Eden did make some logical improvements to the game, especially with how you acquire money. With the original TDU, you had to grind away (basically farm) the single player races in order to accumulate money to buy houses, cars and more. In TDU 2, they have added a slick little wrinkle that allows you to earn or “bank” money. During your everyday driving, as you can perform drifts, explore areas and drive recklessly without actually hitting anything a counter that accumulates cash begins. It starts at $100 and climbs from there as you string together more money making moves. This can be a chore, but there are ways (and locations) on the islands where you can build this up this quickly and add to your bankroll. It is a nice change of pace from the traditional farming, but it fills your bank account more slowly. Because of this you will still have to “farm” like in traditional MMOs, as even in this Massively Open Online Racing (MOOR) title you need to just grind away at races, challenges and in multiplayer events to earn enough cash to buy that next car or house. It isn’t a bad experience, but if you need something right away (like a specific car or car class for a photo or a Solar Crown race) you have to be a bit patient until you have the garage space and vehicle in your possession.
Another new addition is the TDU Casino online, which was initially a pre-order timed-exclusive from GameStop. It is available to everyone as DLC for 800 MS Pts and provided another outlet to win cars and prizes and an exclusive race track to test your new cars at. All cars and prizes do carry over into TDU despite this being a stand-alone piece. One last new item is a police chase mode that allows you and other players in your area to get souped up squad cars and try and track down a fugitive and hit him with an EMP pulse to knock out his engine. This is kind of cool, as essentially you and seven strangers are all after one crack pot, and it beats the heck out of the police chasing YOU down with their cars and helicopters. If successful you can earn money and raise your skill level.
While I really do enjoy the TDU2 experience, there are a couple of things that irritate me about the game and they both go back to required parts of the game in order to move on. The first is at the driving schools, where you have to grind your way through the set tests in order to get a car class license and get farther in the Solar Crown competition. While they don’t seem that hard at first, the better the class of vehicles license you are trying to get, the more tests you have to pass. Unfortunately, I found myself having to take different parts of the driving tests four, five or six times to pass it. This is just plain annoying to me because the tests expect near-perfect driving in order to meet the requirement to pass. Anyone that has played the TDU franchise knows that the actual races contain anything but “perfect” driving. This also leads to another annoyance in the time trials portion of the Solar Crown races. In this mode, you race against the best individual time set by the other seven competitors while also getting penalized for getting off the road or hitting things. In the other race modes for each Solar Crown event when you are on the course with them, the AI racers aren’t nearly as good as the inflated times that they get when you aren’t on the road with them. As a result, you end of having to replay if you get a poor time in order to have any chance at winning the entire Solar Crown event and getting the full bonus money that goes with it.
While I am on things about the game that are negative, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the state of game when it shipped. Unfortunately, it had some issues with exploits, corrupt save files and problems in the club system that forced Atari to pull the plug on these pieces of the game until a patch could be crafted. I personally didn’t experience the problems, as the pieces in question were already off-limits by the time our review copy arrived. Regardless, it is generally viewed as a “no-no” in the gaming industry to release a seriously flawed title, but Atari was able to patch all versions within a month or so. Unfortunately, the multiplayer and social sides of the game appear to have taken a substantial hit. While I have seen a continual increase of players since the patch for the Xbox 360 version was released, it doesn’t appear to be anywhere the level of what I saw in the original TDU title. This may change as people revisit the game during lags in the game release schedule, but it is hard for a title to build momentum when two of its largest components have to be taken offline to patch them up. There are other quirks in the game (such as how the cars respond in specific driving modes and the seemingly random crash damage results), but the pure fun of the game overrides most of this.
One thing that can’t be denied is how beautiful the game is, as on the surface looks very, very good. How could you mess it up with scenery from Ibiza and Hawaii? The folks at Eden have done a marvelous job of creating a beautiful and lush environment and adding in the wrinkles of day to night transition, weather, character models that are outstanding and of course, beautiful cars. The cut-scenes always look outstanding, but there were several times when I was just sitting by the side of the road and the grass looked….flat, without any depth. To me, the devil is in the details and a lot of the environment looks just ‘ok’ up close. The game definitely looks its best when viewed while speeding along or scenery in the distance. With all of the things to do and find in the game, I wonder if maybe a focus on being a simpler game with an emphasis on graphics and physics would have been better.
Because TDU2 allows you to play it your way (whether you like to free roam, complete single-player challenges or race against your friends and enemies), there is a little something for everyone and something new and fun pops up on just about every mile of roadway. Although the fun factor is off the charts, there are some finer details (graphics, more balanced AI, more realistic vehicle handling) that could have been paid some more attention. However, the game is priced at $10 less than normal full retail titles, so I think the developer did a fine job of balancing the look and feel with the overall playability so you do get a lot of bang for your buck. I would have given the game a straight ‘B’, but shipping the title with as many flaws as it had and the subsequent delay to rectify them is inexcusable and cost it a half a letter grade.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Ultimately, Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a fun game to play that will keep you entertained for hours upon hours. Despite a few annoyances and flaws, the game has so much to do and explore that you could spend hours playing in this part of the game without any actual online multiplay.
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