Developers: Eden Games & Melbourne House
Platforms: Xbox 360 | PS2 | PSP | PC
When I first put this game into my Xbox I was completely out of my comfort zone; sure I enjoy taking control of vehicles when a mission comes up where it’s necessary to do so, but I tend to steer clear of games that are completely focused on driving like Gran Turismo. In fact the last time I played a game like this was when I picked up Driver for the PS1. With that in mind you can imagine my surprise when I quickly found myself becoming addicted to the adrenaline fuelled engine roaring experience that Test Drive Unlimited offers.
During the course of the game, you slowly but surely build up a collection of some of the most desired cars in the world, which you can then race, put through time trails, pick up hitchhikers in, and also use to ferry around models. The difficulty of these missions ranges from those that are a walk in the park to others that are absurdly difficult, and the other factor you’ll have to take into account is whether or not you’re driving in traffic. However, it pays to be vigilant and obey road traffic laws on some occasions, because a perfect mission will reward you with far more money.
Perseverance is the key to this game if you want to get your hands on the sort of cars you see the rich and famous taking out for a spin, because just like real life you’ll have to earn enough cash to get hold of them. The step up from one car category to another is pretty noticeable and you’ll have to get used to changing between super cars that have a lot of power under the bonnet, to the far more manageable saloon style cars. One of my guilty pleasures, however, is roaming around the island in search of classic cars to line my driveways with, and whilst they’re definitely the hardest cars to get the hang of, they’re great fun to cruise around in.
Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you can pick up motorbikes, and they raise the bar on the excitement factor tenfold, since their acceleration is better than most of the cars in the game and you can weave through small gaps between vehicles to avoid slowing down.
Another couple of nice aspects of the game are the chance to customise your character's appearance and accumulate property strewn around the island. Clothes and sunglasses can be purchased from various stores, plus you'll be able to hand pick your own motorbike leathers and helmets from specialist shops. Grabbing a new home or apartment on the island isn't just for show however, they'll also give you valuable parking spaces, which'll allow you to buy more vehicles.
This is a game that’s good old fashioned fun, you don’t have to brutally attack anybody or blow stuff up, in fact the cars don’t even take any damage when you accidentally swerve into a 200mph head on collision. I found myself welcoming the escape the game offered, heading into one of my garages taking out a Ferrari Enzo or an Audi TT, and then cruising along the streets and highways of Hawaii, which have been intricately mapped out. In fact the detail is so good, that I’ve almost convinced myself I could travel to Hawaii and know my way around like the back of my hand.
Whilst the driving experience is a joy to engross yourself in, it can at times be ruined by the AI. Occasionally, the other cars will indicate only moments before turning into your lane, causing you to have to slide off the road or crash the car. This becomes especially annoying when you’re taking part in a long mission that requires you to drive perfectly, and I frequently found myself blurting out a long line of obscenities at the screen.
The police seem to follow a very confusing set of traffic laws, and whilst I found myself grateful that they didn’t come after me for screeching through a set of red traffic lights at 170mph in a heavily populated area, I did find it slightly unfair that they would attempt to arrest me whenever an NPC caused a crash that was clearly their fault.
The online multiplayer allows you to join other players going head to head in driving challenges, however it comes into its own when you join a group of friends for a quick drive around the island. Lets face it there aren’t many games where you can pick up your headset and say ‘Come on boys, let’s meet up at the lighthouse and start driving from there’.
For me Test Drive Unlimited has restored my faith and enjoyment of the driving genre, and I’m hoping the developers will have smoothed over some of its rougher edges when Test Drive Unlimited 2 comes out.
- Amazing selection of cars and bikes
- Great escapism
- Full throttle fun
- You can't get out of the vehicles and walk around the island
- The AI can be incredibly annoying at times
- Whilst the cars look great, other areas aren't quite as polished
The Short Version: A fantastic driving experience that should get your engine purring!