The thought of racing through cities like New York, London, and Paris in exotic cars like the Jaguar XJ220, Shelby Series 1, or the TVR Cerbera is enough to give you goose bumps. But images of the wind rushing through your hair as you speed down city streets become just a faded memory once you start playing Test Drive 6. Poor design, bad graphics, and flawed gameplay mar what could otherwise have been an incredibly fun game.
The concept is simple enough: Buy a car using money you are given at the beginning of the game, and begin to earn more money by competing in different types of races. As you win races and earn more money, you can buy upgrades for your car and buy new cars as well. You can also compete in different classes of tournaments depending on the class of car you are racing.
You aren't forced to simply race in tournaments and single races; you can drive a police car and try to give tickets to cars in the race, or you can enter "challenges," which essentially are races where you have to beat the clock, and there are no other cars on the road. While there is some variety in the gameplay, the reality is that you are just racing the same tracks over and over again, albeit with a slightly different slant on how you should race.
Test Drive 6 has particularly weak graphics. Textures are repeated over and over again (New York apparently has about 2000 Lechter's stores), and most objects are just a flat two-dimensional surface. There aren't many polygons on the track beyond those used to model the cars, but at least the cars themselves look good. They are modeled rather nicely and are available in all sorts of colors.
Test Drive 6's music is provided by a batch of trendy bands like Eve 6 and Empirion, and while most of the songs are pretty good, few of them actually fit with the gameplay. Sound effects are sparse but tend to be accurate - you hear essentially nothing more than engine sounds, the occasional screeching of tires, and collision noises.
As for Test Drive 6's driving physics, the various cars handle fairly well, and their performance feels different depending on the car. However, reality ends there - collisions at 200 miles per hour will send other cars 30 feet into the air, while your car barely slows down at all. There's no damage modeling on any of the vehicles. In addition, the collision detection is extremely poor, as your car will occasionally crash to a halt for no particular reason.
The tracks themselves do resemble the city or location they are named after, but the similarities end there. While London does have St. Paul's Cathedral and Buckingham Palace, none of the landmarks or streets are anywhere close to where they should be. A lot of effort seems to have gone into modeling cities that don't actually exist in real life. Cross traffic, which is billed as a big feature in the game, is a major annoyance because stupid drivers will just pull out of side streets (that lead to nowhere) and smash into you. In general, the artificial intelligence of the computer-controlled cars leaves a lot to be desired, which is most obvious when they crash into each other for no apparent reason.
However, the game's biggest drawback is that it is extraordinarily choppy, even on fairly fast systems. Unless you crank the detail all the way down, playing Test Drive 6 is an exercise in futility. A four-minute race can take almost twice that long as you battle against the fits and starts of the graphics engine. Even with the detail set near the lowest setting, you'll still occasionally run into pauses when the music changes or large textures are loaded.
Test Drive 6 does have a few good points. The challenge courses against the clock can be fun, since you aren't distracted by the other cars driving around and into you. Trying to catch racers in a police car is also a rather nice variation and can be entertaining for a while.
However, in the end, Test Drive 6 is just a mess. Its multiple flaws, poor graphics, and boring gameplay take away all the fun. While the high-speed racing can be entertaining for a while, particularly with some of the faster cars, you'll almost always run into a problem with gameplay that spoils your enjoyment.