Its predecessor may have been more of a technical showcase than a game, but has Eden Studios managed to inject a bit of life into Test Drive Unlimited 2? By the looks of things, it most certainly has.
Thanks to a raft of much needed improvements, Eden has been able to deliver a much better balanced, more comprehensive driving experience. Cast your mind back to the first game and chances are you’ll remember the handling, and how poor it was. In Test Drive Unlimited 2, though, we’re pleased to report that things have come on considerably.
The way the cars respond to things like changes in direction, braking and acceleration is much more instantaneous and controlled. Indeed, when you get out onto the dirt roads in a four-wheel drive vehicle, it’s actually possible to pull off the sorts of lengthy powerslides you’d expect to find in a rally game.
The grand result is a handling model that not only gives you confidence to really attack those winding narrow roads and dirt tracks, but also a decent measure of satisfaction when you manage to take a corner as you intended to. When you see a corner on your GPS, you can actually judge where roughly you’ll need to brake, steer in and so on. And if things do go wrong, the cars are usually responsive enough to get you out of trouble quickly.
Obviously the headline grabbing feature is the inclusion of two islands (Oahu and Ibiza this time around), which given the age of the 360 and the restrictive size of its DVDs is quite a feat in itself. But it’s the sight that awaits you when you drive around those islands that really catches the eye. Despite having more than double the landmass of its predecessor, Unlimited 2 still manages to up the detail stakes considerably.
The biggest improvement of all is the way that Eden has exploited these two enormous worlds, giving them the sense of vibrancy, variation and purpose that were so lacking in the first game. As opposed to just giving you a world with a series of events and a host of rivals driving around it, Test Drive Unlimited 2 boasts a number of features that give it a real sense of structure, the most significant of which is the addition of a proper background story.
This serves as the perfect introduction to the game’s revised structure, with the racing split into three categories: Classic (which sees you hopping behind the wheel of iconic sports cars), Off-road (primarily aimed at SUVs) and Asphalt (comprising contemporary machines from around the world). These may all sound like little things but, as with so many open-world games, collectively they have real impact. Now, rather than aimlessly cruising around a map, looking for something to do, you’re rather spoilt for choice.
Thanks to some improved handling and visuals, and a much more comprehensive gameplay structure, Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a huge step up on its predecessor. There are some minor niggles to accommodate the sheer scale of the game, but with bags of variation there’s plenty here to keep you going. And now that Eden has patched the online issues that initially troubled the game, it should offer petrol heads a sublime online racing suite.