Flashy sports cars, thousands of miles of beautiful roadway, seamless online play - the preview version of Test Drive Unlimited seems to have everything we'd want in a racing game, with one exception: Where's the excitement?
Maybe it comes when you meet up with other people online. That's TDU 's true purpose - using the Internet to create car clubs and a dynamic racing environment where anybody can race anybody else at any given time. But with only about 60% of Xbox 360 owners jacked in to Live, nearly half the players will wind up driving solo. In our single-player game, the Hawaiian island of Oahu felt sterile and lifeless. The cars you drive don't take damage, which isn't unexpected but still makes things feel inconsequential. When we rammed a bunch of computer-controlled cars to rile the cops, they did next to nothing. We didn't see a cruiser anywhere near, but after about 10 "accidents," a message merely popped up on the screen to tell us that we'd been fined $11,000. We thought we'd at least buy a high-speed chase for that.
Roads seem oddly empty; maybe that's accurate to Oahu traffic patterns, but it's not stimulating as a game experience. The car's stereo is turned down by default, which makes for a creepy, quiet experience (hit left on the directional-pad - of course! - to activate it and crank the tunes). The female GPS announcer is supposed to be soothing, but sounds politely comatose to us. Isn't anybody excited to be shattering the speed limit?