Test Drive Unlimited 2 Hands-On Preview

By Darryl Kaye on January 20, 2011, 9:47AM EDT

After playing Test Drive Unlimited 2 for a little while, you'll realise rather quickly that it's not like many other driving titles available on the market right now. It shares many similarities with the world of simulation racing, but it's the open world nature of the title that's the most appealing aspect.

Despite there being obvious restrictions when you start, it doesn't really feel like the game actually restricts you from doing anything. You can drive wherever you like and it always feels as though there's something that can be occupying your time, whether it's some driving lessons, a championship race, or just driving around for the hell of it.

It's really a testament to the developers, Eden Games, who have clearly taken a long time to tune the game to the way they feel the world of driving games should work.

As soon as you get your first pair of wheels you'll be thrust into some basic lessons, which essentially serve as a tutorial. Test Drive Unlimited 2 does feel like it handles a little bit funky at the start, but once you start experiencing different cars and surfaces, you'll have a better handle on how far you can push each car without it going flying off the track. Despite the initial six lessons probably seeming quite patronising on paper, they do a good job of slowly easing you into the world - something that's rather useful, because after they're done, you almost feel like you're alone for a while - at least until contacts start spamming your mobile phone.

You see, Ibiza, where the game is set, is a rather buzzing place. And people are always wanting your attention, even if it's just to offer some friendly advice. Advice like, if you're still living in your dump of a caravan, you should really check out somewhere else. Or my personal favourite - get some new clothes, you look like a hobo. Their nature is, of course, not as terse in the actual game, but the message is still the same and it does make you think about expanding your horizons, while opening you up to the possibility that those horizons can be expanded.

Upon completing different tasks in driving schools, you'll be able to compete in different levels of competition, and on different surfaces. You'll generally acquire a rival in said competitions, and if you beat them enough, they'll get so angry that they might even put their car on the line for you to win. I mean, who doesn't want a classic American muscle car that's got a lovely pink paint job?

It's the little things like this though, that make Test Drive Unlimited 2 more appealing. There isn't really any semblance of a story, but small cameo actions like this make you feel like there are things going on that perhaps you're just not aware of. After all, you should be worried about burning some rubber than the trivial actions of a wannabe TV personality.

There are various metrics which you can use to judge how you're progressing through the game, and they also let you see what your next milestone is, or how far you've got to go to unlock something else. For example, you can only buy certain clothes once you've attained a suitable level of island exploration. And given how little was unlocked during my play session, Test Drive Unlimited 2 will probably last you for quite a while.

If you're a driving fan, Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a game that should be on the radar. It might not have the best visuals, or perhaps the best gameplay out there, but the experience that it offers can't really be found anywhere else. And that alone makes it worth your time.

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