Review by NES4EVER

"This game deserves more than a test drive"

Test Drive is truly one of the best racing games the Playstation 2 has seen, or will ever see. I would say it is the best game out right now, but Gran Turismo 3 takes that honor. Test Drive is a worthy adversary though, with 30+ cars, 45 levels, and dozens of modes, you will not be bored anytime soon. The minute you put the disk in, you’ll be fascinated at the introduction video depicting a Dodge Viper GTS-R Concept flying down the streets, narrowly missing cars, objects and police. Pitbull syndicate was really on a role when they imagined this up. The big questions on everyone’s mind now is “Is this test drive a real change from the others, or is it just a prettier remake of a bland game?”

Well, in a sense, some things have changed from the original. The story mode has stayed in the game, which is a warm welcome. The cars handle much better than they did in previous games such as Test Drive 4, 5, and 6 but there are a few minor speed bumps in this game that you’ll really notice after a while. Anyone who has played any of the earlier games will contest that this game had real promise, but Accolade never really put the effort into making the games successes. Fortunately, there is no mention of Accolade on the box or in the game, Infogrames and Pitbull Syndicate took over, and they really hit a homerun with this game. Not nearly as many drawbacks as the others, but it has its share. Once you get a chance to play the game, you’ll see for yourself how an awesome soundtrack, arcade controls, beautifully rendered cars, and well planned levels can really heighten a gaming experience.

Gameplay

One of the most important elements of any game today is giving the player a lot of things to do. Nowadays, games are based greatly on what they offer to the pallets of gamers and something new is always welcomed into the gaming community. Test Drive offers gamers a multitude of selections to choose from. You can start in quick race, which lets you pick any car you have unlocked, and race it among your opponents. There isn’t much point to this game other than getting well acquainted with the tracks and competitors you’ll be racing on and against. I suggest you find out in quick race that the competitors are FIERCE. Infogrames must have tweaked the AI to near perfection when making Test Drive, because as you’ll find out, your opponents wont settle for second. They will do anything to have themselves on the road, and you tangled up in the guardrail. They maneuvers for anything, if you try to pass them, they’ll cut in front of you, if your ahead of them, they’ll hit your back end any try to send you fish tailing. It’s just frustrating when you consider how smart they are. But all the same, it provides for a more realistic experience that I think everyone should enjoy.

The next on our merry little list is Single player racing. You can tackle the linear style racing, which is basically point A to point B racing, or circuit style racing which is do ‘X’ amount of laps around the track. These are the only 2 similar styles of racing. They both take place on public roads with traffic, which is more incentive to learn how to drive, they both put you against 5 competitors, and they both challenge all aspects of your car. If you are looking for alternative style of racing, consider cop chase mode, or drag race. Cop chase places you in the role of a cop, and it is your job to keep the racers within the law. It isn’t too hard, but as in the other modes, you will notice how tough the AI is. At least single race mode isn’t as critical as the Underground race mode.

Underground racing is where the real racers are sorted from the bad. Although winning isn’t demanded of you, a top three position is, and if you’re not able to accomplish that, then you’re not in the elite-racing group anymore. If you have what it takes, you’ll be cast into a story that soars over four locations and 46 races that differ in style. Some races are linear, meaning it’s a point A to point B race. Some races are circuit mode, meaning you race around the same track for a certain amount of laps, and hey, some races are even drag races for all you speed junkies out there. But that’s not all this mode offers, it has an actual thought out story behind it that advances as you go through the races. So not only do you get a racing game, you almost have a sort of racing RPG. I really don’t know what more to say without going overboard, there is just so much in this game to do that you’ll certainly find this game more in depth than most other racing games.
9/10

Graphics

The graphics in Test Drive are almost Gran Turismo 3 material. The cars are rendered almost picture perfectly, much better than most racing games on the PS2, but they still aren’t comparable to GT3. I’m sure you’ll hear this in almost every racing game review for PS2, but it’s a fact. The cars have all the right emblems in all the right places, and the use of headlights look great on the streets, but the images of the cars just have a video game feel, so it detracts from the realism. The movement of the wheels looks pretty real, and one thing that really surprised me was the fact you could see the brake calipers. Not many games model such realistic cars, but fortunately Test Drive has done it.

Cars aren’t the only things when it comes to graphics; backgrounds play an important role in the scheme of things as well. Once again, test drive has done an excellent job here, but GT3 still beats it by a tad. All the times of day are done accurately, for example, the sun casts shadows on certain places and it can blare into the camera, making you unable to see where your going (the agony!). Night uses your headlights and the streetlights to keep the road visible, and if you hit a streetlight, it will fall and the area will go dark. All these little details make playing this game quite a pleasant experience. But the one thing that I would like to mention is that the frame rate seems to slow down at really high speeds and when there is a lot on the screen. You will really notice on the night tracks because the lights seem to be fuzzy and choppy sometimes. But if you can set that aside, then this game has great graphics. It’s a pretty good improvement over the previous installments of the test drive series, that’s for sure.
8/10

Sound

Sound is a mixed bag in Test Drive. On one hand, there is an awesome soundtrack with a load of well-known songs from artists like Bubba Sparxxx, Ja Rule, Junkie XL and DMX. I would have to say test drive has one of the most provocative soundtracks I’ve seen in any recent video game. On the other hand, there are a few downsides like the fact that most cars sound the same in all aspects. Most of the cars sound muffled and similar to each other. Some of the cars that are supposed to sound like high-strung import racers sound more like a muscle car, and some of the beefy muscle cars sound like they have no power at all. That’s one thing that surprised me, was the lack of realism when it came to sounds. The cars seemed a little quiet too. Your opponents would fly past you in their cars that sound like hot machines, while you putt by in your muscle car that sounds like a minivan. Another thing that I didn’t understand are the sound effects used throughout the level. For example, when you hit another car, you don’t hear the clash of metal against metal, you hear a clunk. I don’t know why they would spend so much time on an amazing story, great graphics, and a superb soundtrack and then give the game such bland sound effects. But even the sound effects cannot pull the sound down here. The soundtrack is just so magnificent compared to other games that it pulls up the marks in the sound department.
8/10

Controls

Well, I have to say the controls here are pretty good. I can’t really compare it to Gran Turismo 3 since Test Drive is an arcade style game and GT3 is a Simulation game, but the controls are good. You’ll find that braking with the normal brake can sometimes be tedious, but you can use the emergency brake to go through those tough turns. The control scheme was thought out pretty good, but I don’t understand why they needed to include a horn. In most games, the addition of a horn to the scheme usually signals that they couldn’t think of anything else to put in so they basically wasted a button. And things don’t look much different in this game. They could have at least added a side view but oh well, its no use complaining now. But one thing I really liked about the control of the car was if you went spinning off the road and you were trying to accelerate, your tires spun and twisted the car in directions that it would if your tires were searching madly for traction. I like what they’ve done with the controls in test drive, they did good.
8/10

Difficulty--- Moderate/Hard

The races themselves are moderately hard, but once you learn how to drive, you will be able to breeze through the underground mode with relative ease. It isn’t really until the later races in Monaco and the final races that things get interesting. And just a bit of advice, you better be a truly legendary driver if you plan to win the final race, I swear it will take hundreds of tries for you to beat. On the other hand, once you know how to shift, you can whiz past them, if you’re driving the right car that is…Overall, the game isn’t too extremely hard, but its no piece of cake.

Replay Value

There is one heck of a lot of things to do in this game. All modes outside Underground mode should take about 7 hours until you get bored, then once you go to the Underground mode, you should be occupied for about 20 hours. And with all the things you unlock in there will be more than enough to keep you occupied in single race for 5 more hours…and by this time, you’ll want to play underground mode again. Rinse, lather, repeat.
7/10

Pros
-Lots of cars
-The racing RPG story
-Awesome soundtrack
-Lots of things to unlock

Cons
-Slowdown in frame rate
-Bland sound effects
-The horn button (Who needs it?!)

Overall

You’ll really love test drive. It may have a few imperfections, but its nothing too big. It really has changed the face of the test drive series from an annoying and endless stream of sub-par games. Although its not as great as GT3, it’s a great alternative if you are opposed to simulation style racing games. If I could compare this game to a movie, I would think of it as an interactive Fast and the Furious. There are a lot of elements that remind me of it. Although this game isn’t about cops, drugs, or parties, so don’t get your hopes up.

When it comes to the value of this game, its worth what it’s being sold for in stores. If you are still not sure of what to think of this game, by all means rent it and see for yourself. People who hated the original games should really give this one a chance, because it’s really changed the direction of where the series is heading… in a good way that is. If you get a chance to buy it, please don’t pass it up; it’s a really good game.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/03/02, Updated 07/03/02


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