Test Drive Unlimited 2 was recently held up and released in the first quarter of this year. It’s perhaps a good thing, since Atari and developer Eden Studios have crammed a huge chunk of content in the game. The first Test Drive Unlimited wiped off the division between online and offline racing and this game goes a step further by giving players more context to the world and tools to forge their experience.
TDU 2 adds up a storyline, and its shoddiness is deliberate but at least humorous. You are a valet at a posh hotel on the island of Ibiza who lucks into a chance to be a race car driver by commandeering the Ferrari of your employer’s daughter. As paper-thin as it appears, at least the story offers context to a lot of your challenges as you go up the ranks and start to live the full TDU 2 lifestyle. Your driver can now leave his or her car and walk around the world and socialize with other drivers. Naturally, you’re going to want to look your best, and part of the game’s lifestyle element is the ability to buy new clothes, houses (with garages of varying sizes), and other alterations to your appearance. Other than the size of your mansion, your progress in the game is graphed by a 0-70 level system that sums up your Collection, Competition, Discovery, and Social skills (having each of these sub-categories bearing 15 levels of their own). Several championship race events of differing targets, duels with other drivers (including the opportunity to win their car), and multiplayer challenges fall under the Competition category, while more esoteric objectives like putting stickers to your cars or finding treasure-filled wrecks using a metal detector acquire you experience for the Collection and Discovery classes, respectively. Even if you aren’t actively involved in a challenge and just driving around, you can still move on in the game by taking in money for gaining air, near misses, and drifting.
The game’s social aspect is a chief component, especially since you could dip into online play at any given time. Apart from competitive races, players can be a cop and chase lawbreakers, and there are cooperative challenges such as Follow the Leader – where only the leader of the pack can view the next checkpoint gate. Best of all you can once again make your own challenges through a suite of tools that lets you install Speedtrap radar guns, Time Attack checkpoints, rewards, traffic, and more. If you have been getting off of your car and running about using the emoticons and voice chat options to make friends, then you must know enough people to start your own racing club and try to garner exclusive cars and pool club money.
The best thing about the first Test Drive was its sense of freedom. Ironically, it seems like developer Eden Studios could have improved the franchise by putting more structure to the title. Irrespective of some of the tweaks, at its heart, this game is still about letting you live the life.