Able was I ere I saw Ibiza.
Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a lot like Far Cry 2—only instead of shooting guns at paramilitary soldiers, you’re driving fast cars in an island paradise. Okay, so maybe it’s not really that much like Far Cry 2; you don’t have malaria, there’s no civil war, and you don’t have comrades rushing to your rescue.
[image1]But driving through the windy dirt roads in the wilds of the island of Ibiza while tracking down scrap metal using my beeping detection device, I couldn’t help but think of Ubisoft’s similarly ambitious open-world game. TDU2 may not have blood, but it has plenty of guts.
Similar to Red Dead Redemption and Demon’s Souls, the game world of Test Drive Unlimited 2 exists in a persistent online environment. And like those games, it’s something of an “MMO-lite” in that it borrows design elements from big online games.
You’ll see other players driving freely around the islands of Ibiza and an overhauled version of Oahu (where the first game was set). You can take those drivers on directly, or you can use a traditional lobby setup to race in clearly defined race events, and you can even design your own set of online challenges.
If the idea of guild halls in traditional MMOs makes you groan at the thought of a bunch of basement-bound geeks sitting at their computers huzzah-ing and drinking virtual-mead, then maybe the racing clubs in TDU2 are more your speed. Similar to guilds or clans, these clubs let you put together like-minded racers and setup inter- and intra-club challenges. An in-game club space lets you hang around as a Sims-style avatar and walk around to check out the various club records and events.
[iamge2]But the meat and potatoes of Test Drive Unlimited 2 isn’t its persistent online world, its club features, or even its large open-world island environment. It’s a racing game, and as such, TDU2 really shines once you get into the events themselves.
Eden Games got their start doing rally games, and it shows. In each of the racing classes—off-road, classic, and asphalt—the races almost all resemble rally events to a greater or lesser degree. The focus on improvisation and adaptation, as well as the reappropriation of existing trails and roads, makes this feel like a game whose heart lies in rally-style racing. Fans of the sport will be pleased.
While single events are scattered throughout the world, you can also participate in multi-stage championships in each class. Events include traditional circuit racing and point-to-point racing, as well as some unusual innovations where you race through as many speed traps as possible as fast as possible. These are all playable online as well as in single player against AI racers.
Race events, car dealerships, and other locations all unlock as you find them while driving the islands’ many streets. As in Fallout 3, once you reach a location you can then fast travel there in the future from the map screen. Each location on the map also gives you some basic information and options that let you choose what you want to do once you get there. Dealerships, for example, tell you upfront what cars they have in stock before you have to sit through a load screen. Much appreciated.
[image3]For those of us who, despite our best intentions, continue to obsess over the minutiae of customization, TDU2 lets you play house to your heart’s content. There is a practical function to buying houses since you need them in order to unlock garage spaces to buy more cars. But within those houses you can also buy and customize furniture and interiors. Short of serving tea and cake, it’s about as hospitable and homey as a racing game could possibly get.
Where other racing games focus on the finer details of driving and physics, Test Drive Unlimited 2 emphasizes the bigger picture. This is a title that understands that freedom is as important to driving as anything else. The open world, the persistent online features, the varied race events, and its many customization options make TDU2 the ideal racer for those who feel hampered by rails, rules, and roads.