Ibiza. There are nearly two thousand miles of a mix of asphalt and dirt roads, as well as fully accessible chunks of random terrain in between. Scenery is plentiful as well, with things like farms, wind turbines, forests, and towns scattered all around. To add to the world’s quality, there is now a day/night cycle and varying weather conditions. This wide open world is very impressive, but it does take quite a toll on your hard drive if you buy for PC, with the game requiring 18 gigabytes of free space to install. Players are encouraged to explore all of this by allowing them to level up when they explore enough roads, giving money bonuses for taking pictures of certain areas, and by placing several ‘wrecks’ around the islands to be discovered, such as the one seen above. If you find 10 wrecks of the same car, you’ll be rewarded with that car, in fully-restored condition. While this enormous world means they haven’t been able to focus on the quality of graphics as much, the graphics are still perfectly fine, though you can’t really call them cutting-edge.
However, quite possibly the biggest difference between the first game and this sequel is the new social aspect of the game. You can ride along with friends as a passenger, challenge other players to a race, invite friends to one of your houses, and communicate with other players within car dealerships, clothes stores, and other buildings. The game even allows you to walk around in these buildings. There is also a casino DLC which unlocks “Casino Island”, where you can socialize with other players and of course, gamble. You can play poker, roulette, or sit at the slot machines at this island, or even have some cocktails at the bar. This is still a car game however, and so players can exchange their casino tokens to purchase some casino-exclusive cars: the Audi R8 V10 Spyder or, if they manage to get in the “VIP Room” reserved for the best poker players, a Spyker C8 Aileron Spyder.
While that’s all very nice, this is a racing game, so the important stuff is, of course, the cars. TDU2 comes with roughly 90 cars, ranging from Volkswagen Beetles and Citroen 2CVs to Ford Mustangs and Audi S3′s, and then to hypercars such as the Bugatti Veyron and Aston Martin One-77. Because of the addition of off-road trails in TDU2, there’s also a variety of SUVs, such as the Audi Q7 V12 TDI and Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG. If that’s not enough for you, Atari’s DLC store allows you to purchase some interesting machines, including the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport (Yes, that Super Sport, the one which holds the world record for the fastest production car), Audi RS5, and Caterham R500. Some of the game’s cars are exclusive to clubs, which any player can open for $50,000 (in-game money of course), but in order to obtain all these cars, you’ll need a lot more money than that. However, if other players join your club, they can donate money to the club, and with enough members donating, you should be able to afford them all. All the cars are very nicely modeled and come with wonderful, detailed interiors. The physics try to be half arcade, half simulator, but they’re definitely leaning towards arcade. Depending on the car though, they can be a bit flawed. For instance, the Volkswagen Golf GTI, a front-wheel-drive hatchback with 200 horsepower, somehow manages to oversteer in nearly every corner. All things considered however, the physics are nicely done for the type of game we’re looking at. And the races? Well, they’re not sim-level challenging, but for an arcade racer, they’re quite good, although one or two of them do feel a bit too easy.
It all sounds like a recipe for an excellent game, and the concept is undoubtedly amazing. However, upon closer inspection, you’ll find that the game isn’t all bright and rosy. For starters, the sense of speed can sometimes be rather lacking, with some of the cars failing to convey just how quickly you’re really going. Even the mighty Veyron Super Sport manages to feel rather slow at times if you’re not paying attention to the speedometer. Another flaw is the inability to sell reward cars. You can trade-in your normally-purchased cars at a dealership when you have no garage space or lack the funds to purchase a certain car, but reward cars cannot be sold in such a manner, which is especially annoying when one of the reward cars in question is a pink Ford Mustang.
Then there are the bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. Certain tuning packages, for instance, don’t affect cars, with the main problem being within top speed and acceleration packages. Moreover, AI cars will often vanish into thin air, but more importantly, so will other players in multiplayer. Organizing a cruise with just one friend can take a good half an hour of trying to invite or join the other player, to end up finding yourself in the same location they are, but in a different online session. Even once you’ve got the right session, they can sometimes simply disappear in the middle of your cruise, and the same goes for joining them in a dealership or in your house. If you’ve managed to get some people into your session to cruise and want to invite another, sometimes the session will not allow you to invite anymore people, despite not having reached the 8-player limit. Hacking the game is also extremely easy, with several people unlocking DLC cars without actually purchasing them, or giving themselves ridiculous amounts of in-game money. Additionally, many players on PC, including myself, have experienced random performance issues. While my PC isn’t exactly brand-spanking new, I ran my settings on roughly Medium-High, with the maximum being Very High (Although I turned it up to Very High for most of the screenshots in this article), and it normally ran smoothly, but sometimes it would begin to bog down significantly out of nowhere.
At this point, you’re probably thinking the game is pretty horrible. And to some, it is. But really, the game is just a case of love it or hate it. Many of you would be very irritated by the flaws and give up on the game. However, many will also be able to look past those flaws and admire the huge open world, the fantastic variety of dream cars, and the way the game gives you a glimpse of what life could be like if you won the lottery next week. And I’m one of those people. The bugs can certainly get a tad annoying at times, but I can’t help but have a good time when playing TDU2. It provides the getaway from reality I often look for in video games, putting you in the shoes of a multi-millionaire gearhead on one of two exotic islands. And you never know, perhaps bearing the bugs will pay off, and one day Eden Games will release a patch or two to clean up the game, with the end result being an absolutely sublime game.
Disclaimer: Some of the screenshots were taken using quality settings lower than maximum, while others were compressed by the game’s “Photo Mode”, and therefore are not the best representation of the visual quality.