Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a good game, with the potential to one day be great. When the game begins, you’re a Valet driver sitting in a womans Ferrari daydreaming. Eventually, you get invited into a competition called Solar Crown. It takes place on two islands: the Mediterranean island Ibiza, and the Hawaiian island Oahu. There are 60 character levels you can obtain in the game and each level unlocks new championships to take part in.
Within Solar Crown there are 3 racing classes. ‘A’ which are sports cars/supercars, ‘B’ which are offroad vehicles/SUVs, and ‘C’ which consists of classic sports cars and muscle cars. Each class has several levels within it. Each level the cars get faster and more expensive. You must earn a license to be able to participate in races at each level. You can still purchase cars and drive around the islands without licenses, however, in order to race you must complete a drivers school at that particular level. A and C classes are much like what we saw in Test Drive Unlimited. TDU2 tends to take a more “simulation” style approach to driving with A and C classes vs the arcade style “drift around every corner” that many racing franchises seem to be going towards these days. Class B adds an interesting element to the game. Offroad racing is largely drifting around corners and more centered around a rally type racing experience.
Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a driving simulator MMO. Driving around the islands you will encounter other players that you can challenge to a race or enter a co-op free driving mode. You can also hold multiplayer events, and you can start a Club to invite friends to. There is a friends list element to the game, but thus far it is very lackluster. You can add friends and join them if they are online, but there is no way to talk directly to them without being near them and talking in general chat. There is also a police chase scenario that you can enter in to. If you crash into enough police cars in the game or perform enough “traffic violations” directly in front of police cars then you can enter into a scenario where there are either NPC’s or other players chasing you in police cars trying to stop you. It’s quite fun to run from players, but they get weapons such as EMP’s that seem to have an unlimited range and ability to stop your car with nothing you can do to prevent it. The NPC police cars have a very high spawn rate and tend to swarm you in a way that it’s nearly impossible to run from them. They also get the EMP’s that players get. I’ve found the NPC’s usually had me stopped within 30 seconds whereas running from other players I almost always got away. While driving around you can get a phone call from “Police” that invites you to join in chasing someone down. There are multiple levels you can obtain for outrunning the police or catching multiple cars in a row.
Cars are well designed in the game. They are not quite perfect down to the very last detail like in some simulation games, but they are detailed enough that you can appreciate their looks. Each car feels appropriately different while driving. As expected, rear wheel drive cars tend to want to fishtail around corners while all wheel drive cars are much more solid but sometimes lack the acceleration in straight aways.
Since launch, Eden Games have been having a lot of server problems with TDU2. Online access is very sketchy and other players tend to be there one second and disappear the next. At one point, polls on the TDU2 website showed over 80% of people are having online issues with the game. Eden Games is actively posting on Twitter and their forums discussing fixes and trying to get information from their players. They claim to be working on patches for all platforms to solve these issues. They really would have benefited from a proper beta test with user feedback.
Launching the game takes quite a while. Sometimes even a few minutes because the game does a full network check before it will let you play. Once you load the game you are asked to press any key and immediately put into the game. There is no menu system prior to loading the game world. Changing controls, video options, audio options, etc are all done while the game is running. Controller detection is quite good. I’ve used both a Logitech Dual Action Gamepad and an Xbox 360 Wireless Controller with TDU2. Both times the game was able to detect them and set default controls that worked quite well for the controller.
TDU2 runs in DirectX 9. It does not support DirectX 10 or 11. Although player controlled vehicles in the game look pretty good, NPC cars and police cars look blocky and bad. People in the game also look like dolls. The world looks good enough to be somewhat realistic but not super detail oriented. You can encounter day, night, and stormy weather scenarios while driving with stormy weather adding water to the road and affecting vehicle handling.
As you work your way through the game you will get “phone calls” alerting you to new places to visit, and challenges to take part in. It’s a great aspect of the game but I found it somewhat buggy and unorganized. At times, I would get several “phone calls” in a row asking me to go to several different places with no real way to turn the caller down and come back to it later. The game gives you the option to say “maybe later” but I found I don’t get another call most of the time.
Eden Games seems to have really wanted to put an emphasis on socializing in the game, but the system they implemented is very lacking. The game is centered around buying houses to have more garage space to store cars. You can invite people to your house to have a makeshift party, but then there is nearly nothing to do once your there. You can talk to each other, you can view a very limited selection of the house owners cars, and you can do basic MMO type things like have your character laugh or look angry/sad/etc. Other than that there really isn’t anything you can do. You can’t even sit down, turn on music, or anything else I can think of that would make this very boring scenario somewhat interesting.
At the beginning of the game you select a premade character. During the game you get repeated phone calls to go to the “plastic surgery clinic” and “hairdresser” and various clothes stores to change your look. I suppose this is a creative way of going about customizing your character but they could have had you do this in the beginning of the game and save you walking around with 40 of your clones for the first 5 hours of gameplay. Another small complaint I have here is all the male voices in the game seem to be very flamboyant. The female voices seem overly flaky/dramatic and the female race announcer repeats the same things over and over again before each race. I really wish Eden Games had come up with more than 3-4 different lines to say at the beginning of races.
As you travel roads through the game you discover more and more dealerships, tuning shops, hairdressers, clothing stores, clubs, paint and sticker shops, car washes, cosmetic surgery clinics, houses for sale, real estate agents, and other locations that you can enter and purchase items or change your appearance at. I really like this method of discovery in-game. Finding new places and seeing what items they offer is a fun addition to the game and ads depth. As you discover more roads, locations, and hidden areas in the game you unlock more options to choose from in each of the aforementioned shops. There is also a ‘used car dealership’ on each island where you can buy cars for your current license level at a discounted rate encase you don’t have enough money for a ‘new’ car. You can also customize any houses that you purchase. During purchase the game tells you how many furniture items can be customized within the house. Many have 75+ customizable items.
Eden Games includes 2 radio stations that you can listen to while driving around in-game. One is a techno/trance/rap/hip-hop station and the other is a mixture of pop and soft rock that bills itself as a metal station. Both radio stations seem to have a maximum of 10 songs with a shared 5 ‘funny’ radio commercials between them. The commercials are somewhat comical the first time you hear them but they are played too much. After a few hours in the game I had already decided to completely turn off music as I was so sick of hearing the same songs and commercials repeated over and over again. Most of the music is from artists I had never heard of, but theres a few recognizable bands.
Despite the many issues in the game, for $40 Test Drive Unlimited 2 brings many hours of fun. None of the current issues truly stop you from having a great single player experience collecting cars, leveling your character, and competing in races. It’s a great feeling every time I get to drive a new car and see how it sounds and feels on the road. I expect the upcoming patches will fix many of the issues and TDU2 will become even better.