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Test Drive Unlimited 2

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Eden Games
Release Date: Feb. 8, 2011 (US), Feb. 11, 2011 (EU)


PS3/X360/PC Preview - 'Test Drive Unlimited 2'

by Erik "NekoIncardine" Ottosen on July 16, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Test Drive Unlimited 2 expands on the traditional racing experience providing gamers with M.O.O.R.: Massively Open Online Racing; immersing drivers in a persistent online environment and revolutionizing multiplayer racing communities as players compete, team up, and share their achievements and creations online.

Test Drive Unlimited 2 was Atari's most hyped game for E3 2010, even meriting a special party featuring techno artist Paul Oakenfold. Test Drive Unlimited had players in an open world on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, and encouraged racers to spend some time out of the vehicle in various social RPG scenarios. The 10th entry in the long-running racing series, Test Drive Unlimited 2 expands on this and introduces various new modes and a second island.

The party-hearty island nation of Ibiza joins Oahu in this sequel. If everything is kept to scale, this could mean 800 square miles of playable area; all of it would be freely explorable, with courses drawn from the existing roads. By developer estimates, this totals over 3,000 kilometers of roads, including both asphalt and dirt.

The MOOR (Massively Open Online Racing) multiplayer modes continue to be the cornerstone of gameplay. Most locations that aren't on the roads can be explored on foot. In these areas, up to 32 people can occupy the space, providing for various social interactions, customizable avatars, and the chance to examine the other drivers' cars before a race. This will also extend to being able to buy and customize houses, interact in nightclubs, etc. This is intended to be a major piece of the game, right down to it being part of the leveling system.

The multiplayer has also been heavily revised to introduce several new racing formats, including two very interesting takes on cooperative racing. First is the follow-the-leader mode, involving hitting a series of randomized checkpoints in the correct order — but only the next checkpoint can be seen … by only one of the racers. When he tags the point, the next one is shown to another player. In a perfect race, this should produce a line of people, with the person who just got the point shifting to the front. In practice, the racers during this demo quickly collapsed into utter chaos. A new mode allows a player to get into the passenger seat of the car. While you might think that this is only good for observation, that player can access maps and suggest paths — including shortcuts — to the driver. This is pretty much the basis of real-world rally racing, so this mode should be very enjoyable for those who love course memorization.

The leveling system in Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a little different from the prior title. Going from 0-60, the game has a character leveling in four different categories. Only one-fourth of a character's level involves racing. The other areas are of equal value:  collection (cars, clothes, house parts, etc.), discovery (finding all the roads and various discoverable objects) and social (includes online races).

Police will also investigate accidents; chases haven't been coded in yet, but they are planned. The combo-based system is also getting some adjustment; in short, it rewards money for advanced driving maneuvers and stunts.

The array of cars is planned to be comparable to the number of vehicles in the first game, but most of the available cars have not yet been announced. The car array now includes several SUVs for off-road racing, and the car details have been evolved. Damage is limited to aesthetics, and we got to see the vehicles' interaction with dirt and rain, as well as its handling of water physics when driving through creeks. An editor on par with that of Forza Motorsport is also planned, though not shown at E3.

Fans of the previous entry's take on online racing should find much to enjoy in Test Drive Unlimited 2, while fans of racing may find the social aspect to be an interesting change of pace — perhaps interesting enough to make Test Drive Unlimited 2 a viable challenger to Gran Turismo.

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