Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Test Drive Unlimited (PS2 Version)

John Marine | 10/05/2010 09:52:00 PM | | | | |
A racing game MUST be good if it's "the most important leap in racing game design since Gran Turismo." Test Drive Unlimited for the PS2 may not be as in-depth as the XBOX 360 and PC counterparts, but don't let this be a deal breaker for you. Test Drive Unlimited is one of the most immersive racing games I've EVER played. It is a wonderful title for so many reasons. Through this blog entry, I'll be sure to explain as much as I can about the PS2 version of this game.





--- Test Drive Unlimited at a Glance ---
If I can't find decent box art images to use, I'll just use in-game pictures. So here you go:
Test Drive Unlimited (PS2 Version)
^ from: tgdaily.com (best picture I could find- either this or nothing) - Test Drive Unlimited (PlayStation 2 version).

Test Drive Unlimited was a game released in 2006. The game literally lets you rule the streets and highways of Oahu Island. This paradise is yours to buy cars and enjoy racing. This game, however, is MUCH more than buying cars and going racing. You can buy houses to store more cars. You can purchase upgrade packages to enhance the performance of your car.

The PS2 version does not have features like buying clothes, buying certain cars, no custom paint options, and there are NO motorcycles in this game. I think it also lacks other kinds of events to take part in the game. These are some of the many things you can't do with the PS2 version of this game (which I am discussing in this blog entry).

The kinds of races and cars you have access to depends on your Master Points. Simply driving fast boosts your Master Points. You earn more Master Points by performing drifts, entering slipstream battles in races, and flying off of ramps and hills. There are five different levels for you to reach in getting up the leader ranks. The higher ranking events are harder and longer. You will also be able to access much more powerful cars in addition.

This island is basically yours to go explore in your car. However, you need to remember that this is not some illegal street racing game. The cops WILL pursue you if you drive too reckless. Ramming into cars or driving too fast down highways will mean that you will be chased down by the cops.



--- Elements of Racing Games: Test Drive Unlimited ---
To get you interested in Test Drive Unlimited, allow me to go through a few talking points.

House Buying.

Across Oahu, you will have the ability to purchase houses. These houses are good for storing multiple cars. Smaller houses can hold a a maximum of four cars while the largest houses hold ten cars. Just like you could in real life, you can own more than one house in Test Drive Unlimited. The importance of having multiple houses is in being able to store more cars. Each house a Realtor offers allows you to buy, exchange, or sell homes. You can go on a Virtual Tour of each house in the game. You can check out the Exterior, the Garage, and the Living Room. You will not be able to adjust any options about how the house looks, but you do get to have places to store your cars. The Exterior view shows you the house as it is on the outside. A full 360° view of the house is shown in this tour. The Garage shows you how the Garage looks. This is where you can envision what it would be like to place your cars in that house. It shows just two different angles of the garage. Finally, the Living Room lets you see what the living room looks like. Your living room is what shows up first when starting or resuming a game. Two angles showcase the room that you're in.

There are two ways to purchase a house- either find one at a Realtor, or find a house for sale as you drive around Oahu Island. Each Realtor will allow you to purchase a house based on whatever properties they offer. All the houses cover various parts of Oahu. You have the ability to sell houses or trade houses to knock off the price a bit of more expensive houses. If you intend on getting multiple cars to own and use, you'll need at least three houses. If you keep buying more cars than you have room to store them, you may have to end up selling prize cars for cash. So buy houses as your collection of cars increases. It doesn't matter where your bought houses are on the island- just look for more storage for your cars.

You can exchange houses, which allows you to take all of your cars from one house and move them to another. In the process, the price of the house you are exchanging for has its price knocked off. Still make sure to have sufficient funds to make the exchange happen. Also, it's dumb to go from a big garage house to exchange for a small house, so ABSOLUTELY AVOID THIS!

You can sell your houses if you're looking for more money. The cars you have at them, however, may all be gone unless you have a good enough other house to store your cars in.

ANALYSIS: This setup allows you to store as many cars as you like. The important thing to remember is that when you start getting more cars, you'll need to buy more homes to put them in. I recommend you try to exchange houses ONLY when you don't want to get rid of any of your original cars. Otherwise, look for other houses to store your cars. What makes this method different from the Gran Turismo series? Well, Gran Turismo has a nearly endless garage for storing your cars. This one is more realistic as you can have a proper garage and be able to see all of your cars as they are. Something you may notice is that some houses look the same and have some of the same rooms. Don't worry about this too much.

The best thing of all- you don't have to worry about paying any bills! That's the beauty of gaming- regardless of any economic situation, you don't have to deal with real-world situations. So don't worry about some housing market- just buy a house in the game and be happy!


Car Buying.

Where do I start? Test Drive Unlimited features the BEST car-buying experience of any racing game I've EVER played. There are multiple car dealers spread across Oahu. In addition, there are many other places where you can simply rent cars. Showrooms can have anywhere between just one car to up to four. Without even wanting to buy a car, you are free to inspect each car by pressing R1. You are free to play-test various features of each car in a lot or in your garage. You know... open the doors, let the windows down or up, even sit in the car and look around. You may arrange to have a Test Drive, allowing you two minutes with a certain car. Of course, you can cancel your test drive at any time and return to the dealer. This provides the most amazing experience in any racing game.

Let's begin with Showrooms. There are two kinds of showrooms- showrooms of specific manufacturers and showrooms offering a certain category of car. The categories of car range from nationalities of car to certain eras of car. For example, British Independents specialize in British cars and only features British cars. Remember that you are free to inspect ANY car in any showroom... even if you can't afford the car or if you haven't completed certain objectives to win that car. When you're ready to buy a car, this is where the fun begins! Not all options are available to you to customize, but options on wheels, paint, and interior are all available to you. You are able to have your own car for those that allow such options. With some cars, certain options you select can impact any paint or interior options. Wheels let you determine what kind of wheels you want for your car. Paint allows you to pick a certain base color for your car. Interior lets you pick out the interior colors for the inside of your car. It is recommended to look around to see what makes each car's interior different. All that remains now is to pay for the car and enjoy your new ride!

When you visit a Car Rental lot, there are only so many cars for you to purchase at a time. You are allowed two denominations of rental time- 30 minutes and 60 minutes. The option to rent a car entitles you to use that car in races and just to drive around the island. This is good if you want to race some of the more powerful cars early on in case you get bored quick with the less powerful cars. There are a few things to keep in mind- YOU DON'T OWN A RENTED CAR! So therefore, you are unable to change the car's colors or upgrade the car's performance. And of course... make sure to return the car when you're done. :)

ANALYSIS: The game allows you a great way to enjoy cars in this game. You can enjoy racing by renting cars or owning your own. Owning a car entitles you to modify its performance with performance packages and to change any exterior colors. The key word for cars is RACING. The showroom experience is exceptional, perhaps one of the best experiences in any racing game. It even influenced me to question the Gran Turismo series' showroom displays.


Aftermarket.

Give your car a performance boost by going to an Aftermarket shop. The process can be tricky, though. There are two things you must keep in mind before upgrading any car. The first thing to consider is that aftermarket shops only cater to certain vehicles. While this is realistic, it may be annoying if you're trying to purchase upgrades for your specific manufacturer's car. So you may have to drive around Oahu to find the right aftermarket tuner for your car. The second thing to consider- some performance upgrades boost the class level of your car. While it may sound like something significant, it may disqualify your car's chances of competing in certain races based on the class level of cars. So upgrade cautiously based on the specific requirements for each event. There are as many as three different upgrade packages for each car. The upgrades only upgrade the performance characteristics of each car. You have no control over fine-tuning each car, so what you're buying is an all-around upgrade package that makes your car much better than stock.

ANALYSIS: This game does not allow for detailed manipulation of your cars, so buying upgrade packages seems highly unrealistic. Especially if you are a Gran Turismo or Forza type, your options are severely unfulfilling in modifying cars in their most intricate details.



--- Test Drive Unlimited: Racing Action ---
NOTE: I have NEVER played this game online, so I will be unable to discuss online play.

You basically own the island. So feel free to go race in any number of events across Oahu. [At least] The PS2 version has three types of events- Time, Speed, and Race. Depending on how many Master Points you have, you may only be able to race in certain races. Only a certain number of races will be available to you based on the amount of Master Points you have. As you progress through the game and get more Master Points, harder and longer races await you. You go from races that go around short courses a few miles in length to courses that are very long... even one Master-level race that is as long as 103.6 miles!

Time events require you to complete a time trial in the quickest time possible.

In Speed races, your job is to clear the course in the fastest time while posting the fastest time at each speed trap. If you go off the road, penalties will be added to your run. So stay on the road as much as you can while performing your runs.

Race events range from closed-circuit and open-circuit events. They are divided up ranging on classes and difficulty level. Harder races are longer with more powerful cars. You can make the most money from races by racing in Hard difficulty. Difficulty level only affects the quality of the opposition you race against. To get the best edge, get the highest upgrade for your car and make sure your car is within specification of the race or series.

You may have to enter certain race series for some of the various events.



--- Test Drive Unlimited: Clubs ---
Spread across Oahu are various clubs. These clubs give you a chance to enjoy racing against others and representing clubs. Various clubs are devoted to certain classes of car, kinds of car, or anything like that. The job of each club is to go from the lower ranks to being president of the club. Each race is a one-on-one point-to-point race held in random parts of Oahu. First to the finish wins. When one member of the club is defeated in a race, you go on to all the others until you become president of the club. You receive various bonuses for your work, usually an upgrade package sold for free or a new car. Make sure to explore Oahu to find as many things as possible around the island. Seek things like car clubs, car dealers, houses, and more. Finding these things can be helpful for when you want to properly access certain parts of the island quickly.



--- Test Drive Unlimited: Tips ---
It is now time for me to recommend you some things.

* Literally explore the island. There are miles and miles of road for you to use and utilize. If you want to able to access certain parts of the island quickly, you'll need to access certain points of the island. This game takes you all around Oahu Island and through various cities (including beautiful Honolulu). You will need to access the various icons to quickly access other parts of the island to take part in races and other things. Also, it's also good to just drive around the island to get a feel for what roads and highways this game has to offer. There are even some locations that may not have their own race, but make for great roads to race on. For example, there are some twisty roads that make a great touge stage on Oahu. So have some fun here!

* Turn off the Auto GPS to cruise without distractions. The Auto GPS feature quickly links you to race events you to take part in. You can access the map quickly (by pressing Select) and even set certain points you want to access. You can still race in events and purchase things, but it isn't required for you to always seek race events. So when you just want to cruise and enjoy your car, disable Auto GPS.

* Stay on the road! You only gain Master Points when you're on the road. Some races even have penalties if you go off road for too long. You will be disqualified if you leave the road for too long in some races and events. So make sure to stay on the road as much as you can.

* If being pursued by police, going off-road can help. The police will NOT chase you if you're far off-road. You may be able to access any other road by going off-road and finding the first available road to you away from the police. The police will back off when either they can't keep up with you or if you drive smarter on the road.

* Learn on-the-fly when doing club races. The reason why I put this in is because events set up by car clubs are completely random. This even includes driving on roads that go in the wrong direction! You'll need to avoid oncoming traffic as well as stay on the road. It may be unfair to be in some of these races, but it isn't impossible to win these races.

* Take advantage of test drives and rentals. Especially early on, give yourself a chance to be adjusted with cars. You can basically play-test any car in the game. Why not take advantage of this to adjust yourself to the various cars in the game? If going with rental cars, don't pay for more time than you'd like to in using the cars. If you're not going to use a rental car for 60 minutes, don't pay for 60 minutes with a car.

* Exchange houses early on. You have enough money to get a 100,000 Credit house when starting out. Once money starts rolling in and you want to go bigger and better, exchange your first house for a bigger and better place. The cars you own will go with you to your new house. Keep saving up money to seek better houses.

* Upgrade your car to better your chances in harder races. Purchase the best upgrade package to gain the edge in races. Be warned that some upgrades boost your car's class level. So if this is the case, cautiously upgrade your car so that you don't have to buy a new car or disqualify your car for a certain event.

* Unlocked/Earned cars can be bought again. You will be able to buy any car that you win as a prize. So if you earn a car but don't have enough garage space, you can always buy that car in the future. So it's not like in Gran Turismo games where a certain car can only be won once and can't be bought again.

* New clubs and races become available when purchasing certain cars. For example, if you purchase a luxury car, you will be invited to compete in a club devoted to luxury cars. Take advantage of these opportunties to continually enjoy racing in a variety of cars.

* Showrooms you can't access? Because there are some things the PS2 version doesn't have in the game (like motorcycles or certain car companies), you MIGHT find what looks like basic car showrooms... except that you can't access them! There's nothing you can do about these except move on.



--- Test Drive Unlimited: Review ---
Now it's time for my commentary piece encapsulating my review of Test Drive Unlimited for the PS2.

To say the least, Test Drive Unlimited is the most immersive racing game I've ever played. For a game that isn't about Gran Turismo-style pure racing, Test Drive Unlimited really makes you live in a certain space. You instantly feel connected once you start competing in races. Oahu is featured beautifully and with a lot of items for you to access. Even when you go into the Map view, the zoom-out is beautifully done. It makes you feel like the entire island is rendered for you beautifully. The cars all sound and look amazing. Interior views are spectacularly detailed. Even without features found in the XBOX 360 and PC versions of Test Drive Unlimited, the PS2 version is absolutely no slouch. While I am not an online gamer, I'm sure online play is even solid. The game asks if you want to go online even when you start a new game or resume a saved game. Don't have to go online, but the replay value is immense for a game like this. There is honestly nothing you are unable to do with this game. There are few disappointments, if any. This is an open-world style of game for car fans. The driving is pretty good as well. Test Drive Unlimited is an arcadish racing game, but the driving dynamics are very realistic. It doesn't feel as arcadish to where certain performance figures are vastly exaggerated, though. If you're a racing fan and/or a car fan, you should have this game in your PS2 lineup.

The only disappointing elements is that there are a number of cars and car companies absent, no motorcycle racing, no clothing options, or anything like that. Still, the game is still worth playing. Oh, and there's no damage either. It is still a fantastic game.





I thank you for reading my blog entry on Test Drive Unlimited for the PS2. If you enjoyed my review and want to purchase this game, I have this Amazon link for you to buy this game on Amazon. Buy Test Drive Unlimited for the PS2 (or for any other system) here:







--- Off-Topic: Test Drive Unlimited 2 Preview ---
Before I go, here's a bonus section I wanted to add. I learned a little more about Test Drive Unlimited 2. TDU took you around Oahu. Apparently in TDU2, it takes you around not only Oahu, but also Ibiza. Yes- Ibiza as in the beautiful Balearic island... that's world-famous for its night parties.

It seems like elements such as customizing yourself, your house, your cars, and more can be done in this game. You can even board flights to go around both Oahu and Ibiza. You can even get out of your car and interact with others. I think I read you can even buy yachts. This is a game I surely want to get for when I get a PlayStation 3.

To learn more about Test Drive Unlimited 2, visit www.testdriveunlimited2.com, or check out this trailer:


^ courtesy of Machinima; the song is "Ghetto Burnin'" by Phonat





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