Review

Test Drive Unlimited 2 Review (PS3)

The survival horror genre has Deadly Premonition. Role-playing gamers got Two Worlds II. Now racing fans have their own "so bad it's good" title to talk feverishly about. Test Drive Unlimited 2 is utterly hilarious thanks to terrible dialogue and voice-acting, the most ridiculous and awkward storyline you'll ever see in a racing game, and car physics so broken that we wouldn't be surprised if they become a Youtube meme.

Yet while we laughed along with the bizarre presentation and broken collisions, something about TDU2's fundamental basis is really quite glorious. An MMO open-world racer with a huge world to explore and plenty of great online functionality, TDU2 is poised to rob you of many days and weeks as you race to get one better on friends and foes alike.

This is a racing game, so here is a picture of a car

Unfortunately, once the accidental humour behind it all wears off, you're left with a racing game that quite simply does not do the actual racing part very well. Oodles of online capabilities, unlockables and slick environments can't help this confused beast overcome its hideous faults and rise to the challenge.

The story first - you are a valet who dreams of driving fast cars, winning racing trophies and attending pool parties. After drifting off into a dream-world while collecting your boss' Ferrari, you accidentally cheese off the head honcho's daughter and find yourself getting fired from the job.

But wait! The daughter is so angry at you, that she decides to offer you a place in the local Ibiza racing circuit, host to all the big driving talent, without seeing you drive or knowing a single thing about you. Erm... what?

She then gives you a car to race in, and a house. Now hold on one minute - let us get this straight. She doesn't know you, and hates you... so she gives you a stupidly high-paid job, a free car and a house? And another thing - did our character not have a house before? How was he living without accommodation? What the hell is going on?

Of course, none of these answers are supplied - and that's only the beginning. You go on to beat all the local talent with barely any practice, people offer you heaps of cash without a second thought, and all the while the voice acting, character animations and scripting is on a par with Deadly Premonition. It's incredible that Eden Games thought this was all normal and acceptable. And by God, we salute them.

During our first fifteen minutes of play, there were two notable features behind TDU2 - the hilarious storyline, and the car physics that made us shout 'what the eff?' outloud. The very first time we hit a rock by the side of the road, the car flipped up into the air, cartwheeled several times, and then landed back down without a scratch on it.

The amount of bounce is astonishing. Hit a wall, car or tree and you'll immediately spin and flip out of control. We know TDU2 isn't about realistic collisions, but come on now - there is 'arcade racing' and then there is 'mental flipfest'. Eventually it comes down to learning what not to hit, and leaving the track usually leads to a situation you'd rather not be in.

The world is gorgeous, the game is hilarious

With all of that firmly out of the way, Test Drive Unlimited 2 finally starts to show its good points. The world is vast, clever and gorgeous, with plenty of areas to explore. We found ourselves simply ignoring races and challenges, and instead venturing out into the unknown. It'd be nice if it was a little more obvious what you can and can't hit - we can drive through bushes, but a flowerbed will take us clean out - but it's still lovely to go wandering.

Once the customizable options and online features start to pop up, that's when you realise the scale of what TDU2 has to offer. Your current level depends on how well you do in four categories - Competition, Social, Discovery and Collection. Each has its own challenges, such as winning tournaments to filling your garage with vehicles, and a huge amount of variety is provided.

Once you begin to get fed up of racing, you can switch to exploring the world, gathering experiencing points by finding car wrecks and taking photographs of specific areas. Switch over to Collection and you'll be rewarded for buying furniture for your house or new clothes for your wardrobe. Then the Social elements come into play, with experience and levels awarded for mixing it up with friends and strangers.

The online functions in particular are rather lovely. Players can join clubs and help build up their club rep by participating in races against other teams. As you drive around the world, you'll see other players zipping around too, and you can challenge anyone you pass to a race, or even opt to attempt co-op missions with them. Plenty of online races are also available, with multiple game modes and settings.

Online challenges are a great feature. At any time, you can switch to the overmap and create your own race, setting checkpoints along with a start and finish point. Put a stake on the race, and online players can have a stab at finishing your track in record time, picking up the prize money while you take the entry fees.

This combination of mental presentation and varied gameplay makes for a largely worthwhile experience, although after several hours the racing begins to grow tiresome. For the most part, the actual driving does not feel right at all. Go around a corner, and you'll occasionally hit an obstacle that just isn't there, sending your car spinning and your frustration levels through the roof.

While the world is huge, it also means that there are large segments of track to drive down that go on forever, and aren't very interesting at all. Fortunately, there's an interesting stunt system that rewards cash for close shaves in a system similar to TV game show The Weakest Link. Yet even this becomes rather boring after being forced to drive down the umpteenth long, straight country road.

Living the dream, my man, living the dream

Our final resounding issue with TDU2 is the music. The game comes with just two radio stations, and it feels like each of them has around seven or eight songs each - plus, it's not exactly a great selection. What's worse is that during competitions and cups, the music buggers up between each race to the extent that you may be forced to listen to the same song on repeat. Best to switch it off and whistle to yourself.

Test Drive Unlimited 2 will most likely receive a cult following for its kooky characters and general offbeat atmosphere, and the solid multiplayer options will keep many coming back. A word of warning, however - give this one a rent before you go the whole hog, as the baffling physics and numerous technical oddities are sure to kill this ride for many.

Top Game Moment: Those open minutes are some of the greatest, most hilarious we've ever played.

Note: You can view our first 15mins playthrough of Test Drive Unlimited 2 below.

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