Beauty vs. the Beast
Ever wish you could drive the newest, fastest cars on this Earth? Do you yearn for the days when cars were powerful and sounded like rolling thunder? Have you ever in your wildest dreams wished you could pit a sweet roadster against a nasty road hog? For those rare breeds of drivers that want it all from sleek lines to unbridled horses under the hood comes a new game from Accolade, Test Drive 4. Now you can find out if the classics can really compare to the newest generation of sports cars. Light the fires and kick the tires because its time to rev up and peel out.
Test Drive 4 is not like any other driving game you may have played. By bringing back the classics from the past and combining them with cars of the future, the folks at Accolade have brought the driving genre to a whole new level.
Players can choose to drive some curvaceous machines such as the 1998 Dodge Viper, 1998 Chevrolet Corvette, 1998 Jaguar XJ220, 1998 TVR Cerbera, and the 1995 Nissan 300ZX. They may also choose to drive the muscle cars of eras past including the 1969 Chevy Vette ZL-1, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1, 1971 Plymouth "Hemi" Cuda, 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS454 LS-6, or the 1966 Shelby Cobra.
After you pick your vehicle it's time to head out to the streets. Players have several options as to the type of race they want to compete in. These include the Challenge Cup, which emphasizes cumulative time with no regard to standings, the Championship Cup, which measures success by points received at checkpoints and finish lines, the Pitbull Cup, where to advance you must finish first, and the Masters Cup, where you must race each track with a different car. If your idea of fun is to drag, then you will be a very happy camper because Test Drive 4 also has a drag racing mode. In this mode, you can pit your car against any of the other cars in a display of sheer power and determination. Is the testosterone level getting high in here?
To my disappointment, the two player mode was not a head to head race, but a time trial run. This means that the first player gets to race the track and then the second player gets to race the track and get a better time. The only consolation is that you can see a ghost car simultaneously running the exact race your friend just ran. If you want to do some serious head to head, then you need to get yourself a link cable and another TV. How can people appreciate my driving prowess if I can't leave then in the dust?
One of the strengths of this game is the graphics. This is made evident in the gorgeous tracks that you can drive on. For example, the England track boasts a beautiful countryside drive with granite cliff faces and cobblestone roads as well as a run though a narrow vineyard road. Driving through our nation's capital was also visually satisfying. Your driving experience will be further enhanced by the sounds, which are also well done. Each car's engine makes a distinctive noise, from the thundering rumble of the Dodge Viper to the high pitched whine of the Jaguar XJ 2200. While at top speed, your gears will make a grinding noise if you try to downshift at the maximum rpms. If you try to take a turn too tight, your tires will squeal and you will leave some offending skid marks.
The soundtrack that plays whilst you are breaking land speed records is not too bad. It is your typical high energy/heavy metal performed by Orbital and the Younger, Younger 28s. Put a fan on top of the TV to simulate the wind blowing in your hair and you are set for a complete driving experience.
Playing the game, one gets a sense of what real racing must be like becauseTest Drive 4 is very realistic. Translation: it is hard as hell. In most racing games I have played, taking turns is no problem with the exception of the dreaded U-turn. However, in Test Drive 4, every pronounced turn is an adventure. Corner wrong and you can fishtail, skid out of control, spin out, slam into the fence, roll over, or all of the above. I think the game may be too real for its own good. The control on each car varies, but overall they are rigid and very inflexible. On most turns, I ended up fighting my own car for control instead of concentrating on passing the other cars. Also, the slightest nudge from another car will make your back end spin out of control and very often you find yourself parked facing the wrong way. As if things weren't hard enough, racers have to be wary of crossing each checkpoint in time, while dealing with oncoming as well as flow traffic.
Test Drive 4 does have its moments, though. The San Francisco track has about 4 blocks in the middle section where the course is downhill a la San Francisco Rush/Streets of San Francisco. Airborne is the proper terminology in this case. Also, when racing with the traffic option on, if you crash head on into an oncoming car, you flip over end to end or roll like Fido on steroids. These are pesky, but a nice effect to watch. This experience is heightened if you are racing in the cockpit view.
Test Drive 4 is a good game if you can master the steering and gear shifting. The scenery is nice enough if a bit confusing to drive through at times. Your hearing comes in handy when playing in manual transmission mode because you can tell when to shift by listening to your engine. Overall, turning the realism down just a notch would hit the spot perfectly. And remember, don't drink and drive, because with Test Drive 4, driving sober is hard enough.