Test Drive Unlimited 2 Hands-On

We set out on the path from valet to Ibizan champion driver in this open-world racing sequel.

You're partying poolside at a swanky villa somewhere in Ibiza when one of the party girls beckons you away from the crowd. She wants to give you your birthday present, which is in the garage. It's a red Ferrari California, and, suddenly, you're out driving it into the Ibizan sunset. By the standards of Test Drive Unlimited 2, your life is perfect. Then, you wake up and it was all a dream, and it turns out you're a valet for the same party girl, who has found you napping in her car. She's furious and needs to be at the Solar Crown championship clubhouse 10 minutes ago. There's nothing for it but to drive the tetchy madam there yourself.

So begins Test Drive Unlimited 2, the open-world racer that expands and develops 2006's Hawaii-set game. TDU2 takes place in an extensively re-created Ibiza, with the original Test Drive Unlimited's O'ahu island becoming available as you progress. We were invited for an extended hands-on session to try the online play, but the single-player and multiplayer are inextricable, if not seamless. So we started from the very beginning: the party dream, in which you pick an avatar from among the revellers and then land a place in an eight-driver lineup for the Solar Crown. This championship is a driving contest, which comprises races and time trials across the island's roads and dirt tracks.

Besides the 3,000km of road through the island's harbour, city, suburbs, and fields, TDU2's Ibiza map is scattered with car dealerships, shops, and clubhouses. Inside these, you are in avatar mode, walking around in a first-person view to interact with other characters and peruse purchases; at the dealer showrooms, you can examine the detailed car models up close in this mode. The shops include places to modify your avatar--hairdressers, for instance--and tune or adorn your vehicle. The clubhouses are hubs at which you earn your various licenses across the asphalt, such as classic and off-road classes. Others are user-owned bases that groups of players can buy as a place to store cars at and socialise in. You gain access to bigger houses as you progress, upgrading from eight- to 16- to 32-player properties.

Having earned our first classic licence with a set of basic driving skill tests, we were entitled to compete in the C4 championship after buying our first car from a used-car dealer. Ours was a Lotus Esprit S3, which handled twitchily, especially in the heavy rain that plagued our early races--part of the dynamic weather system. We're told vehicle handling hasn't been finished across the full roster of cars; as we spun off a hard corner on a wet road for the 10th time, it felt as though this Esprit could use some fine-tuning. Later, though, we earned our first asphalt licence slaloming down a disused runway in an Alpha Romeo MiTO, which handled more predictably. After we'd won our off-road licence, we competed in the off-road championship in a custom Hummer H3--tastefully scarlet, with the red and ebony interior. Scrambling around in the Ibizan hills and bombing along cliff roads in the dark were particular highlights. There is also a handful of driving-assist options for frustrated racers, but no motorbikes at launch--though developer Eden hasn't ruled out adding them in later.

Outside of the championship events--mostly time trials, speed challenges, and races against the other seven Solar Crown contestants--TDU2's free-roam driving lets you make money by chaining together dodging, jumping, and drifting manoeuvres. You can bank your earnings at any time or risk them by going for longer combos; a collision, even a bump, sets the counter back to zero. Collisions, though, are never more than inconvenient; the damage modelling is only cosmetic and doesn't affect car performance. Cruising around in free mode, in which you pick up cash for dodging oncoming traffic, is a fun diversion and a good time to admire the scenery with the behind-the-car camera view (there's a full cockpit view, too, along with a dashboard and bonnet view).

Progression is measured with a levelling system. There are 60 global levels divided across four categories: discovery, competition, social, and collection, respectively tracking your progress in exploring the map, participating in championships, interacting with others, and collecting stuff. Exploration will reveal more shops and suchlike, labelling your island map with locations as you go. Once you've visited a location, the map offers you a quick travel alternative to using the GPS navigation for the long drive with your minimap. You'll also unlock challenges as you roam the island; TDU2 has 650 of them. We encountered one to deliver a Ferrari to the shop without scratching the paintwork and another in which a professional photographer wanted us to take a series of landscape photos around the island.

There's no lobby screen for entering multiplayer and no separate modes. The online multiplayer element is integrated into the general play and places you on the same map with other TDU2 players. It's not quite a massively multiplayer online game-style experience; in effect, only eight nearby players are sharing your gameworld at any one time. They are tagged on your map and a heads-up display helps you seek them out. (If you're offline, the game populates your island with AI drivers in place of other players.) As you encounter other drivers, though, you can flash your headlights to challenge them to a spontaneous race, or you can meet up with them--or with friends, obviously--at the co-op challenges pinpointed on the map.

We're going to Ibiza.

Ahead of entering the multiplayer action, you're dropped into a prerace lineup along a section of road, with all the cars of your party members parked for inspection by other players. Here, you're in avatar mode again, with a wheel of emote options available for gesturing at your cohorts. In the Follow the Leader challenge mode, your party races through a series of checkpoints, with the checkpoint location only visible to the leader and with the role of leader changing at each. In Keep Your Distance mode, you have to maintain a specific distance between yourself and the car in front--trickier than it sounds along winding roads at high speed, especially in a larger party.

Eden Games says it will be ready with a specific release date "shortly." For now, the launch is pencilled in for the first quarter of 2011. Between now and then, there are dents to buff out of TDU2's bodywork: texture pop-in while out in the countryside, for example, and stuttering frame rates at the start of eight-driver wet weather races. But the open-world driving concept, blending single-player and multiplayer, is still sturdy and promises long hours of Ibizan cruising next year.

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Discussion

41 comments
nitromuffin
nitromuffin

cant wait for tomorrow, yay, and its only 50$

nurjra
nurjra

i hope thay add the Aston Martin DB5

GOGOGOGURT
GOGOGOGURT

I hope all the engines sound cool. And by cool I mean different. A Honda 4-cylinder does NOT sound the same as a Chevrolet 4-cylinder.

wpbsmoka
wpbsmoka

The original TDU was the best racing game ever imo. Hopefully they allow more customization this time around. But hands down the open world aspect will make this my go to game just like the first one

da2g
da2g

no people on the streets - feels like driving afte an atomic blast

Ryald_King
Ryald_King

looks immersive. good to know that they put a lot of effort into it.

No_Signal
No_Signal

What's interesting in the game is that you can control the convertibles I mean u can on and off the hood that's interesting becouse even in the latest NFS u can't do it :)

-Six-Shooter-
-Six-Shooter-

@jimmyjumpy yeah, that would be awesome, i'm still buying the game, after playing the new Hot pursuit for 3 hours i realized that TDU is quite exceptional for a racing game, having a good driving/handling system, huge level(s) and nice cars, together with the online-racing/social-options... it's just something Need For Speed will never have,.. not even in NFS:World .. let's just hope for a motorcycle DLC!

Bencse
Bencse

I hope they will add motorbikes later. But not in a pricey DLC!

NathanWootton
NathanWootton

@-Six-Shooter- I think there will be some DLC for bikes Emailed one of the devs there

JimmyJumpy
JimmyJumpy

@-Six-Shooter-, I guess you mean MV Agusta f4? I would have liked to have a spin with the MTT Gas Turbine Superbike (propelled by a Rolls Royce Allison 250 series turbine)... that would have been nice...

-Six-Shooter-
-Six-Shooter-

no motorcycles,.. darn it... i wanted to drive in Ibizi on a Kawasaki Ninja 600cc of a Honda CBR 900 RR Fireblade so much, or that M4 Augusta :P any motorcycle really..

avihai92
avihai92

dont forget bugatti veyron

GODSPEEDseven
GODSPEEDseven

Well.. if they include the LEXUS LFA.. I'm buying it.

ziadpayne
ziadpayne

Looks amazing. Man what if they can make this game like GTA. for example your character has to eat and drink and has friends and a girlfriend you know what I mean.

XxgunsxX
XxgunsxX

we want bikes yesss zusuky or ducaty guess ppl to sacre to drive bikes they dream with big cars they will never have at least real life i do have a hayabusa lol to bad for ppl dont wana have bikes on this game lol but im happy they in clued the new audi thx you much atari im fan of your games this is a must buy gt5 so boring ................

the1stmoonfly
the1stmoonfly

I still play the first one. I hope they put other stuff in like jet skis, parachute jumping in a pilot wings style and other fun stuff like shooting ranges etc. I want this to be a fun out of the vehicles as in them and become an all round great way to just play a game for the sake of it, getting back to games just being fun. Leader boards for the extra games like a shooting range (clay pigeon as well as bow and row type things) would also make this game just packed full of fun stuff to do. Really looking forward to this one, but I bet I still have a bunch of 'they should have done this' things too. Still, cant wait all the same.

spec78
spec78

Can't wait for this one.With off road,night driving and weather effects,it will be a much better experience than the first one.I just hope they put the bikes in!!

Markucio
Markucio

I only played the demo for the first one, but I did like it and this looks like fun. If I've got some cash spare when it releases I might have to give it a go.

sambob530
sambob530

Cool, the whole of Ibiza and THEN Oa'hu! I wonder if they upscaled Oa'hu or kept it the same. Either way, PS3 owners now get to go on Oa'hu, which is a plus! How will they fit both onto 1 DVD for the Xbox version, or will it be a disc each? The PS3 can put it on it's Blu-Ray and the PC can compress it like hell and have a mega 20GB+ install for it.

bodigalhun
bodigalhun

looks pretty good. wonder my machine can display it as it showed in the screens.

benboz
benboz

I loved the first one and definitely getting this one too.

1uP_OnYou
1uP_OnYou

Simply put... can't wait to play!

Jae69G
Jae69G

The first test drive is my favourite racer on xbox,so this is a buy for me!

nickz_fpk
nickz_fpk

After reading this I can confirm that I am definitely buying this. It just reminds me of NFSU2 which was my favourite NFS.I Can't wait for this to come out

oneofthefall
oneofthefall

I'm not too bothered about the late release, it gives them time to iron the bugs out "if any", and add to the already great features! Does sound great and cant wait!

rockafella06
rockafella06

Bikes DLC? Hope they make a Box Set Including it in a few months like burnout did :D

Panther_Dud_E3
Panther_Dud_E3

When the article said "She wants to give you your birthday present, which is..." kinda thought it was a... u know. @kingofcustoms92 the reason why it wasn't on ps3 is because ps3 didn't come out during release of TDU but it was on ps2

XxgunsxX
XxgunsxX

yes we want bikes ofcurse man who dont want a hayasuba or zusuky gx come onnnnn realyy

XxgunsxX
XxgunsxX

omg they change the release day come on make up your mined ppls

kingofcustoms92
kingofcustoms92

*DROOLING* This LOOKS so FRICKIN AWSOME! CAN'T WAIT FOR THIS!!!!! p.s. THANKS FOR BRING IT FOR THE PS3!!!!! If this was only available for the xbox 360 and pc... not for ps3. then, f*** you! (wish they put the first tdu for the ps3)

JackNichols1
JackNichols1

This game just sounds better and better :D

PeterParker
PeterParker

I tried the Beta and I had a lot of fun with it. It still had a lot of features turned off, so it will probably be even better when its complete.

mmarufahmed
mmarufahmed

What worries me about this game is neither the developer nor the game sites have anything to say about the car physics. There is a little bit here but that gives not a great idea about the car physics. The last game was not right in that respect and this lack of information is keeping me worried. For the PC players, this is a game with the largest car collection. So I'd like the handling to be simulation based. If they are going for arcade driving game, its should still start off with good simulation in the background and assists to make the driving exciting while keeping realistic car behaviors and performance.

anotherone10
anotherone10

Looks like their taking the second game to the next step, and with 3000km of road, this game is going to be huge :D

Burpman01
Burpman01

Yeah me too, i liked the first and second looks a lot better !

SadPSPAddict
SadPSPAddict

That sounds like the game is coming along nicely. Looking forward to this one :D