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Test Drive Unlimited (Windows)

82
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.7
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Andy Voss (1635)
Written on  :  Jan 03, 2011
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars

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Summary

The passion is back!

The Good

For those who loved the openness of Test Drive III: The Passion, despite the horrendous driving experience, say hello to the driving game of your dreams. This game takes the 1990 concept and enhances it to 2006 specifications.

You are on an island.. Oahu, Hawaii, to be precise. Aside from the ocean, you have no driving boundaries, which is refreshing after the restrictions of Test Drives 4 through 6. There, one finds houses to store their cars (and bikes!) in, car dealers, rental agencies, tuner shops, hitchhikers, models eager for rides (what a place!), and of courses, races waiting to be started. Fortunately, the car customization isn't insane like NFS Underground, so one can focus on exploring the island in search of new cars and challenges. I don't do multiplayer, so I can't comment on that, but it's there and online races are fully supported.

The races are broken into solo time attacks with checkpoints, solo speed attacks with radar guns at various points, and standard races with multiple cars. In some time races, damaging the car will incur a small time penalty. Oddly, the most money seems to be made by delivering cars with no time limit at all, but those can be done only once, while the rest can be repeated. There are seven classes of cars, and five levels of race difficulty, which one reaches by progressing in the game. The cars are accurately modeled inside and out. The scenery is breathtaking. Even if a lot of the plant life is just sprites, the sheer amount of it makes it difficult to notice. The customization options on the characters are insane, with around a dozen face regions alone. That makes it more about the player's desires, and less about a fixed story character.

The Bad

The controls are a nuisance to change. By default they're keyboard, but as most people will opt for a gamepad, joystick, or steering wheel instead, there is no default setup for those devices. You must set up each new function individually, or as many as you can map to your new device. Some, like map zoom, cannot be remapped, so if you're like me and have a mouse with no scroll wheel, well, you can't zoom. Oddly, controls cannot be changed while in a challenge.

Much like Test Drive 3, the steering is too sensitive. Even with Driving Aid on, it is incredibly easy to spin out. There is a slider bar for sensitivity, but unfortunately no "dead zone" slider, so it will react to the slightest touch.

Also while in a challenge, one cannot abort or restart. If you mess up, then either wait out the clock, or if you have a driving meter, crash yourself down to zero.

The purpose of the police cars is a bit confusing. If you hit a passenger car, even with no cops in sight, they're dispatched after you, at which point you can lose them by any means except slowing down right next to them. Yet if you whizz by one at 180 mph, they don't react at all. "Have fun!", they seem to say.

I'm rather indifferent about all the clothes shopping.. but it would be nicer to get cash rewards from people instead. :)

The Bottom Line

Test Drive Unlimited offers the driving freedom of Grand Theft Auto without the violence or (most of) the crime. :) The world is very realistic (as it should be, the terrain came from real life data!). Unfortunately, the driving experience isn't as realistic, but at least you get a variety of cars and bikes to boot, and plenty of traffic to weave through. I wasted much of my teenage life touring the roads (and off-roads!) of California and New England in Test Drive III, and now that I'm driving in real life, I finally have a game which is a realistic escape.