Test Drive Unlimited - Hands-on

Pulling out onto the roughly paved boulevard, the soft purr of the V8 engine thrums like a caged panther. Sunlight glints off the hood of the torch-red Ford Shelby Mustang igniting a corner of the windshield with a dazzling lens flare. Gunning the engine with a tap of the gas pedal, a canary yellow Lotus Exige surges into view - you hit him with the headlamps and the race is on.

Test Drive Unlimited seeks to sweep car nuts into an entirely new realm of exotic automobile fantasy. This game focuses on more than the beloved racing elements we've come to expect from games of its type. It's about style, in addition to skill.

You begin by purchasing a home on the island of Kauai, where you lounge and store your hard-earned sweet rides (after you've earned them, that is). Once you've got your digs established, it's time to customize your appearance in detail that would make games based on character creation (like The Sims) weep fat, jade tears of envy. Swaddle your digital self in the latest fashions from Marc Ecko and Ben Sherman to ensure that your character looks as fly as your vehicle.

A nearly flawless replication of the island paradise of Kauai begs racers to exploit its every curve and straightaway. Even though there are still some months before this title screeches onto store shelves, the luxuriant environment of Hawaii's jewel already pampers the eyes with the vivid greens of the forest and crystal blues of the ocean.