From its opening sequence featuring mannequin-like character models partying half-heartedly on a tropical island, “Test Drive Unlimited 2” leaves a questionable impression as to what it’s actually about. Being presumably about driving cars, one would think that aspect would be more prominently featured. While racing is a key component, the developers of “Test Drive Unlimited 2” put too much emphasis on non-racing elements, and most of these sections fall flat in the game.

“Test Drive Unlimited 2”

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC
Eden Games

This is an open-world driving game, meaning players can go anywhere on the island at any time. To the developer’s credit, the game’s island is expansive and beautiful, with a lot of variety in the landscape. The caveat is that a great size of land means that getting across the island can be a time-consuming and tedious process. It’s also a bummer that there isn’t much to do in this open world beside driving around.

The gameplay primarily involves entering competitions to earn money. These competitions are usually restricted to certain types of cars, like luxury cars or off-road vehicles, meaning the player will have to constantly be buying new types of cars and switching them out. This poses as a problem since the game provides very little money and only two garage spaces to work with. Buying new cars and new houses for garages can be difficult and annoying to manage.

The racing aspects are adequate, though not especially compelling. The A.I. competition isn’t exciting, and a lot of the competitive aspects are time trials, which is even duller. Most cars don’t handle especially easily and the game does a poor job of explaining how to drift properly. On the bright side, some of the off-road competitions are well done, and all the cars have a great sense of speed when going fast.

The really unfortunate part of “TDU 2” is that the competitive aspect counts toward only a fourth of player progression in the game. The other three quarters of progression are divided into the categories of “discovery,” “collection” and “social.” Discovery involves exploring the island, rewarding the player with experience for locating wrecks on the roads or driving on every road in a certain area. This can be immensely tedious and often fruitless work, as the game doesn’t hint where most of the undiscovered stuff is. Collection is probably the most bafflingly pointless category, encouraging the player to buy up all the cars, clothes, haircuts and houses they can. For a game that wants its player to be a luxurious car driver, it’s frustrating that so many of the nicer cars are priced out of the player’s spending ability until going through a seemingly endless number of tournaments. It’s even more frustrating that so many of the necessary items needed for progression, like clothes and haircuts, are completely useless in functionality.

Then there’s the social aspect, which involves playing with others online. One of the touted features of “TDU 2” is the persistent online experience, meaning there will be other online players driving around the island that you can see and interact with. It’s a neat idea, but connecting to other players is a very unreliable process that often won’t work. Even when connecting with other players is possible, the races are very brief and not particularly fun.

The aim of “TDU 2” seems to be to fulfill some sort of escapist island fantasy for car aficionados, but it fails on the execution on almost all fronts. If driving for driving’s sake in a virtual world sounds enjoyable, then “Test Drive Unlimited 2” might be the right choice. Those who want a little more structure in their driving should steer clear.

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