reviews\ Jun 9, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Test Drive - PS2 - Review

Although this is technically the seventh game in the series, Infogrames (Atari) decided to cut out the number and start the series all over again.  This is a growing trend among video game franchises with multiple sequels.  Now that Test Drive has been more or less reborn on the PlayStation 2, you might expect a few drastic changes and a number of improvements.  While Test Drive has been improved on the PS2, it isn't a whole lot different from the older games.  Rather than creating an entirely new gameplay experience, Infogrames decided to give you more of the same great gameplay you know and love from the previous games in the series.  Assuming you love the previous games, of course.

Test Drive is all about street racing.  Its most appealing feature is its excellent representation of speed.  When the speedometer reaches its limit, the thrills reach an all-time high (for this game).  It's so much fun to swerve in and out of traffic, whether it's coming right at you or not.  The speed is ultimately what kept me coming back for more.  And it's the controls and the crashes that nearly turned me off.

There aren't as many cars on the road as in Grand Theft Auto 3, but there are more than enough cars to kill your speed.  They practically force you to hit the brakes or ease up on the gas.  If you don't slow down, you'll likely crash into something, which will slow you down even more than if you had hit the brakes.  Cars aren't the only things you have to worry about hitting -- streetlights, walls and police barricades will also halt your progress.  The imperfect controls only further increase your chances of crashing.  This takes away from what could have been a game with non-stop excitement.  With time, practice and lots of patience, Test Drive becomes much easier to control.  But that doesn't stop the crashes from happening.

In real life, street racers are forced to run from the law, so it's only natural that Test Drive's streets would be littered with cops.  Unfortunately, it does very little to enhance the gameplay experience.  The police are only a slight intrusion.  Avoiding them is one of the easier things to do in this game.  Their barricades are rather weak, and they don't drive well enough to catch you the minute you screw up.  It's not that I want them to be perfect, but their AI could have been a whole lot better.  When a cop finally busts you, it's not too much of a problem because you're free to go after three seconds.

On the back of the box, it makes a note of the game's "insane wrecks."  Insane wrecks?  What do you mean insane wrecks?  I crashed a hundred times and never once saw a scratch on my vehicle!  I know that a lot of developers agree not to damage any officially licensed vehicles, but that is slowly changing with games like Project Gotham and Gran Turismo 4.  This doesn't hinder the gameplay, but if they're going to promise to give me insane wrecks, I expect to see them.

Test Drive's graphics aren't perfect, but the game does have some really cool effects.  At night, your vehicle's real-time headlights help guide you through the darkness.  Although merely a graphical feature, it is definitely one of the highlights of the game.  Aside from at night, Test Drive falls beyond the top PS2 racing games.  I'm not going to do a bunch of comparisons, but several games have demonstrated the true power of Sony's console, and it's a real shame to play a brand-new game that isn't too far beyond what was possible on the Dreamcast.  In general, Test Drive is a good looking game.  But my eyes are used to all of these effects, so they're not as fun to look at as they were two years ago.

Test Drive was created for the diehard fans of the series who have supported it for the past 7+ years.  Outsiders may be baffled, while Test Drive loyalists jump for joy.  I myself have mixed feelings about this game.  Most of the things that I like about it are overshadowed by the things that frustrate me.  The gameplay still needs some tweaking.  The speed is great, but it's not consistent.  This isn't Totaled! (an upcoming Xbox game about crashing vehicles, among other things), it's Test Drive.  I want to race.  I want to fly by the cops and leave my opponents in the dust.  Crashing should NOT be mandatory!  I should crash only when I make a severe mistake.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 7
Test Drive is a pretty good game that lost some of its greatness in the heavy traffic.  If the traffic were easier to avoid, Test Drive would have been a lot more fun to play.  Faster load times would have been nice, too.

Graphics: 7.5 
Test Drive serves a nice plate of eye candy, including real-time lighting, smooth cars and decent backgrounds.  You can get an order of fog on the side, but only those who look closely will be able to taste it.

Sound: 5
Do you like DMX, Ja Rule, Junkie XL, Bubba Sparxxx (no relation to Boba Fett) or Saliva?  If so, then Test Drive will be music to your ears.  If not, then it is probably best to hit the mute button and use your CD player to satisfy your musical needs.

Difficulty: Medium
Test Drive isn't really that hard of a game, but avoiding traffic is very tough.  Every time you crash, your opponents get that much further ahead.

Concept: 4 
Every great concept that Test Drive has to offer was either borrowed from another racing game, or taken from a previous Test Drive game.

Multiplayer: 6
There isn't much of a multiplayer mode here.  First of all, it's no different from the single race mode.  Second, only two people can race simultaneously.

Overall: 7
I wish I could take out individual parts of this game and throw away the rest.  Test Drive is new for PS2, but for the most part it's still the same old game.  It's a decent buy, but only if you have an endless amount of patience.  Patient-less gamers should rent it instead.


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