Test Drive Unlimited 2 is not such a great game. It has a lot of content, but it’s not very diverse and you’ll feel like you’ve seen everything it offers after three or four hours. The easiest way to describe this game is just to break down my time with it for you and add in criticisms as I go. Let’s get started:
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from TDU2. It’s been heralded as a racing game with social elements and has been likened to a massive online multiplayer racing game. Sounds interesting, right? About one minute after hitting the new game option, I knew something was wrong. Watch the first minute of this video and see for yourself (this is the first thing you see when starting a new game).
Wait, what game is this again? It’s like some kind of alternate universe where Playstation Home is far creepier than usual. The video goes on to be a dream and it turns out you’re just some loser valet, which somehow qualifies you to enter a racing championship rather than lose your job. At this point, the actual game begins.
TDU2 seems to be walking a fine line between arcade racing and racing sim. You may be thinking, “Okay, arcade racing with a heavier feel, sounds similar to the new Hot Pursuit.” No, don’ t think that. TDU2 feels like a slippery, drifting, arcade game when you want it to be precise. When you want it to be loose and slippery it just feels too tight and precise. I had a revelation while playing the first driving segment: this game is Grand Theft Auto IV. The driving feels very similar to that.
I did eventually get used to it and have success driving around, but it never became fun. Drifting felt impossible to control and I was never really entirely sure how in control of my car I was. At this point, the game introduces the FRIM (I don’t remember what FRIM stands for, but it was dumb). Essentially, all it means is you make money when you drift or get near misses or jumps. The weird thing is that this system disables as soon as you start a race. So when you want to be making money for doing those tricks (and are likely to be doing them in order to win the race), you get nothing. When you’re not in a race, you typically will just want to fast travel everywhere, rendering the FRIM worthless.
The game then decides to put you through mandatory Gran Turismo-style license tests. Even Gran Turismo 5, a baffling game from the design perspective, knew not to make these things mandatory. These tests are pretty much the same as the ones in GT: you’ll perform some sort of maneuver within the time limit, etc. I got substantially frustrated when I started failing tests because my car was getting stuck on geometry.
Regardless, you’ll eventually get your license (unless you have an aneurism). At this point you can race in tournaments to earn money or go on to do little driving events or try and earn other licenses. The tournaments are all super easy despite how frustrating the feel of the controls are; you never really feel challenged. The little events are basically time trials.
One of the other license types you can get is the off-road license. Surprisingly, the off-roading is actually a lot of fun! I’m not sure how this happened but it feels really good. The controls are responsive and the rumble of the dirt roads gives the experience a really tactile feel. It’s not enough to redeem all of TDU2, but it was definitely nice to experience something enjoyable after everything the game first throws at you.
At the start of this review, I mentioned that this game is supposed to be an MMO racing game of sorts. The idea is that the world is persistent and there are so many other players online with you. You can see them driving around and if you want to challenge them you can flash your headlights to propose an event. This is interesting, but in the week since the game was released, the game’s online servers have only been up and running about a quarter of the time. I played every day over the past week and only found the servers to be responding once or twice. This is where TDU2 completely falls apart.
There’s plenty more to talk about, like all the Playstation Home-style stuff. You can buy clothes and furniture and houses and all of that, but none of it really does anything. There’s progression in place where having that stuff will level you up, but all this means is that more stuff is unlocked to buy. None of it actually does anything. Also, all the clothes and stuff you can buy are ugly generic fashion magazine crap. If the game had more silly options available (similar to what you can do with Saints Row 2), at least it would be amusing.
Avoid Test Drive Unlimited 2 at all costs. I don’t often like to say straight-up not to buy a game, but there are so many better things you can do with forty or fifty bucks than buy this. If you feel absolutely inclined to try it out, I can’t stress how important it is that you rent it first.