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While I may not be the biggest fan of racing titles, Test Drive Unlimited caught my eye early on in its life when previews first started to come out. The idea of racing against loads of other players around the world on the same massive world as me was a really appealing option. Simple things like entering competitions online, racing against other drivers who have just driven up beside you on the map really appeals.
With the ability for thousands of gamers to play simultaneously, Test Drive® Unlimited is M.O.O.R.: Massively Open Online Racing. This is a truly unprecedented experience for racing gamers and is the ultimate automotive experience for car and bike enthusiasts alike. Once in the game, players can visit the most sophisticated car and bike dealers to purchase new vehicles or simply take them for a spin. Gamers can then participate in 8 player races or take vehicles for a drive on over 1000 miles of diverse Hawaiian roads and pass by thousands of other real players. Further, players can collect and trade rare performance parts and customize each vehicle to make it one-of-a-kind. Finally, gamers win races, challenges, missions and tournaments to earn credits and purchase new cars, bikes, rare performance parts, apparel, homes and garages.
Although I have known a number of gamers believe that Test Drive Unlimited is just a simple racing title, they are surprised to see just how much depth and just how large the map is in the game. The main thing of note here is that your car has a built in GPS navigation system, believe me, when you see how large the game is and where all of the races and side-missions are strewn about the map, you will realize just how vital the addition of GPS is in Test Drive Unlimited.
You begin the game by picking a character to play as, it doesn't make a difference who you go with though, its all cosmetic. The game takes place on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Test Drive features around about 150 cars from a whole host of manufacturers. As always there are companies like Audi etc, but we also have Lotus, Ford, Lamborghini and more. To purchase a car you have to win races and pick up some cash, when you have won some of the early ones you will earn enough to buy a decent enough car to better yourself in other more advanced races and courier missions. Races themselves range from basic finish first, to races in which on each round the player in the last position gets eliminated. You gain cash in each race by finishing in either 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, winning a respective medal. The more advanced the race, the more money you can win.
Buying cars is not the only thing you can purchase in Test Drive, you can buy yourself new houses to keep your cars in, you can go out and purchase clothing through tokens you collect when you do a mission in which you drive a hitchhiker to the destination they wish to reach without crashing too much. One of the best forms of making money is a courier mission, in this you drive a brand new car to its new owner, don't damage it too much and you can earn yourself a shed load of money to spend on a new car. The thing with that mission is that most of the time the car you get can go so fast, you just can't help yourself but to speed around in it, thus you tend to incur many accidents along the way!
Police are once again a factor in a Test Drive game, crash into too many cars and they'll start to notice you and chase you, although I have noticed that when playing online there are less and less of them I come across. But nothing beats the feeling of out pacing a police cars on the main roads!
Test Drive Unlimited really comes into its own thanks
to the excellent way in which the online side of the game has been built
so neatly into the package you don't always realize you are connected at
all times when playing the game. Driving around the map and seeing other
players driving around at the same time is a great feeling, as is being
challenged to a race by other plays you drive past. This isn't the only
way to interact with other racers though, there are club areas around
the map in which you can meet up for some online racing too. There are
also diners where people can set certain challenges to be beaten, if you
beat them you can take their money. Test Drive also includes filters in
the excellent map area of the game which lets you just find your friends
online, it really is an excellent online component.
Graphics & Sound
While many people have been raving about the graphics in Test Drive Unlimited, I am on the fence, I really thing the speed is shown up on screen very well indeed, but I have to say that during races around the map I am a little disappointed in the way the cars look and also that most of the cars on the road apart from those of other players are the same ones shown over and over again. The game also suffers from a dodgy framerate when speeding along, this seems from what I can work out as a problem with players connecting to the map when you are driving though, as I had the game before it was fully released and the framerate was perfect before other gamers started to get into the map. The game does have a great feel of speed though and the range of great looking cars you can buy is excellent, they also nearly alll look excellent, both inside and out.
Sound is very good, the atmospheric sounds are all well done and when playing in 5.1 it is a joy to listen to. Test Drive also has a radio built into it so you can play tracks through the cars stereo, although I can't say that I enjoyed all that many of them, at least you can turn if off and play back your own songs via the dashboard.
I don't have too much to say in bad terms about Test Drive Unlimited, there are some problems though, mostly with the framerate when playing against a number of other online drivers and some parts in the game when I got stuck in scenery during a race and couldn't reverse out of it. In saying that though they will no doubt get fixed in the upcoming patch. Overall its a very good racing title and it is one of the few racing titles released on the 360 since launch that really stick in my mind as in trying something new. The online part of the game is excellent and it blends in so well with the whole overall package lets hope more racing games do the same.