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Test Drive: Unlimited
We take a look at the first MMOR set in Hawaii. Where's the freaking kelp?

Labeled With  Eden Games Atari Test Drive Unlimited
Written by Josh Lowensohn on Wednesday, September 20 2006

One of the difficult parts of reviewing a game is finding the right time to step back and stop playing it. With bad games this is usually easy, as the thought of playing it any longer is nearly unbearable. For good games, it’s simply a matter of the approaching deadlines that requires turning off the machine. Eden Games’ Test Drive: Unlimited (TDU) has been one of those titles that’s pulled me in instantly and not let go. I’m a sucker for RPGs and a marginal fan of racing games, and somehow TDU has mixed these two aspects very well. Flaws aside, TDU is a step in the right direction for racing games and will appeal to even casual racing fans with its innovative premise.

Mmm real-time reflections

TDU drops you right into the action, letting you pick your character and quickly select a vehicle from the airport car rental. A small bit of cash will give you that car for a limited amount of time, allowing you to get to the real estate agent and buy a house to get your virtual life started. This is an easy process at first, since you begin the game with $200,000 which should let you buy a house and an F-class car to get around in. Real estate offices are scattered throughout the island and offer you different properties that have varying garage capacities and convenience by location. Getting some of the really great ones is an expensive affair and obviously can’t be done until you’re a seasoned vet.

TDU is a great car game in the sense that you’re almost instantly in control of a vehicle and remain that way for the entire experience. Load times are pretty much non-existent and you can drive all over the island without any interruption whatsoever. Right away you’re introduced to the game’s GPS system, voiced by the female voice actor Eden Games has used for nearly all the games’ women. This is just a small caveat, but with this game’s budget, there’s no excuse for not having more variety in the voice acting dept. The GPS is quite helpful and can be programmed to create a route anywhere you choose to go on the island’s map. You’re provided with directional arrows along with voice cues telling you how far your destination is and giving you a few seconds before you’re supposed to take the turn. The system isn’t entirely intelligent however (mostly since it follows the conventions of reality) often times forcing you to travel the correct way on one way streets and not cut through forested areas and dividers. Luckily you can keep a close eye on the GPS route in the mini map, which traces your path in a small green line. Often times I found myself just cutting through areas and shaving miles off my trip.

Cars are divided up by performance and categorized into groups from A to G. A class cars are obviously the most expensive, and usually unobtainable early on in the game as accumulating $500,000+ doesn’t happen without some work. Opportunities to net cash are littered across the island and are given corresponding icons for races, timed runs, multiplayer challenges, and my personal favorite—deliveries. While racing around is fun and all, some of the quickest money you can get comes by delivering things for people. Deliveries are split up into two categories, packages and vehicles. While delivering packages, you must lay low and not attract attention to yourself. That means not hitting other cars and getting to the destination within the often short time limit. The other courier task you can do is returning cars to their rental officers. Doing this is both rewarding and frustrating as you are docked in reward money everytime you go off the road or damage the vehicle. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, however these return missions cover large distances and you must deal with considerable traffic on the way. Driving on the opposite side of the road is often the quickest way to deal with this traffic, but lends itself quite handily to getting into costly head on collisions or getting run off the road. Getting the cars there completely unscathed nets you a perfect score, and often a generous bonus which is usually about a third of the total reward.

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