Test Drive Unlimited 2 Review
This expansive driving game offsets its faults with the pleasure of open-road cruising and a wealth of content.
- Huge, attractive, open and online world
- Masses of varied content for fun, steady progression
- Enjoyable open-world driving .
- Inconsistent vehicle handling
- Visual hitches, including pop-in issues
- Technical bugs make the online/offline divide less than seamless.
Though it is dubbed "Unlimited", a developer has to be selective when making something as huge and ambitious as Test Drive Unlimited 2. In extensively re-creating the island of Ibiza for its open-world, online driving game, Eden games presumably had to give up foam parties and club-addled tourists at an early stage. The omissions are few, however. TDU2 is a smorgasbord of open-road driving, single- and multiplayer challenges, exploration, social features, car collecting, and luxury lifestyle trappings, played out on 3,000km of road modeled on the real island--and that's before you unlock Oahu, the Hawaiian island on which the first game was set. Quality, not quantity, is TDU2's occasional issue; uneven handling and visual and online hitches hold it back. But though its shortcomings are offset by the sheer wealth of content, the game's real saving grace is the combined experience: the pleasure of cruising the open road and the satisfying tick of progress through the collection, discovery, competition, and social categories.
Competition is the most structured of the game's categories, based around the Solar Crown championship: a set of classic, asphalt, and off-road contests made up of race, speed, and time trial events. In the competition events there's a stab at a story and characters--it's bland stuff, but puts a face on the racers in the other cars and sets up rivalries between you and the star driver in each class. How taxing you find the events, as with driving throughout the game, depends on your choice of vehicle handling. Full assistance is all-forgiving, hardcore is demanding, with sport mode pitched in-between, but none quite satisfy. Though the inconsistent hardcore handling is tough to master, it doesn't serve up the simulation-like experience promised, with cars feeling too light. The other handling modes are less exacting but no more convincing--less twitchy, but a not-very-happy medium between simulation and arcade racer.
But once you've mastered the quirks of your preferred setting, there's fun to be had, with bombing along dirt roads and rumbling down sloping hairpin turns a highlight. Collision physics and the limited destructibility, meanwhile, are unpredictable. Sometimes you are the irresistible force, obstacles crumpling before your mighty bumper. Other times they are the immovable object that will send you bouncing improbably away or stop you dead in you tracks--just as well, then, that vehicle damage is all cosmetic.
Besides the championship competitions, there are single-player challenges such as taxi and car delivery missions, the latter a nice opportunity to sample flashier cars before you own them. A police chase mode triggered by flagrant traffic violations turns your leisurely-though-careless drive into a frantic scramble to dodge cop cars and evade police helicopters. Multiplayer challenges include race and speed camera events, in which you compete to barrel through a set of speed traps--coming at a trap from the opposite direction and sabotaging other players' attempts is underhanded fun. Among the multiplayer co-operative events, the follow-the-leader mode comes out on top, asking a group of players to race in convoy under the leader's direction. Photography missions have you scout out locations around the island and snap them with the in-game camera under the right conditions, such as at night or with a certain car in shot, and are an entertaining diversion in contrast to the driving and racing. Yet another system makes skilful free-driving its own reward, giving you money for producing high-speed combos of drifting, dodging, and jumping. There's so much to TDU2 that it's to the game's credit that the many activities don't overwhelm. Progress funnels reassuringly into the intertwined levelling categories, and the scale of the island gives you space to breathe and find your own way.
That island (and, after level 10, Oahu island) is handsome and varied, enlivened by weather effects. Electrical storms light up the sky and slick the roads with rain. Day turns into night according to the sped-up, game-world clock accompanied by some glorious sunsets and shimmering tarmac. The beach locations, with turquoise water and palm tree-lined ocean roads, are lifted straight out of an Ibiza tourist brochure. Disappointingly, the landscapes can be troubled by items popping in at a distance, such as trees on a hilly horizon and fence posts on a long highway. Busy scenes suffer slow-down from time to time, a cardinal sin among driving games. Other driving games have more consistently impressive visuals, but despite occasional chug and pop-in, the lasting impression is of a good-looking game, largely thanks to Ibiza's beautiful scenery.