Test Drive Unlimited Review
Test Drive Unlimited box art
System: X360 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Eden Studios 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Atari 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Sept 2006 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 - online 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
Review by Colin 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Test Drive Unlimited is a racing game the entire world can play – literally – all at the same time.
by Colin Thames

Test Drive Unlimited pushes the boundaries of gaming a step or two in the multi-player direction. It makes a great single-player game but it manages to blend in the multi-player aspect seamlessly so that it feels like one continuous, free-roaming adventure.

Test Drive Unlimited screenshot

Best described as a massive, online multi-player game with a persistent virtual world, Test Drive Unlimited seems more like an experiment gone right than a game that possesses magical qualities. It’s still a thrill to play but there are some voids that need filling that keep it from being amazing. For one, there really is no goal or motive to play this forever. There is a certain redundancy to the gameplay that will eventually bore the average gamer. Things could change depending on the level of input that online players will have but as it stands now it’s basically just a very interesting curiosity.

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There are three main elements to the gameplay: Racing, missions and leveling-up. Racing consists of standard street racing, time trials and speed racing. The missions are of the delivery variety. In one type of mission you will have to deliver illegal contraband from one location to another while avoiding the cops. In others you will have to drive characters such as models to and from their homes not unlike a taxi service. Other such missions include delivering the more expensive, luxury vehicles such as an Aston Martin, Mercedes or Lamborghini, to the dealership or to a repair facility for servicing. Of course once you drive one of these babies you’re going to want one of your own. When your Volkswagen just doesn’t cut it, then it’s time to upgrade. You do this by performing missions, taking part in races, selling vehicles and ultimately leveling-up your abilities through the acquisition of money and the collecting of experience points.

Test Drive Unlimited screenshot

Taking place on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the environment is huge. There are literally hundreds of streets to traverse in the city. On the outskirts you can enjoy courses with steep, winding roads that will challenge even the most experienced racers. But since this is Hawaii, you can set your own pace. There is no storyline and no particular objectives to fulfill, until you accept a specific mission. If you just want to drive around and enjoy the scenery, that’s your prerogative. Here you will see other online players driving around doing likewise. But if you aspire to have more material goods such as a awesome crib and a couple of Ferraris in your four-car garage, then you’re going to need some money and the way to get it is to race or undertake missions.

While driving around the island you will see a small number of icons on the map that will allow you to enter into races or missions. The more of these you take part in, the more will open up throughout the map. To access all of them, you have to drive through the neighborhoods where these icons are located. It’s a great way to explore the island since you have to explore it if you want to find these missions to get ahead. At any given time you can enter into a multi-player style race just by clicking on one of the icons. You can look for ranked matches so that you’ll be racing against players with similar skills. Near the beginning of the game you’ll start with lightweight licensed vehicles such as Volkswagens, Chevys and Chryslers, eventually upgrading. You can sell your old vehicles to other online players and likewise, you can purchase used vehicles from other players which might be more affordable than buying them new. Availability will all depend on the population of the online community and their participation.

Test Drive Unlimited screenshot

In order to enter some races certain classes of cars will be required before you can participate. If you can’t afford such a vehicle at that time you can always rent one. They aren’t very expensive and you can rent them for as long as the race takes. Of course if you’re not a very skilled racer this expense will chip away at your bank account until you wind up in the poor house. On the other hand, if you start doing well in races and missions, you will be able to afford a nice house with a garage large enough to accommodate your collection of vehicles and motorcycles. You can spend the rest of your dough on superfluous accessories such as hip clothes, sunglasses and the like. Another way that you can make more money is to create custom races and invite others to take part in them. You set the rules, the course and the payout. If you get a lot of participants, you can make some extra money.

Unlike the title, some things are not unlimited. Although the entire world could be playing Test Drive at any given time, you will only be allowed to race with seven other players. For the most part that is enough but it’s certainly not unlimited. While free roaming around the island you will come into contact with other online players also riding around. By flashing your headlights at them you invite them into a race. They can accept or decline. The same offers will also be made to you from time to time. There isn’t an offline multi-player mode so you can’t play with your friends in your home. You’ll have to meet them online but in the lounge there is a buddy list so you can all find each other easily enough.

The cars control very well although they are suseptable to random spin-outs. At first the vehicles move like bricks on blackboard but as you upgrade into higher classes they control more like a brick on black ice. They are responsive and display a realistic sense of physics, albeit a little on the arcade side. The island is incredible looking with diverse street scenes including vehicular and pedestrian traffic not to mention a bevy of diverse storefront businesses in the downtown area. The vehicles look like high-res showroom brochures come to life. They sparkle, gleam and reflect light with what looks like incredibly polished paint jobs. The cars also sound as good as they look with roaring and whining engines and appropriate tire squeals and crash sound effects. The soundtrack is rocking but once again, it’s not unlimited and you’ll start to hear repeats after a few hours.

Test Drive Unlimited screenshot

Despite what sounds like redundant gameplay, there is plenty to do in this game. Eventually it will get boring depending on your attention span but it’s guaranteed to give you many solid hours of entertainment. There is also the added aspect that the game may eventually be improved upon with more courses, races, cars and so forth. You may wind up getting more out of this game in the future than you did when you first played it. For the money I would say that Test Drive Unlimited is a good gaming investment for racing fans.

Features:

  • Test Drive Unlimited is redefining the racing genre online with M.O.O.R.: Massively Open Online Racing. It is the only game that allows for literally thousands of gamers to play within the same game world simultaneously. The seamless online connection offers unlimited new challenges, opponents and competitions as well as monthly additions of vehicles, aftermarket parts, clothes and apparel.
  • More than 90 licensed vehicles from exclusive manufacturers including Lamborghini, Ducati, Aston Martin, Mercedes, Saleen, Shelby, and Jaguar.
  • Realistic cars and bikes: Amazing render quality and unrivalled interior details including full car functions such as radio, electric windows, horn, wipers and more.
  • Personalization: Upgrade each car or bike with options from the actual manufacturers’ catalog. Players create characters, buy new homes and garages, and tune and upgrade vehicles with aftermarket parts.
  • Create challenges or races from more than 50 game rules and settings. Upload your created challenges online to become part of the player community.
  • A gathering of communities: Players can create or join a club to talk, chat, trade, race or organize club-based competitions and tournaments.
  • Simplified match making and division based rankings make this game the most comprehensive and accessible online racing experience.

    By Colin Thames
    CCC Freelance Writer

    Rating out of 5
    Rating Description

    4.8

    Graphics
    The vehicles look like they just came out of a showroom. The Island of Oahu looks like a travel brochure come to life.

    4.0

    Control
    The controls are responsive and a little on the arcade side. The more money you spend the better the vehicles handle.

    3.9

    Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
    The cars sound as good as they look, from the purr of the engine to the squeals of the tires. The music rocks but the bands are generic.

    4.5

    Play Value
    You can't go wrong with a persistent, massive, online multi-player racing game.

    4.1

    Overall Rating - Great
    Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
  • Preview

    Unlimited is a great word, especially when it precedes "All you can eat". But I digress. The Eden Software team are currently hoping to give racing fans the epitome of Unlimited when their new Test Drive game burns rubber onto the Xbox 360 later this year.

    The Test Drive franchise has been spotty at best. Some games were fun; others were quality resistant if you know what I mean. Eden is hoping to change all that and make you forget Test Drive's 1-3, 5, 7 and maybe 8. I actually can't remember if there was a Test Drive 8. Probably.

    When you see Test Drive Unlimited in action it's very easy to be impressed; but remember with next gen hardware that's almost a given, right? Even still this game looks freakin' sweet as Mr. Griffen would say. Not only are the car models fantastic but minute details like building architecture and trees are beautifully rendered.

    Once you get lift your jaw off the floor, you'll get around to thinking "But what sets this game apart from other racing games?" Good question. Eden's outrageous plan is to allow players infinite or "unlimited" freedom in terms of racing. They set the game on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and used GPS technology to realistically map 1000 miles of highways and roads to race on. In total the game island is 596 square miles. Next they decided that they would allow thousands of online gamers to explore the island at their leisure and give them the power to create races when they bumped into another driver. Using a map editor, Eden was able to create a race quite rapidly that would give you and some friends literally hours of playtime. Sounds like the "unlimited" aspect is really coming into play.

    We're pumped to hear that Eden is aggressively pursuing manufacturers like Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ducati and hope to feature over 125 realworld vehicles in the final product. As has been the norm for the Test Drive series, which has shunned realism in favor of arcade physics and handling, we're almost positive that the game won't feature realtime damage, as manufacturers whom license their vehicles for use prefer to keep them looking pristine at all times.

    Having never been a huge fan of the series, I'm certainly more than willing to give it one more chance, especially if Eden delivers on their promise. We'll keep you posted right here!

    Press:

    Test Drive Unlimited is the ultimate automotive experience for car and bike enthusiasts alike. Visit the most sophisticated car and bike dealers to purchase new vehicles or simply take them for a spin. Collect and trade rare performance parts and customize each vehicle to make it one-of-a-kind. Test Drive Unlimited challenges players online to experience the most exotic and fastest vehicles on more than 1000 miles of diverse Hawaiian roads. Gamers win races, challenges, missions and tournaments to earn credits and purchase new cars, bikes, rare performance parts, clothes, apparel, homes and garages.

    Features:

    • Test Drive Unlimited is redefining the racing genre online. The seamless online connection offers unlimited new challenges, opponents and competitions as well as monthly additions of vehicles, aftermarket parts, clothes and apparel
    • More than 125 licensed vehicles from exclusive manufacturers including Lamborghini, Ducati, Aston Martin, Mercedes, Saleen, Shelby, and Jaguar
    • Realistic cars and bikes: Amazing render quality and unrivalled interior details including full car functions such as radio, electric windows, horn, wipers and more
    • Personalization: Upgrade each car or bike with options from the actual manufacturers’ catalog. Players create characters, buy new homes and garages, and tune and upgrade vehicles with aftermarket parts
    • Create challenges or races from more than 50 game rules and settings. Upload your created challenges online to become part of the player community
    • A gathering of communities: Players can create or join a club to talk, chat, trade, race or organize club-based competitions and tournaments
    • Simplified match making and division based rankings make this game the most comprehensive and accessible online racing experience

    Screenshots / Images
    Test Drive Unlimited screenshot – click to enlarge Test Drive Unlimited screenshot – click to enlarge Test Drive Unlimited screenshot – click to enlarge Test Drive Unlimited screenshot – click to enlarge Test Drive Unlimited screenshot – click to enlarge Test Drive Unlimited screenshot – click to enlarge Test Drive Unlimited screenshot – click to enlarge Test Drive Unlimited screenshot – click to enlarge

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