It’s been over 4 years since the Test Drive series last made an appearance, and the racing world has become the domain of Forza and Gran Turismo, with even the Need for Speed series taking a backseat these days. How does Test Drive Unlimited 2 fare after this long pit stop? Surprisingly well.
TDU2 bills itself as an MOOR, or Massively Open Online Racer, and it certainly fits the billing. The multiplayer is built right into the main game, so that you can seamlessly transition from working your way through the lengthy campaign to any multiplayer match you desire. You’ll even see other players driving around while you are driving around on Ibiza and Hawaii, the two locations you’ll get to explore and drive around in TDU2.
Test Drive Unlimited 2 puts you in the body of a valet who wants to be a race car driver. One day, you get the chance of a lifetime, and the rest of the game ‘focuses’ on becoming the champion racer in every car class on both Ibiza and Oahu. I say it focuses on it, but TDU2 is a very laid-back racing game. You can pretty much do whatever you want, whenever you want, as an open-world game should be. The only caveat? You have to explore the island to find the different things you can do. That said, you ARE exploring tropical islands, so it’s not exactly torture to drive around these beautiful surroundings.
TDU2 has a leveling system that goes from 0-60, with 15 levels coming from Competition, 15 from Social, 15 from Discovery, and 15 from Collection. So, in order to fully level yourself up, you’ll need to do things in all areas of the game. Collection is for buying cars and homes to store those cars, Competition is for winning the various championships you can compete in, Discovery is for your free-roaming- the more you explore and find things, the higher your Discovery level gets, while Social is based on how much you play the community challenges and multiplayer races. Every 10 levels you gain, your title changes, so taking part in all aspects of TDU2 is encouraged in everything you do.
Now, the most important thing for a racing game is the handling of the cars. And I’m pleased to say that, for the most part, everything handles very well, for an arcade racer that is. Test Drive Unlimited 2 will never be mistaken for a race car simulator, as Forza and Gran Turismo bill themselves, but it isn’t trying to be. Outside of the handling for rear-wheel drive cars, the handling is accurate, and easy, enough to make driving fun, which is a good thing considering how many thousands of miles you’ll be driving in the dozens of cars you can buy, if you want to complete the game.
No matter what difficulty level you are playing on, the AI competition in the game isn’t likely to challenge you during races. In fact, the most challenging aspect of the game is by far the tests you need to pass for each license you earn. These tests are extremely unforgiving of mistakes made while taking them, sometimes to the point of requiring a perfect run to pass them. Luckily, there is so much sheer content and diversity in the various events and competitions you’ll take part in that you won’t focus very much on the licensing tests or the lack of a challenging AI, especially if you get hooked on the multiplayer.
At any point while playing TDU2, you could see another human driving around on the island. If you want to, you can challenge them to a race or cooperative event right then and there, simply by flashing your headlights at them. This integration into the core gaming experience is one of the things that makes this game so enjoyable.
Ok, so here comes the bad news. The graphics aren’t that great. They aren’t bad, but they obviously suffer because of the sheer amount of land and content that was included in the game. Additionally, the voice acting is simply average. The same goes for the soundtrack, of which there is very little. There are two radio stations in the game, each with very limited selection. On the other hand, the sound effects are exactly as I would expect to hear from a bunch of sports cars.
If you are looking for a simulation racing game, then you’ll find very little here that you’ll enjoy. In fact, the handling of the cars will probably drive you nuts. But if you just want an enjoyable racing game that you can take at your own pace, and is more forgiving with its handling, then you’ll find plenty to love about Test Drive Unlimited 2.
Pros: Seamless blending of single and multiplayer, good handling, lots of cars
Cons: Graphics are mediocre, voice acting is average