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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Racing

 

Publisher

Infogrames

 

Developer

Pitbull Syndicate

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

June 2002

 

 

-Pong!

-A nice collection of very, very fast cars

-The Underground Mode, while cheesy, gives the game some depth

-Multiplayer Drag Racing doesn't get old

 

 

-The abundance of crashes that force you to alter your driving style significantly from Fast to Not So Fast

-The graphics are nothing to brag about

-No Create-A-Car or Create-A-Driver

 

 

Review: Test Drive (XBox)

Review: Test Drive Off Road Wide Open (Playstation 2)

Review: Test Drive Off Road Wide Open (XBox)

 

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Test Drive

Score: 8.1 / 10

 

Test Drive (TD) is the latest arcade racer to hit the market and it may very well may be one of the best out there.

 

The graphics, in short, are above average. The cars boast a lot of detail. Most have the option of being driven in four or five different colors. While on the road you can see reflections on your car, etc. – TD is not deficient in the graphical department. I would even say it's comparable to Gran Turismo 3, which has amazing graphics, but is almost a year old. Project Gotham Racing, a similar game on the X-Box, outshines TD's graphics hands-down. TD is no envelope pusher, nor was it intended to be, but I thought there should have been some improvements.

 

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You race in four cities (San Francisco, Tokyo, London, and Monaco) – each city loitered with pedestrians, passing cars, street signs, and animated billboards. They all contribute to a wonderful driving environment. Thrown into the mix are various weather conditions and time of day.

 

There are only four main game modes to choose from, but there are subsidiaries of each. In Quick Race you can choose to race either a linear (one lap) or circuit course (multiple laps). In Single Race you have the option of Linear, Circuit, Navigation Challenge, Cop Chase, or Drag Racing. The last two are worth special mention. In Cop Chase you take the role as "Bad-Ass Cop" and ram your car into six speeding cars. After you hit one criminal car three or four times they are deemed arrested. There is one limiting factor: you must get them before the course ends (which runs between three and a half and four minutes). Drag racing is self-explanatory, but it is super fun especially when you go against a human opponent in the two-player mode. The CPU rarely presents a challenge unless you give it a far superior car.

 

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The Bouncer certainly doesn’t let you forget that there’s a lot of plot because every couple of minutes that action stops and it’s time for three or so minutes of CG cutscenes. Yeah, it looks gorgeous and all, but what it boils down to is making the game way too halted. If the cutscenes could be distributed differently, or at least the action sequences were longer, it would have made the whole game a lot more enjoyable, but as it stands the distribution of action and cutscenes 

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The final game mode is the Underground mode. This has a Grant Theft Auto III side mission ring to it – but with more cheese factor. Dennis Black, is called forward to garner pink slips by racing very fast cars. You complete a navigation challenge, circuit, or linear course to advance to the next race. Each race has "Cruisin' USA" check points and pits you against five computer racers, each with their own personality and driving style. To advance you usually have to place in the top three places.

 

This might sound weird, but the gameplay is the most exciting and most frustrating element of the game. I have a fascination with fast cars and TD comes through in that area. Racing them through a linear course or drag racing them is very entertaining. I was able to notice a big difference between the big muscle cars and the lighter-weight speedsters. TD doesn't have ratings for handling or steering, but you can notice a big difference from car to car. It's a pity that TD doesn't give you handling ratings because to be successful you must have cat quick reflexes and a lot of skill. The high speed of the cars is the most appealing aspect of the game, but the layout of the courses and kamikaze CPU cars force you to drive at a "Sunday Driver" pace. I don't mind the course layouts having plenty of 90 degree turns and elevation changes, but there are some things that happen during a race that make you blurt out, "Now that's cheap!"

 

For instance, a majority of the races take place at night and cars and immovable objects (houses, light poles, trees) don't appear on the screen until the very last second. There are ramps that you can jump to gain extra time, but you are usually greeted by a parked semi at the end of the jump. Opposing cars will run you into passing cars and sometimes passing cars will swerve in your way! To succeed you have to constantly hit the brakes and read and react instead of going full-bore like a madman. This is extremely frustrating and is the biggest downfall of the game. With a garage full of ultra-fast cars you want to drive them fast and not slow!

 

Don't get me wrong, not all of the CPU's tactics and course layouts are cheap. With the right amount of skill and practice you can be very successful. You'll still have your fair share of crashes, but you'll be able to avoid most of them. If you are to get in successive accidents and roll over, you shouldn't worry because no matter how bad you are, the CPU cars will wait for you. I sort of like this feature because no matter how bad you screw up you still have a chance to win. There are cops in the game, but they end up being little more than annoyances that can be easily outraced. Sticking to its "arcade racing" title, your car never obtains any visual or performance setbacks no matter how many things you hit.

 

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In the audio department Test Drive is lackluster. Aside from a generic burnout sound, there aren't many in-game sounds. There is a nice 16-track compilation consisting mainly of rap, r&b, and punk rock (Fast and the Furious music).

A few other minor gripes I have about the game are: the omission of a Create-A-Car or a Create-A-Driver, the inability to change the music while in a race, and the lack of a training mode.

 

For short spurts Test Drive is pure racing joy. As you whiz your car in and out of traffic you feel like a god on his chariot, but unfortunately too often you come crashing back to earth after hitting something or having something hit you. For fans of the genre, Test Drive is at least worth a weekend rental. (If you end up disliking the game you should at least find entertainment in games of Pong that are played while the game is loading.)

 

- Tim Martin

(July 1, 2002)

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