previews\ May 2, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Test Drive Unlimited - 360 - Preview 2

E3 2006 Hands On Preview

It’s not an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game), per se; it is what the developers are calling an MOOR (massively open online racing) title.

The idea is a simple one, of sorts. You arrive in Oahu (Hawaii) with enough money to buy a decent but low-end car and a moderate place to live. You run challenges, or missions, to get more money, or race online through the Xbox Live.

The game is Test Drive Unlimited, from Atari, and will release on both the PC and 360 with the anticipated release date of September 2006.

For those that remember the Electronic Arts online racing game Motor City Online, there is much to rejoice about when it comes to Test Drive Unlimited. It is sort of like MCO, but the next generation, with the added luxury of running down streets that are beyond similar to what is really on Oahu. It is Oahu. Satellite photos made it so. The only thing removed were dead-end streets. This game is apparently so accurate that were you to visit Oahu for the first time, after playing it for a bit, you could navigate the island. Of course, you probably would not be doing it in a Lamborghini or Jaguar at 150 miles per hour.

The game features 125 vehicles, many of them of the licensed high-end variety. The vehicles do not take damage when you crash, but an NPC car may. If you exceed the speed limit, or crash a lot, you will see a police tag flare. Highlight all three of the “bars” and you can expect to start paying tickets.

Test Drive Unlimited Xbox 360 screenshots

There are 14 avatars to choose from to begin with, but they are highly customizable and you can even buy clothes later on and change their appearance. There are 65 different homes that can be bought, and while they cannot be decorated, they do provide some very important features. For example, you will have garage slots which determines how many vehicles you can have. It also gives you access to achievements, player-community challenges, rankings and the like. You can own more than one home and can get it through an in-game realtor or on the in-game marketplace. The marketplace uses in-game currency. The only thing players will actually pay for (after buying the game) is downloadable content.

Players will also be able to upgrade the cars and motorcycles they buy.

Playable at Atari’s pre-E3 event, the game was very well suited for the 360 controller. It played very tight on the cars and the motorcycles were very touchy. Quick acceleration on the top Ducati bike usually meant sliding sideways on the highway.

The game sported unique engine sounds and graphically was a delicious bit of eye candy – not only in the look of the vehicles (you can color customize both the interior and exterior) but in the environments, from the trees and mountains to the sky.

Test Drive Unlimited has the potential to be a truly fun addition to the MMOG space. This was a title where the time spent behind the wheel, roaring down the streets was too limited … for now.


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