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Test Drive: Unlimited Review

Replay Value:
Online Gameplay:
Overall Rating:
Melbourne House
Number Of Players:
1 (MM-Online)

If you think the Need for Speed series is long-running, there
is a racing franchise that has been around way before EA's
creation landed on the 3DO — and that would be Test Drive. If
you remember playing Test Drive back on the Atari or Commodore
64, then I applaud you. In fact, if you even remember publisher
Accolade (before they got acquired by Infogrames), I still
applaud you. Things went downhill for the series after Test Drive
5 as Infogrames rushed to release new entries. The franchise
would be resurrected in 2002 as simply Test Drive. It was a
decent title, back then and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it was
completely basic and rudimentary racing. So nearly 20 years after
the first Test Drive, the franchise is now up to its most
ambitious entry to date: Test Drive: Unlimited.

It's been out on the Xbox 360 for nearly a year now, and there's
no doubt about it that the game is one of its kind. Sure it's a
racing game with money to earn and cars to enhance, but when was
the last time you played a massively multiplayer racer that
featured 1000 real-life, Hawaiian, miles on a frigin handheld?
Never. Although, make note that the game doesn't force you to
play online, so if you're PSP isn't connected, you can still play
the entire game normally. But when you're online, you'll be able
to join online races called drive-ins, and accept challenges from
nearby opponents — think of it like one virtual game lobby.

When the game begins, you're given a choice between four rental
cars. But your rental will run you a fee, so it's best to choose
the cheapest car (SLK 55AMG). You'll have to run a race, after
which you'll be able to buy a car. Then you'll be given a budget
to buy your first house with. You will be able to buy many
different kids of houses, all with varying car storage capacity.
Essentially, your house acts as your main hub. From here on, the
game begins. You can set your car's GPS to guide you from
event-to-event, or you can manually select which destination
you'd like to be guided to. The events aren't just races, they'll
also be challenges. So for instance, one event will require that
you get to the airport in time, and another will have you chase
down a car thief – so the game offers a good deal of variation.

There's no story to the game, so it's unlike the most recent Need
for Speed games. Instead, TDU simply concentrates on its
gameplay. During your progress, you'll be asked to join specific
car clubs. In these clubs you'll be able to move up. Likewise,
just like every racing game, TDU features performance upgrades in
order to ensure that the game is as fast as can be. But aside
from paint jobs, it doesn't have any aesthetic shops, so don’t
expect car customization like NFS. There's over 100 cars to
choose from, and also an assortment of bikes. It's pretty
astounding just how well done the PSP port of Test Drive
Unlimited is. While it is missing some features (nothing
important), it's easily the largest racing title on the PSP.

Warning, major rant and anal bitching ahead:

But while there's a lot to do and see in TDU, the game isn't
without its faults. Car purists will likely find themselves upset
with the poor attention to detail for each car's written
specifications. It's painfully obvious that whoever worked on
entering the statistics of each car (weight, top speed,
horsepower, 0-60 times), did not even bother to research
carefully. The game is absolutely riddled with a boat load of
wrong information. In TDU, a Lamborghini Miura is listed with a
time of 6.7 seconds 0-60, when in reality the car accelerates to
60 in less than 5 seconds. You may be thinking that it doesn't
sound like a big deal, but 2 seconds of time is an enormous
difference in speed, we’re talking a 2007 Saturn Aura and a
2003 BMW M3 — bus lengths.

The Miura isn't the only car with these errors, the 350Z is
listed with a wrong 0-60 time and an incorrect power rating. The
Pontiac Firebird Trans Am has the wrong weight, wrong horsepower
rating, and wrong 0-60. The Pontiac GTO is just an all around
wrong car. The specifications for the in-game Pontiac GTO state
400HP which describes a 2005-06 model, yet the 0-60 is that of
the 2004. Worst of all, the car modeled is a 2004 — they used
specs from two different cars with two different engines. Here's
a quick list of some of the cars and their wrong stats:

Nissan 350Z – In-game specs: 0-60 @ 5.9 seconds. 280 Horsepower.
Nissan 350Z – Real specs: 0-60 5.4 seconds. 287 Horsepower, 298HP
w/ Manual
Pontiac GTO – In-game specs: 0-60 @ 5.4 seconds, 400HP 6.0L spec,
with 2004 model
Pontiac GTO – Real specs: 4.8 seconds with 400HP 6.0L V8, 5.4
seconds with 350HP 5.7L V8
Pontiac Firebird – In-game specs: Weight 3196lbs, 300 Horsepower,
0-60 7.1 seconds
Pontiac Firebird – Real specs: Weigh ~3700lbs, 440 Horsepower
(advertised as 300HP), 0-60 4.9 seconds
Lamborghini Miura – In game specs: 0-60 6.7 seconds.
Lamborghini Miura – Real specs: ~5 seconds

There are probably plenty of other examples, but I simply can't
look through all 100+ vehicles in the game and analyze them.
Strangely enough, when you're actually driving the cars, they
accelerate as they should – rendering the written specs
absolutely untrue. Still, this is a pretty big error, and whoever
was responsible for car specs clearly didn't do their job.
Regardless, while Test Drive's core structure isn't
revolutionary, the game's size and scope is certainly a huge
As concerned as I was about the PS2 version and it's framerate, I
was even more concerned about the PSP port and how it would turn
out. Visually, with a game world as large as this, on a system as
small as the PSP, you'd expect some sort of framerate issues. But
TDU is quite a good looking title. The aspect I was most
concerned with was how stable they'd get the framerate, and I was
very happy to see the game run at a consistently smooth 30 frames
per second. For the most part, TDU is a solid looking handheld
game. There's a bit of very minor pop-up here and there, but when
you're dealing with a game this large, it's forgettable. The car
detail is pretty sharp, especially because Melbourne didn't
render the interior for each car on the PSP version, and used
those saved polygons on the cars. Surprisingly, the cars in the
PSP version look almost as good as the PS2's version. Test Drive
Unlimited is a decent looking PS2 game, but a very good looking
PSP game. The fact that it renders 1000 miles of road is an
achievement on its own.

The audio is composed of the rudimentary tire squeals, engine
roars, and crashes. Then there's the in-game soundtrack, which
isn't very good with the exception of the classic station. The
soundtrack is put together like Grand Theft Auto’s, in that
categories are broken up by radio station. I didn't like any of
the music offered, with the exception of the classical music
station, which features Swan Lake (Tchaikovsky), Four Seasons –
Summer (Vivaldi), Uranus the Magician (Holst), Symphony No.5
(Mozart), and others. Okay, so I'm a bit off a snob when it comes
down to classical music, but I was really able to appreciate
driving with the given songs. Eerily enough, I was stunned at
just how close the classical soundtrack of the game was to a
personal mix of mine. In any case, it's hard to appreciate most
of the soundtrack, but the classic stuff stands out.

Test Drive Unlimited is most certainly one of the most ambitious
racing games of all time, and it is the most ambitious of the
entire series. It has some pretty obscure problems, like
incorrect specifications for cars, and it doesn't bring anything
new to the table. On top of that, only one fifth of the
soundtrack is worth listening to. But the overall game is a
pretty enjoyable experience from start to finish, as long as you
don’t expect an immense amount of depth. 1000 miles of
Hawaiian road is unprecedented. Additionally, being able to
integrate your single-player experience with a massively
multiplayer online experience is terrific. It's visually
impressive for the PSP, with a smooth framerate, so it shouldn't
bother anyone looking for a nice picture. All in all, Test Drive
Unlimited is a good arcade racer that'll keep you busy for a very
long time.

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15 years ago

i dont have a psp yet im planning to get the new psp 3000 thats coming in october….. im definately going buy this great game !!!!!! …… thanks for making this review guys!!!!!!!

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