NOTE: The screenshots in this review are comparison shots of the same exact spots on Oahu, taken from (clockwise from top left): TDU1 on PS2, TDU2 on PS3, Google Maps Street-View, TDU1 on PC. Click to enlarge each image.
It's been a rough road so far for this title, and with first impressions being key with gamers prone to rent briefly to decide whether to buy, that launch window can be critical. Not only are the first few hours of the game completely underwhelming, there are technical hurdles thus far that bar entrance to some of the most promising features.
Having played the original Test Drive Unlimited on the PC and the PS2 and enjoying many aspects of each, I had pretty high expectations for this sequel; I was counting down the days till its release. Between the PC/360 and PS2 versions were really two different games with a few common themes. The former was a graphically stunning recreation of the Hawaiian island of Oahu that focused on the "driver lifestyle" as much as it did on the driving elements themselves. While I could have done without the Sims-like playing dress-up and buying real estate solely to increase your garage capacity, the sights and sounds of the PC version had me coming back again and again to tour this real-world destination that often had me alt-tabbing over to Google Maps to verify its authenticity. The PS2 version (developed by Melbourne House, not Eden) did away with the lion's share of the non-racing elements (but regrettably took motorcycles along with it) and took a hit graphically, but this seemed a necessary sacrifice to stream the island in full without any load times or interruptions on a system with relative hardware limitations. It was fun, first and foremost, and between earning "xp" every second simply for driving on the road and the GPS smartly always targeting the next nearest event, it was very hard to put down for a serious racing junkie, invoking so many "just one more event" moments that led to bleary-eyed late nights, one after another. I loved it.
Things I did NOT love were the weak soundtrack, though it did offer some variety and unexpected but fun public domain tracks like "Brandenburg Concerto," "Ride of the Valkyries," and "William Tell Overture." The PC version required (at the time) some fussing with video settings to get it to play smoothly, and mapping the controls to a proper dual analog controller was and still is a nightmare. So between that foible in the otherwise lovely PC version and the fun playability of the graphically inferior PS2 version, and not owning nor having any interest in buying a 360 for one game, there was no happy medium for me, until I heard TDU2 was on its way to the PS3.