Test Drive Unlimited was a stunning and original next-generation online racing title. Its immersive and unique online component was flawlessly integrated into the single player experience. Unlimited returns, almost completely intact, and it’s not even on current high-end hardware.
This becomes one of the most impressive PlayStation 2 titles in the console’s history on a technical level. When online (through a rather long-winded process that requires the player to read the agreement every time they play), the player can have the option of taking on single player races or challenging other real people who race around in their game world. It’s handled so well you might not even notice you’re playing against other humans instead of AI opponents if it wasn’t for the need to track down opposition.
Those not online will still enjoy this as a fully licensed racer. You’ll earn credit for each race you win, which can be taken to a number of unlocked shops around the island. The design is smart in that you’ll need to explore to find everything available, and in turn, you’ll also discover more races and tracks. Free roaming is critical, and while the graphics are certainly a step down, the beauty of the island is well preserved along with a steady, consistent frame rate.
Technical changes, aside from the graphics, simply cause slightly choppier play that can be dealt with. Switching between the massive overworld map and diving back into gameplay creates a significant load time that is nowhere near as seamless as it should be. Elsewhere, such as moving into shops, is acceptable in terms of the delay.
Gameplay deletions are arguably for the better even though they deleted play types. You’ll no longer run escort challenges by meeting people on the side of the road. Given the virtual residents' annoying needs and limited time frame to complete the task, these were more of a distraction on the 360 than a real benefit to the overall product.
The shops now only stock cars, eliminating the touchy motorcycles which even after a patch, were nearly impossible to use on the other hardware. Police also seem more lenient, and given how passive they were previously, this means you’ll have to try to draw them out by causing some real havoc.
For a late release title on the hardware, Test Drive Unlimited is a showcase on how far the PlayStation 2 has come since its launch. It does it all, with a unique online aspect, superb graphics, and a fantastic game at its core. This is one of the best racing games you’ll find on the PS2, and given how much competition is available, that’s a statement that has a lot riding on it.
Test Drive Unlimited is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Language, Mild Violence. This game can also be found on: PC, Xbox 360.Powered by Sidelines