E3 2001 Hands-onTest Drive for PS2

Test Drive is coming to PS2 and boy does it rock.

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Lucky E3 attendees were able to sample playable builds of both the PlayStation 2 and XBox versions of Test Drive, Infogrames' popular racing series. The XBox version will benefit from an additional few months of development time, but the PlayStation 2 port is no slouch.

Test Drive for PS2 will feature four main cities, approximately 16 courses, and 25 cars worth of racing action. The game will feature a smattering of exotic roadsters and muscle cars, ranging the gamut from the slick style of the Aston Martin to the brutish power of the 1968 Ford Mustang.

Seconds after the controller was handed to me, it became apparent that Test Drive plays wonderfully. Paramount to this is the game's handling balance. Car handling is on the arcade end of realistic, with spinouts, drifting, and oversteer kept to a minimum. At the same time, however, it is possible to steer in circles or crash into structures, provided you consciously decide to drive your vehicle into danger (or happen to end up slapped around by an opponent). The overall give and take between realism and comfort in Test Drive is quite satisfying.

Also satisfying are the game's courses, all of which are lengthy sections borrowed from a number of real-world cities. Portions of London, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Monte Carlo are recreated with striking detail. Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, Big Ben in London, and even the Sony Building in Tokyo are obvious landmarks, as are not-so-obvious structures such as Safeway stores, 7-11s, and popular hangouts.

Realism aside, Test Drive looks pretty too. Each car model is comprised of more than 4,000 polygons. As a result, not only can you see inside the car windshield and view your animated driver doing his business, but you'll witness dynamic shadows cast from the surrounding environment as well. As I played the game, I couldn't help but marvel at how the separate leaves on trees were recreated in both reflection and shadow on the back of the car. Clouds in the sky also affect the shadows cast onto vehicles by dimming the ambient light in the environment. If you're a freak for detail, you can even watch your driver moving around inside the car.

Test Drive for PS2 will be available this winter.

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