reviews\ Jun 24, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Test Drive - XB - Review

There is no such thing as being in the wrong lane, or a speed limit. You won’t worry about your insurance rates skyrocketing if you have an accident. After all, what you are doing is highly illegal.

Pitbull Syndicate and Atari return players to the good old days of breakneck speed on city streets with its release of Test Drive for the Xbox. This arcade racing program features deadly curves, high-powered cars and, of course, devastating crashes.

But don’t worry about the latter ­ there are not many times when you can hit another vehicle head-on at 120 miles-per-hour and not only walk away seemingly unscathed, but continue the race. This game, however, presents precisely that opportunity.

This program is about pure racing entertainment. Some real-world physics sneak into the mix of the gameplay, but only in terms of how the car handles when it tries to take that corner at a high rate of speed.

The game features a variety of hot cars, from the ugly rendered (but surprisingly fast) GTO to the unmistakable lines of a Camaro, as well as the Chevy Chevelle, Supra and several imports.

The idea of the game is simple: make all the checkpoints before time runs out, outrun any police pursuers and try to beat your opposition to the finish line. You can pick up points for hitting some of the jumps. That is the intention aspect of aerial automotives; there are also the unintentional jumps, which can be a quick adrenaline rush if you were unprepared for the event.

When it comes to the game play options, there are several ways to attack this game. There is the obligatory quick race, or you can power through single-player options of linear racing (one course) or the circuit. If you want something a little more than merely out-racing other illegal street drivers, you can take on the Underground game. The latter involves a club dedicated to street racing. Your character, Dennis Black, has been invited to stand in for one of the club members (who was injured in a race), and take on the circuit and its cutthroat competitors.

Of course, there is also a multiplayer, head-to-head racing option that allows players to pick and customize the paint job of a car, then take off on one of the courses.

Each of the courses ­ which include streets in San Francisco, Monte Carlo, Tokyo and London ­ present unique challenges. Some races are at night, which give the game an added dimension. That head-on collision may be fine during the daylight, but do it at night and you will likely lose your headlights. That is not a good thing when barreling around the streets of San Francisco. That trolley does have running lights, thereby announcing its presence. In the quick times between checkpoints, any accident can delay you long enough to miss making the next marker.

Graphically the game is well done. The course environments are superb and the racing action is intense. The sound for the game is equally well done. The musical score features tracks from a variety of artists such as DMX and JA Rule. There are also the customary sounds associated with a racing game ­ such as revving engines and squealing tires.

The controls take little time to learn. This game was played with both a wheel and the standard Xbox controller, and the latter proved a little easier to use simply because players can take their finger off the left thumbstick (direction control) on straight-aways and the car will keep to a straight line.

Test Drive is an enjoyable arcade car-racing game. It does have challenge, and though some of the action (as in the crashes) are slightly unrealistic, this is a game that will likely appeal to both young and veteran race fans.


Gameplay: 8
This is an arcade race game, and that means some real-world physics can be overlooked. There is little damage to cars, even in the most incredible collisions you have seen (imagine gunning toward an intersection with the pedal to the metal when cars ahead of you turn into your path ­ that will give you some idea of the crashes this game offers). And for those who want to know ­ nope, can’t run over pedestrians. They are too quick, even if you try to pretend you aren’t going to hit them, then swerve at the last possible second.

Graphics: 8.5
While the crashes may lack a certain reality, they do look spectacular. The environments are very well rendered.

Sound: 8.5
Solid tunes and racing effects co-star with the graphics.

Difficulty: Easy
The game is easy to jump into and play, but winning presents its own set of challenges.

Concept: 7
This game sports a good options package, although it hardly offers a unique racing experience.

Multiplayer: 7
Nothing different here. This game will support two players racing head-to-head.

Overall: 8.3
The police pursuit ends way too quickly (only once was a roadblock encountered), but solid graphics and sound accelerate this game down the home stretch. This is entertaining and challenging.  


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