The original Test Drive Unlimited was a massive, open, online racing game that let you cruise around the magnificent island of O'ahu and challenge other players at a whim through its seamless online integration. The goal of the game was to earn money to purchase the most luxurious (and expensive) cars in the world, and the sequel's premise pretty much follows the same idea. However, this time, the game has a new narrative and you start off on the gorgeous Mediterranean island of Ibiza. We sat in on an hour-long demo of Test Drive Unlimited 2 with senior producer Nour Polloni, who went over several new features as we drooled over the sweet cars that will likely only exist for us in a virtual world.
Polloni began the presentation by highlighting some of the key features of Test Drive Unlimited 2. You can now progress through the game through four different means: competition, social, discovery or collection. The social aspect of the game seems to be a huge focus this time around. Like other massive online games, you can now form a club (similar to a guild or clan), as well as work with others to earn money and build up your reputation. By being active in a club and making friends, you'll increase your social level, which will also go toward raising your global progression. Taking on challenges or creating them will increase your competition level. Now, you'll also be rewarded for wandering off the beaten path, as well as exploring every nook and cranny of the 380-square-km. island. Like a treasure hunt, if you come across car wrecks, you can salvage them and build your own car that won't be available to a dealer anywhere. It looks like regardless of what you decide to do with your time, you'll earn some kind of reward and be continuously working toward your raising your level.
To enhance your experience of admiring or shopping for a car, you can wander around garages, lobbies, and dealerships with your customizable avatar. Instead of navigating through menus, you can now sit and chat with friends in a car at the dealership as you debate the vehicle's features or pick the colors from the car manufacturer's catalog. The shimmer of metallic paint was noticeable as we walked around a bright blue Audi TT RS and were told that the definition in the modeling had been increased. For example, you can see all the minute details, from more refined lines down to the texture of the leather and the stitching within the car. For now, we're only able to reveal the cars that will be in the game, including: Gumpert Apollo Sport, Dodge Viper SRT10, Dodge Charger SRT8, Aston Martin DBS, Ford Mustang GT, Koenigsegg CCXR Edition, and the Audi TT RS Roadster. There were several other high-end cars that we got a chance to look at, but the developers are saving that information for another time.
Based on community feedback, the developers added a day-night cycle so that you can cruise around at night or sit back in your convertible and watch the sunrise from the coast. The cycle takes two-and-a-half hours, so that if you play at the same time every day, you'll be experiencing a different time of day in the game. The developers drove the TT out along the deserted but sandy beach while the waves lapped calmly along the shore and just sat back to admire the golden glow of the sky as the sun dipped beneath the horizon. Now, if only all of this were real. Snapping us back to reality, we zoomed out to view the island from a satellite view and saw that the surrounding sea has been reworked. You can now see the coral reefs and sea depth, as well as the varied landscape that exists on Ibiza. The weather can also change, so it's one thing to be cruising with the top down on a sunny day; it'll be a little more difficult having to navigate through a thunderstorm. Now that vehicle damage has been added, it'll cost money to fix the cosmetic wounds, so tearing across the fields in your Gumpert Apollo may not be such a good idea.
There is 930 km. of road, and 310 km. of it are off-road trails that are indicated by yellow lines when you zoom out of your map, which could take you about 20 hours if you wanted to drive over all of it. We were told that there will be 4x4 cars to handle this kind of terrain, so if you want to go wild with the drifting and skidding, you'll earn money for showing off your skills--just try not to hit anything. Minor damage will show in the form of scratches and can reach a point where the body parts loosen up. All of this is just for looks however, so it won't affect your driving (just your wallet). Dirt will get on your car if you spend a lot of time in the backcountry, but you can always wait for the weather to change to get a free car wash.
Launching an instant challenge is faster now, and there are dozens of multiplayer challenges that we saw on the map, but we weren't given any details about them. You can still create your own challenge with the editor, choose the type of race that you want, mark off your start/finish line, and then drive the challenge to give it a reference time to beat. Your challenge is posted to the gambling hall where other players can pay the fee you set and try to earn your reward. Other online players will drop in or drop out of your game, and you can filter the kinds of drivers you want to see. For example, you can choose just to have your friends or Aston Martin owners. Your avatar isn't the only thing that represents your personality online. To show how tacky you can really be, you can swing by the sticker and car paint shop to customize your vehicle by slapping on as many decals or layers of paint as you like.
To give players a sense of community, you can create or join a racing club where everyone will band together to try to build the reputation of that club and earn money (or donate) for upgrades. The president is responsible for managing the club, but responsibilities can be assigned to other members. You can challenge other clubs, as well as take on internal challenges between members. While you wait on the street for your competitors to show up, you can walk around and chat with your opponents in the virtual lobby instead of waiting on a menu screen. There are three upgrades to a club, which will give you and up to 32 members access to exclusive cars (like the Gumbert), as well as swanky club houses. Only one member can drive the club-exclusive car at any given time, so if you see one on the road, you'll know that the member is part of a club that has earned one of its upgrades. You can only be a part of one club at a time, so pick wisely.
The whole point of the game is to go from rags to riches, and in order to be able to collect all 208 cars, you need to have the space the house them. There are 100 different homes you can possess and many have breathtaking vistas or even a yacht. You can customize the furniture and tiling in your home, as well as invite friends over at any given moment. To see the stats and achievements of other players, each individual has a MyLife profile where you can take a photo of you avatar, as well as filter the achievements you want shown on your profile.
One of the last things we were shown was one of the game's cooperative modes. You can have a friend jump in a car with you and give you directions to his or her house. Your friend can bring up icons to direct you or be your GPS through voice chat. This allows the other player to just take the passenger seat and cruise around with you. We ended our demo by heading over to another player's yacht--the most expensive house you can buy--where we promptly changed into our bathing suits and jumped into the Jacuzzi. Details were vague, but we were told there were advantages to owning such a place and that it would offer "activities."
There was a lot that was shown in the course of an hour, as well as plenty of other features that have yet to be revealed, and we'd like to play the game for ourselves to see how everything handles. The game looks great so far and was running fairly smoothly for the most part. Another important aspect of the game has to do with the airport; as you progress through the game, you'll eventually gain access to the Ibiza airport. From there, you can then take a plane (and your car) to O'ahu and drive around that island all over again. The graphics have been redone and another 600 km. of asphalt, as well as off-road trails, have been added. There will also be new missions and side missions, so those who spent a lot of time with the first game should have enough reason to head back. Polloni stressed that Eden Games is paying close attention to the community feedback and there are already plans to have downloadable content. Motorcycles won't be available on day one, but they are something the developers intend to include.
The next time we'll see Test Drive Unlimited 2 will be at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, so be sure to stay tuned for more information as soon as it becomes available. The game is scheduled to be released this fall on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.