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Test Drive: Unlimited Review

Written by Tonya Monroe

This is a review for an older game I bought cheap to get a feel for the sequel coming out in February 2011. I’ll be reviewing Test Drive: Unlimited.

Graphics: 8/10

I don’t really care about graphics. Aside from early FPS computer games such as Nova Logic’s: Delta Force and Joint Operations games, I haven’t really played a game with graphics so bad that it makes my eyes hurt. The graphics on this game are still really amazing for being 4 or 5 years old, though I am playing on a HD television.

Sound: 7/10

I really like my radio options. I like the fact that I can choose the classical station and cruise down the road going 100 mph while Tchaikovsky or Beethoven plays. Or the classic rock and regular rock stations. I don’t appreciate when some race games stick techno and rap into their continuous loop for a single soundtrack, as the only option is to turn it off or uncheck boxes leaving you with only a handful until you get sick of hearing it. So it’s better than some, but I still wish they had added more songs to their selections.

Gameplay: 5/10 ( Game Mechanics mainly in this case)

I know that’s a really low score and I’m sure in its heyday I would have rated it much higher but I doubt that I would have given it 9/10 as many on Gamefaqs did. I lack the technical, mechanical car knowledge to explain how unnatural this game feels to me compared with other race games. Though lacking, I understand the definitions and overviews of tuning options given in other race games. However, another reviewer that still rated the game rather high, cited it as driving from the middle of a car rather than from a steering wheel. I’m not sure what that actually feels like; maybe that is an accurate description.

The lack of tuning options, even as limited as what was in NFS: Most Wanted, which came out around the same time, makes this game a fail for me. Even with NFS: Carbon being a step back in the NFS series (with tuning options, at least),  the cars felt better and game play was more polished than this series. Maybe I’ve just been pampered from Forza series and the NFS series but I cannot seem to keep my class C: TVR Sagaris on the road with its third tier upgrade.

–It has 91 handling, 58 speed (maxing out at 209 mph) 77 braking, and 82 acceleration and cost 92,000 in game currency for that upgrade. For that money and those kind of stats, I should have no problem staying on the road in a mid-tier car with upgrades.

–Now the car’s base stats are as follows: 80 acceleration, 46 speed, 85 handling, braking 67, with a top speed of 190. After looking on wikipedia, that’s 5 miles per hour more than the 2005 Sagaris is supposed to have.

–In Forza 3, the car is considered a class A with the following base stats: 5.7(out of 10) for handling, 6.9 for acceleration, braking 5.6, and since that game differentiates between acceleration and launch so the stat for launch is 6.3. These are huge differences and I can’t help but think that maybe the people designing this game fudged their knowledge of cars a bit. Even though I’m still at the beginning of the game, I don’t doubt that this is the only car where mistakes were made.

While I realize this game doesn’t even try to be a race simulator and the physics just aren‘t going to be the same….there’s just a huge difference between a class A and a class C car, especially if they are supposed to be the same car. The acceleration can be a bit of problem near the beginning of a race in that car. Coupled with the fact that I can’t take off my upgrade or sell it, makes it a complete waste of money. And if there’s no option to tune or sell the upgrades then the highest upgrade shouldn’t be marketed like it’s the best option. Plus, in what racing game does a car with 91 handling rating and 82 acceleration rating stay a class C car? This one. What racing game allows a class C to top out at 209 miles an hour? How does a 58 speed rating equal to 209 mph? How fast does a Veyron Bugatti go again? 253 mph. This game fails at any sort of realism. Yet by the “data” option to view a car’s stats you might be tricked into thinking it does indeed have some, though inaccurate.

Not to mention the AI doesn’t know how to drive. They don’t even bother trying to follow the optimal drive line. They cut across grass or drive down the center of a two lane road. They drive like I do in the cop/racer NFS games where I ram into anything and everything that dares to get in my way.

Here’s a trade-off, no AI random drivers appearing out of thin air (yet) while I’m in the middle of a 200 mph high speed chase with cops but I can’t get up to 200 mph without going off road and crashing long before. Speaking of cops and high speed chases, the three shield cop rating feels a bit like a joke and even more arcade like. With 2 shields I have cops chasing me and one cop sitting in the middle of a road, though all 3 gets me a road block which I attempted to break as I would in other games; didn’t really work out so well and had to dashboard before they fined me and took almost all my cash. There’s no reasonable in-between, making it feel as if there were meant to be four shields but that would interrupt the “feng shui” feeling of balance that 3 has over 4. The weak point of a roadblock didn’t break for me but maybe that’s my fault somehow. Whether lack of speed needed to keep going or didn’t ping the right area.

More than that though is that their grouping system is weird to me. Cars with better stats may be in a lower class than a higher tiered car. I don’t understand that system. It makes it hard to compare cars when you have to drive all over to get to the dealership for the first time and after that its still a better idea to write prices, stats, ratings down then go back and buy a car. For an arcade racing game, that’s a lot of work.

I don’t care for having to drive in on-coming traffic, that requires staying on the shoulder because the race GPS says I have to drive on this road to cross the checkpoint. The handling of the cars at default steering settings is extremely twitchy and sensitive but tweaking that isn’t going to help me at high speeds when my back end lifts off the ground when it shouldn’t. I know its meant to add difficulty to the race and that would be fine if the game didn’t feel broken to me. I know a lot disagree and think this game is/was great.

I don’t understand the GPS inconsistency of telling me when my turn is coming up. Extremely frustrating when the road is shaded and automated voice waits until I’m on top of the turn to tell me, while trying to keep my speed up without taking too much damage or going off road as that will increase the penalty. Even paying attention to the mini map doesn’t always help when the roads are too close together on it. You are required to restart until the route has been ingrained in your mind, if you want 1st place with as much money as possible. Doing a time based race with a lower class car than what the game thinks you will choose to race with (though it says no restrictions), you’ll find there actually are restrictions if you expect to pass it in required time. I have been compelled to throw my controller a dozen times because I’m 10 seconds shy of the goal time, but using a faster car doesn’t help if it can’t be handled.

There are many options and varieties of races and “missions”, which is this game’s savior as far as I‘m concerned. There are missions such as courier, vehicle transport, hitch hiker, top model. I’m not very far into the game (18% with 4 cars and 2 houses), though I leveled up surprisingly fast to expert (4/5 rank). It seems that when you unlock the mileage achievements you rank up, doesn’t seem too balanced does it? And those missions seem to be where most of the money is early on, rather than the races themselves, but the higher ranked race types will still net you quite a bit of cash. With races you have 3 basic options: race, speed trap, and time trial; that’s all that is really necessary, anything more and it would be overkill for this game. Its fun, that is if you can get used to the way your car handles. Or play the lower tiered races until you get more money scrapped together to buy a different car to make up for that previous mistake purchase.

Innovation: 7/10

This game was marketed as the first of its kind. A MOOR (massively open online racing). This allows you to play multiplayer right from the start if you so choose. Either by flashing your headlights for an instant challenge or going to a multiplayer race icon. Personally I don’t like racing against other people but I know others live for it. And while that’s good for them, I’d prefer an option a la Fable 2 to turn that off completely and just go at it in single player mode rather than just turning off all gamer tags, multiplayer races and club icons, etc online mode options or having to play with my DSL connection unplugged for them not to even appear in Free Ride. But I’m not going to give it a low score simply because it is not my cup of tea. Also, I haven’t seen the type of alternative missions in the racing games I have played before, so that’s new.

Conclusion: 6.75/10

All in all, I know I said it is an arcade-like game but there have been others and I didn’t have a bit of trouble upgrading my car and being able to keep it on the road like I do in this game. I am ashamed to admit that I have only completed a few successful drifts in this game when, with an arcade racer like this, I should be able to take a majority of turns and corners like that. In this game I feel as if I’m stuck in one of those hot wheels penny cars that I had when I was child where I stick a penny in the back, wind it up and watch it hit the wall. My car shouldn’t lift off the ground when I go 110 mph around a slight turn or at the peak of a tiny incline when I’m not allowed to adjust anything. I feel as if I wasted 16 bucks on what was supposedly a good game. I read the preview for Test Drive: Unlimited 2 and was immediately excited but it has a long way to go in my opinion if it handles like the first. Test Drive: Unlimited isn’t worthy of a rent to me, I wonder if the sequel will be better.

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