Been there, played that.
Unknown to Accolade, yours truly was able to acquire a top-secret designing template forTest Drive 5 which reads as follows:
Ingredients: 1) Start with one Cruis'n platform. (Include oncoming traffic and airborne crashes.) 2) Add two cups finely chopped San Francisco Rush. Sift out gravity-defying jumps and shortcuts. Discard rest. 3) Stir in 1/2 cup ground Need for Speed cop-chases. 4) Sprinkle a dash of arcade hit Chase H.Q. to taste 5) Garnish with Gran Turismo replay flavoring and Gen X soundtrack. Directions: Preheat oven to 325 F. Mix everything thoroughly in a blender at the highest speed. Pour mixture on to a blank CD. Remove from oven half-baked. Voila! Test Drive 5! (Disclaimer: Kids - make sure you get your parents permission before you try this recipe at home.)
The guys at Accolade really have an eye for a good thing - which is why they ripped off every popular driving game from the last two years and put it in their own. Unfortunately, the whole does not equal the sum of its parts. Test Drive 5 is a very unremarkable and forgettable driving game. The existence of a few bugs in this game makes it even worse.
Racing modes are exactly like Test Drive 4, with various Cup races based on total time or overall point scores. New to TD5 is the "Cop Chase" mode (sound familiar, Need for Speed 3 fans?), which is pretty cool but is really just a Chase H.Q. knock-off. Choose from four cruisers including a TVR Cerbera, Mustang, Charger, and Camaro. Arrests and points are earned by repeatedly crashing into the suspects' vehicle. Crimes range from speeding and software piracy to, I swear I'm not making this up, chicken-plucking (is that supposed to be funny?). And for the kid in all of us, the R1 button activates the lights and sirens.
Like its predecessors, TD5 offers a very nice selection of both new and classic cars including a 68 1/2 Mustang fastback, a '66 AC Cobra, a TVR Cerbera, and a Nissan Skyline. There's also an impressive selection of sexy secret cars such as a Caterham Super 7 and a Shelby Series 1.
This game's got its share of bugs, too. Let's start with the Bad and we'll finish off with the Worse and the Ugly. The Bad: Occasionally at the start of the race, the screen will flip out like the game's having an epileptic seizure (or about to cause one.) The Worse: During drag races, you hear tire-screeching continuously throughout the whole race. It sounds as if your car is doing the world's longest burnout even though it's not. The Ugly: Engine sounds cut out completely about 40% of the time. If you're playing with the music off, you're left racing in almost complete silence. Especially bad for manual tranny users that shift by ear.
Here's a news flash for everyone over at Accolade: Realism in a driving game extends far beyond having a car spin out at the drop of a hat. And boy, do these cars spin out. I took a rather easy turn at 100 and I spun out. I took the same turn at 60 and I spun out. The computer barely nudged my rear bumper and I spun out. Hell, as a '70 Chevelle passed me up, the driver leaned out the window and flung a booger at my car which promptly spun out (Hey, that sounds pretty realistic to us...- Ed.).
TD5 is easily the most inane driving game I've ever played. Computer AI is terrible and the computer-controlled cars drive and take turns at impossibly fast speeds with nary a hint of screeching tires. Races are scripted and you'll find cops and traffic drones at the exact same place in every race. If you're beating all the computer cars badly and you're all alone in first place, I absolutely guarantee a cop will show up and pull you over, leaving you in last place. Gameplay is frustrating, tedious, and controller-breaking aggravating.
Graphics are a mixed bag. Positives include neat lighting effects, night races where you use your headlights to guide your way around the track, and cool looking simulated rain. The rest of the game is graphically substandard. Only the car you control gets decent graphics, while the rest of the cars look like boxy polygonal caricatures. The Vette Stingray ends up looking more like a boxy Avanti (nothing against Avantis) with none of the clean, smooth lines of a Mako shark that made this car a classic in the first place.
For a game that calls itself "Test Drive", this game is really lacking in the realism department. A few of the courses are conducted on dirt tracks (?!). Yeah, like if I'm testing a sports car the first thing I want to check out are its off-road capabilities. Your car also makes the same exact tire screeches on dirt as it does on asphalt, not to mention leaving thick black skid marks on gravel as well as grass. And what happened to the cockpit view? The best thing about the Test Drive series when it first came out was that you could not only drive the world's most exotic supercars but you could also check out the interior, too.
They should've named this game, "Racing Game Rip-Off." An unfortunate addition to such a historically sound series.