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SummaryGorgeous but still needs development!
The GoodThe graphics are simply the best I've seen on a racing game! Gorgeous settings, beautiful 3D modeling, realistic textures and HDR lighting make up for an experience that is just a few steps away from reality.
Literally everything in the game's virtual world is well modeled and textured and the variety is so vast that you'll never face the same environmental setting twice. Yet considering the fact that they have laid out more than 1000 virtual miles for you to race on, this is amazing just by saying it! Well wait till you have seen it! The whole game's cosmos is based on the island of Hawaii. I have no clue whether they have modeled the island's road system exactly as it is at present, rumors report that they took satellite data and the ground elevations are accurate.
Well the game excels in the virtual representation department, including all the vehicles. The cars are all beautifully modeled, are all very detailed including the traffic vehicles. As for the playable cars interiors, these are really works of art!
Above all the game emits a wonderful wander-around feeling! You can either take a ride on the wild side doing slalom around , or just buy a Caterham Super 7 and head out for the mountains; you'll be amazed how they captured the feeling of freedom that the actual car gives you in reality! You'll feel in contact with nature, as the minimal cockpit exposes the passengers to the elements. Just bring a forest scented room odoriser near your pc and you have the whole package :)
Closing the chapter on the playable vehicles, the fact that I really liked, is that all the vehicles come in factory shape and remain as such. I mean that you won't see a dragon-like Nissan, or a Shark shaped Mazda with loads of vinyl crap on their paintwork. Also Apart from the modern models there is also the ability to buy some of the classics as well such as a Ferrari 288 GTO, a '69 Pontiac Firebird, a '69 Corvette Stingray, A Jaguar e-type etc.
Packing the exceptional environment works, the environmental sounds and effects are superb. maybe the tunnel mode needs a bit more work, as when you're stopped -engine switched off in a tunnel you don't hear anything. As for the actual car sounds, they are ok but they could have been a lot better and racey sound.
The economy of the game is laid out in such a way that you can easily-ish gather up a sum and buy a fairly decent set of wheels, or two or three, or more. Just watch your driving because hitting innocent traffic really pisses off the police and when they get on your tail and nail you, you're in for some deep pocket dipping! Talking about the in-game police system, the only thing that will drive them nuts is only if you hit traffic or police cars. They really don't give a damn if you pass red traffic lights, drive on the wrong side of the road, or pass in front of them with 240 klm on your speedo, the only thing that matters is to avoid hitting the traffic vehicles.
Going online proves to bring the other half of the game to life, as new options become available. Literally there's life blown into the virtual cosmos of the game, as you can engage other people in street racing, attend tournaments, or just cruise around the island and chat. Hehehe and they say that road rage is an anti-social phenomenon :D
The BadWell if there's one thing that bugs me, that is the handling of the cars. All the vehicles handle as if they refuse to stay on the road, not to mention about turning. It simply requires a lot of skill and practice to keep the vehicle on the road while you're speeding, as the slightest overturn will send you out of the road in milliseconds.
The actual road surface is so bumpy that feels like they have actually laid a layer of tarmac over the rough terrain without prior smoothing the ground surface. And that shows up in driving as your vehicle constantly bumps up and down making it extra difficult to grip some tarmac and turn. Thankfully, not all vehicles handle the same, but the lighter ones are much tougher to handle. Surely there's an effort there to bring a lot of realism into the game, but in my opinion that is not necessary for this game, or for any game for that matter, as what is the point for ultra realism when you actually cannot feel the real forces? Surely based on sight only cannot give you good reference as whether you'll make it in a turn or not, you have to feel the oversteer on your body in order to properly balance the car and therefore to appreciate realism. I would rather much enjoy it if they had the one button drifter game play is in the NFS series, rather than this.
Another drawback that gets m attentions is the lighting of the models and scenery. Although the lighting and shadows appear to be correct and almost photorealistic, the whole scenery appears to be high in contrast levels, which in conjunction with the antialiasing and image softening effects it leaves midtones and details unseen. What is the use of that? Certainly many times as you race through at maniac speeds it is very difficult to see where you're heading at, as the only you see in the road's horizon is a mass of dark shadows only to end up on a tree in the next second. Now combine all this to the constant road bumping and judge for yourself. Most of the times it is only luck that keeps you going.
The traffic's AI simply sucks... These guys are living on a planet of their own as they change lanes without looking for other incoming traffic, or they use the fast lane by going very slow... It all reminds me how we drive in reality here in Greece :D So I guess there's some good reality issue here hehe!
Finally all the visuals come with a price. So make sure you'
The Bottom LineAlthough really suffering from an over wannabe realism, bad handling and lighting that looks good but is impractical for such driving, Test Drive Unlimited has some good things to offer. Although some times it offers a really frustrating experience, you'll definitely want to come back to try again and again.
One thing is sure, TDU has really raised the bar in the driving/racing simulations genre into the next generation. So the only good thing that we can expect from that is other companies and development teams to get it as an example and eventually develop better products.
There are some good major steps in this release in terms of game play and abilities such as, the online community that will spawn from this one and the vast racing ground that won't tire you easily.
The thing that I would really love to see happen on this one is the ability to customise and even build and model your own vehicles. That would make TDU really open ended like Flight Simulator, which in the end will only help establish a large community and fan base.