Test Drive Unlimited 2 improves original
Even from the start screen, Test Drive Unlimited 2 looks like a massive game. The game starts out similar to the first TDU, with a cast of six characters to choose from. After a short tutorial, you wake up in the same Ferrari, but as a valet driver. This sets up the game like most other racing games — you start at the bottom and must work your way up. The story as a whole seems a bit generic. None of the characters have much depth, but that’s to be expected from a racing game.
The character customization is vastly improved from the first game. As in the first, you can customize your character’s outfit and buy houses, yachts, and a night club. The game now allows you to buy furniture for your properties, haircuts, and plastic surgery. You can also add stickers to customize your car, and these vinyls are much easier to place on your car than in many other racing games.
The game is centered on exploration. The world is massive, spanning the both the island of Ibiza in Spain and the island of Oahu in Hawaii. In addition to exploring each of the roads (still a huge undertaking, as in the first game), players must now find car wrecks and camera viewpoints to progress with their exploration. These encourage players to explore obscure locations away from the road and take advantage of the new wilderness areas that the game has to offer.
Test Drive is unique in that it allows players to roll down the window, control their blinkers, and sometimes control the sunroof or pop the trunk of their cars. The landscapes are lush and fully explorable, and the game has a dynamic weather and time system, meaning you can sit and watch the sunset and sunrise, and the weather shifts between sunny and rainy. These can drastically alter how you play the game, as low visibility and wet roads can be detrimental to your driving.
Off-road driving is arguably the most satisfying part of the game. Take a high-end sports car off-road, and you’re in for a terrible time. Luckily, there are a number of off-road vehicles that fix the problem. Bouncing around on dirt roads is a welcome change from the long stretches of pavement in most racing games. There is a good variety of off-road tracks, but it would have been nice to have a bit of variety in terms of terrain. While there are a few places where driving over rocks is possible, there are never any challenges that force you onto these places.
The racing aspect of the game is fairly well done, but it definitely doesn’t stand out among other more accurate physics engines. The various types of race events offer no real surprises, but the game takes advantage of the massive world by offering more unique events that allow you to interact with some of the locals by doing various missions for them. These have been expanded from the first game, and now include events such as tailing a cheating spouse and driving as recklessly as possible. The championships feel much easier than the races in the first game; the largest challenge is mostly the roads themselves.
The online aspect of the game also sets it apart from the rest. You can join car clubs and compete against other clubs, race on user-created routes, or just challenge another racer you see driving past you on the street. The game is constantly connected, so the in-game world is populated with other racers on the streets. This gives the game significant depth and makes up for the low difficulty of single-player play.