STAFF REVIEW of Test Drive Unlimited 2 (Xbox 360)

Friday, March 18, 2011.
by Gail Countaway

Test Drive Unlimited 2 Box art Test Drive Unlimited 2 is the sequel to the original, Test Drive Unlimited. The story takes place on the island of Ibiza where you, the main character, are just a mere valet trying to make a buck. You live in a trailer with literally nothing, but that all changes when an opportunity you can't resist falls into your lap. As the main story continues, you have the chance to gain fame and fortune as a champion racer and live the lifestyle as such, but It's all up to you how you get there. The single player campaign, which almost seems non-existent, allows you to make all of the decisions. Some of the decisions you make will vary from where you live to what car you drive, what side missions you choose and how you make your money. Along the way, you will meet some very exciting people who will offer up some rather tough challenges, but be prepared, because in order to compete you must obtain the required drivers licenses. From classic cars, to street cars to even off road there are many challenges ahead. Let's take a test drive through the pros and cons of this MMO arcade style racer from Atari!!!

As you drive through the streets of Ibiza, you have the option to do so in free ride mode which allows you to drive around the island and discover all that you can, from iconic landmarks, wrecked vehicles and more. As you find these small treasures you get discovery points and are introduced to the multi-tiered leveling system, which helps in leveling you up and unlocking things you weren't able to access before. As well, you will have the ability to do side missions where people ask you to do jobs for them and in turn they will reward you with cash providing you fulfill their needs, and as well you will earn bonuses which will aid in leveling you up.

While driving around the island, however, you will notice that there is no sign of life at all, in fact the island seems pretty much dead. You don't see people walking around, or the shops being populated like in GTA and aside from the occasional car or two that you will pass along the way there isn't much else but the scenery. The cities are laid out nicely but that's irrelevant seeing as how you can only access 1 or 2 things at most in any given area. The roads look copied and have no texture and the trees and the grass look painted on. The shops and buildings look generic and the cars are recognizable at best, so when comparing this game to something like Forza, this games graphics are a joke.

In TDU2 you will get a very limited and poor audio experience. While in your car, you have the option to turn on the radio and listen to music as you cruise through the quiet streets. The TDU2 soundtrack features only 2 choices for radio stations. By pressing right on the directional pad you can choose to listen to one music station called "Road Rock" which we can only describe as "rock" and then there is a second station called "Hariba Radio" which can only be described as "everything else". Each station has a rather humorous set of commercials, but both are still very generic and eventually become repetitive and so the only other option, at this point is to turn it off and listen to the sounds of the game that surround you.

While each car in the game has a different sound, each car's sound is only a little bit different from the next and when compared to what these cars actually sound like in real life, Atari has fallen a little short in this area. The dialogue, although there is barely any, is some of the worst in game dialogue you will ever listen to and becomes quite tiresome and boring and again at times is repetitive. Make sure you have a custom music play list saved on your console because you will not want to hear one moment of this game.

The game play mechanics of this arcade style racer take a little getting used to. While you can easily take your Bugatti down a straight highway and reach speeds of 250+ mph, slowing down or making turns at even the slowest of speeds may seem impossible. The cars themselves seem as though they are being weighted down but for some cars, the slightest touch of your stick can send your car in a tailspin and completely out of control.

Another one of TDU2's big failures with the gameplay is the infamous invisible object collision which is when you will be driving down a highway, then out of nowhere your car will randomly hit something invisible that will send you on a wild crash. Another frustrating failure of this game is the start of your races. All of the cars line up and get ready for the green light, when it says go you hit the gas, and nothing happens. You will then be mesmerized at your car sitting there for three to five seconds just revving its engine as you watch your competition appear out of thin air in front of you leaving you in the dust.

Overall, things seem to be a little uneven and Atari could have spent a little more time on the mechanics of the vehicles rather than the size of the maps, the roads or whether or not the windows and turn signals work (cuz honestly, who uses a turn signal in a racing game, are you serious?) and made this game a much more enjoyable adventure for the hardcore racer, but as it turns out this games focus is more toward a wide variety of players.

Accessing other various stops such as shops, your house and even the casino is made easy. Provided you have the roads to these places discovered you can easily pull up your map and through the various menus and fast travel to your destination. The menus are laid out perfectly making it a breeze to keep track of your progress as you go on. Two thumbs up Atari, you did something right!!!

Another major, and might I add, fun aspect of this game is the multi-player option. While driving around in free ride mode you will also discover some areas that allow you to join and even partner up with some of your fellow gamers. The multi-player mode, which has proven nothing but buggy so far, has a lot to offer to those that are more social and enjoy good competition. To help with leveling up and earning money, You can create your own challenges in the community challenge center. You can challenge a fellow racer by simply getting close to his/her vehicle and pressing the "A" button, or you can try the many different multi-player modes made available to you such as police chase, follow the leader and more.

You can also join a friend in his/her vehicle and act as a navigator telling your friend where and when to turn, the only downfall with this option is you do not have access to your map, so unless you know your way around it will seem as though you are driving around aimlessly. The clubs are another major part of the MP experience and in this mode you will be able to have up to 8 players in a session to race against, however, so far this feature appears to be broken which leaves a lot to be desired by the gamer.

Casino mode also has a lot to offer but again proves to be nothing but buggy. You may be in the middle of a poker tourney and get booted for no reason at all or you may not even be able to join. So you're sitting there thinking "Wow this is awesome, I'm gonna invite my friends to a sit and go tourney and have a blast taking all their money". Wrong. While this sounds like a fun and exciting idea, this option so far is also broken.

So as we have discussed, TDU2 has a lot of potential however, we can't let you hit the streets without letting you know about this games faults. We have already touched on a couple but there are more that end up making what should be a great game, a poor game. The biggest failure of TDU2 is the random game save corruption that happens for no reason at all. You could be at level 50 and when you load up your game you run the risk of having a corrupted save which forces you to start your career from the beginning.

Another thing to consider regarding the bugs in the casino is every time you enter or play any game you run the risk of having all of your chips erased. This game is far from perfect and Atari has published a title that offers game breaking bugs left and right, taking the fun out of the multi-player game play by locking or limiting various MP and co-op events.

While this game has its faults the options and choices made available to you are endless. Leaving you coming back for more as you unlock, level up and race your way to the top. And although there may be some things that are more appealing to others this game has something to offer everyone! And just think, once you get through with Ibiza, you get to fly back to Hawaii where it all started, and do it all over again providing your game save doesn't corrupt and you have nerves of steel. Drivers beware!

Don't release a broken product or cut corners to make a deadline.

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.5 / 10
Visuals: 5.0 / 10
Sound: 3.5 / 10


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