The NPC character models are nothing to write home about, either. They look like mannequins. I went to a car wash just to see what $1500 would get me there, and frightening "ladies" in short shorts and bikinis came out and tried to arouse me from the driver's seat perspective by undulating awkwardly and doing a charade of cleaning the car that they never actually made contact with. Waste of money. The blocky models in the strip clubs of GTA: San Andreas were more titillating.
Also missing this time around are specific, named identifiers for different neighborhoods, towns, and regions of the island that were featured prominently in the first game. You knew when you got to Pearl Harbor because it said so. In TDU2, the islands are simply divided into numbered regions. I thought they might at least preserve the locations for Oahu for the virtual tourist in me since they were all laid out before, but that was thrown out for the sequel. The mini-map in TDU2 eschews the satellite footage overlay for a bland wireframe, streets-only view. Also be prepared at least a couple times an hour to come to a sudden an unexpected halt while driving along. I don't know what exactly causes this, as I see nothing to have collided with, but still inexplicably either spin out or stop dead in my tracks once in a while.
Now, the leveling elements in the game are based on Competition, Discovery, Collection, and Social achievements. Competition points are the easiest to attain since you just have to win races and beat events to get points here. Discovery isn't that difficult, but it can be time consuming, including driving down all the roads in the game, finding wrecked cars, and so on. At least roads you've already traveled remain highlighted on the map so you don't spend a lot of time hunting for that one stray stretch of highway you missed in a region. Collection and Social are somewhat more tedious if you're not into playing The Sims during a racing game. This includes collecting hair cuts, clothing, houses, taking specific pictures within the game, gambling, and other things that have nothing to do with driving. Social points are earned from interacting with other players, having a pre-set number of friends playing the game, attending gatherings at clubs in the game, and the like. The problem is that certain events don't unlock until you've reached a particular level, and you can't reach max level without gathering ALL of these different types of experience. I was able to make it back to Hawaii solely on Challenges and Exploration, but I have a funny feeling I'll never get above level 30 (max is 60). My first haircut experience in the game was grating enough on its own, but the fact that the stylist NPC standing next to me WOULD NOT SHUT UP the entire time (see: terrible voice acting) made me never want to get groomed ever again. Ever.