Test Drive Unlimited 2 is the open world racer which expands and develops 2006s Hawaii-located game. TDU2 takes place in an Ibiza extensively recreated, and, as you progress, the original Test Drive Unlimited's O'ahu island is both ready and available. We were invited for an extended hand-on session to try the online play yet the single player and multiplayer are inextricable, if not seamless. So we started from the very beginning, in fact: the party dream whereby you choose an avatar from among all the revellers and afterwards land a place in an eight driver line-up for the Solar Crown. This championship is a driving contest which comprises races and time trials across the island's roads and dirt tracks.
TDU2’s Ibiza map is scattered with car dealerships, shops and clubhouses, besides the 3000km of road through the island’s harbour. Within these you are in avatar mode where you walk around via a first-person viewpoint, interact with other characters, and peruse purchases. Whilst in the dealer showrooms you can examine the detailed car models up close - and personal! - in this mode. The shops also include places to modify your avatar, which include hairdressers, for example, and tune or adorn your vehicle. The clubhouses remain hives at which you can earn your various licenses across the asphalt, these including classic and off-road classics. Others remain user-owned bases which clusters of players can purchase as a place to store cars and within which to socialise. As you progress you can gain access to bigger houses, upgrading, in fact, from eight-16-to-32-player properties.
Beyond the championship events - mostly time trials, speed challenges, and races against the other seven Solar Crown contestants - TDU2’s free-roam driving allows you to gain money by chaining together dodging, jumping, and drifting manoeuvres. Of course you can bank your earnings at any time or risk them by going for longer combos; a collision, even a bump, sets the counter back to zero. Collisions, however, are nothing more than a mere inconvenience. The damage modelling is only cosmetic which doesn’t affect car performance. But there are fun diversions too: cruising about in free mode, where you can pick up cash for dodging oncoming traffic is a good time to appreciate the scenery with the behind-the-car camera point of view (there’s a full cockpit view too, along with a dashboard and bonnet view).
But how is progression measured? Well, it’s achieved with a levelling system. You’ll find there are 60 global levels divided across four categories: discovery, social, competition, and collection, tracking your progress respectively in exploring the map, participating in championships, interacting with others and generally collecting stuff. And if you wish to explore more your curiosity will reveal more shops and suchlike, or labelling your island map with locations as you go. After visiting a location the map offers you a quick travel alternative to using the GPS navigation for the long drive with your minimap. At the same time you’ll also unlock challenges as you roam the island. TDU2 encompasses 650 of them. We encountered one to deliver a Ferrari to the shop without scratching the paintwork and a second in which a professional photographer wanted us to take a series of landscape photos around the island.
Eden Games says it will be ready with a specific release date “shortly”, but for now however, the launch is pencilled in for the first quarter of 2011. Naturally between now and then there are dents to buff out of TDU2’s bodywork: texture pop-in whilst out in the countryside, for example, with stuttering frame rates at the start of eight-driver wet weather races. But the open-world driving concept, with its blend of single-player and multiplayer, remains still sturdy with promises of long hours of Ibizan cruising next year!
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