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With top-notch racing franchises like Forza and Gran Turismo at our disposal, it's hard to believe that Test Drive Unlimited 2 can one-up the competition and provide gamers with new and inventive ways to satisfy their petrol instincts. Well, it does, but without the finesse needed for a great racing title.
The most encouraging feature of TDU2 is the way it blends its single-player career mode with online racing competitions and free roam exploration. Cruising aimlessly through the islands of Ibiza and Oahu may seem like a relaxing tropical vacation, but the environment keeps you engaged with four different skill boosting categories that pop up as you reach new locations. And what's even better is that these categories (collection, competition, social and discovery) are designed to support each aspect of the game's overall experience. Although single and multiplayer racing remains the focus, it's a nice break to complete photography assignments across the two islands and purchase additional garages to house the 101 cars available in the game.
TDU2's stunning day and night transitions lend support to an impressively detailed tropical environment, but the design is disconnected by hollow character models and lack-luster cut scenes. Driving into the sunset looks spectacular, but the game could have used less attention on grooming your precious avatar and more attention on the actual racing mechanics. However, immersing the player completely in the shoes of the driver is what Developer Eden Games sought to accomplish with this open-world racer and their attempt at doing so creates plenty of new activities but in the end delivers a sub-par racing experience.
At first, TDU2 presents itself as an accurate racing simulation, but once you peel back the layers you'll find an arcade racer with enough bells and whistles to consume more time bumming around town than racing fast cars. Even after you get a handle on the spotty controls, gripping corners and drifting through bends still feels unnatural and almost never looks graceful. Thankfully, the cars do offer a certain degree of variation between controls so once you've found the right vehicle the races start to feel more polished.
After blowing through the Solar Crown Championship story, it became clear that TDU2 could have benefited from a few extra months in development. We played through the PS3 version and noted several bugs with the network along with large loading times. Although these problems didn't distract us from enjoying the game, dropping connection during a race can cause extreme virtual road rage.
Despite TDU2's lack of realism and a force-fed story-mode, the game does provide an open-world experience that very few titles have succeeded with in the past. Exploring the rich roads of Ibiza and Oahu is an amazing feeling when driving some of the nicest cars in the world and being plugged into a competitive network of racers ready to speed down the coastline makes it even better.
Feb 24, 2011