|System: PC, Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Eden Games|
|Release: February 8, 2011|
|Players: 1, 2-12 (online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||lyrics, mildly suggestive themes, simulated gambling|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
It has been a long time since the original Test Drive: Unlimited graced home consoles, but fans of the automotive genre have definitely not forgotten Test Drive's unique approach to a genre that is constantly looking for ways to reinvent itself. The social gaming elements of Test Drive Unlimited catapulted it to cult status among automotive gaming enthusiasts. However, due to some poor design choices, an at-times wobbly online experience, and handling that couldn't decide whether it was simulation or arcade-based, the series never quite got the respect that other, more prominent automotive titles were able to produce. Fortunately, all of these issues have been addressed in Test Drive: Unlimited 2.
However, this follow-up is more than just an improved version of its predecessor. Though the overall format will be familiar to fans of the original, the game takes an ambitious approach to its social gaming component and turns Test Drive into an almost RPG-like experience. When the game begins, the player chooses one of several pre-made personas to be his main character, and progresses through a quick tutorial that introduces him to the basics of the game's new progression system. He is then thrust into a paint-by-numbers story mode where he is chosen by a rich person for whom he valets to compete in a high-stakes contest. Unique, right? But bad story aside (who really cares about story in an automotive game anyways?), the game goes on to introduce you to a brand new four-pronged system that encourages you to level up your character's stats by winning challenges, beefing up your garage, competing in social events, and discovering new areas.
The new progression system is compelling, and participating in all kinds of events to max out different stats is a rewarding experience. Much like the original, Test Drive: Unlimited 2 features a huge open world with plenty of areas off the beaten path to explore, and it is hard not to get lost in the game's version of the tropical paradise of Ibiza. And although the game initially limits your discovery by clumping together challenges, you'll open up new areas to explore as you progress. The discovery element of the progression system is certainly one that I took particular pride in leveling up, and I was continuously amazed by how vast the in-game world was.
Naturally, this massive world translates nicely into an online experience. The free-riding mode is back in Test Drive: Unlimited 2, and while the drop-in/drop-out structure can be a bit frustrating if you have a specific goal in mind, there is plenty of potential for fun in this mode if you have an online posse you can get together. Of course, if you like your online experience more straightforward, Test Drive: Unlimited 2 also has several lobby-based online modes that allow you to get a quick fix of online play without the commitment that the free-riding mode involves.