Test Drive Unlimited is an arcade-style racing game, the 9th game of the Test Drive series, it features over 125 licensed sports cars and motorcycles and a terrain modeled after the Hawaiian island of Oahu that features some 1000 miles of roads and highways. Test Drive Unlimited is the latest installment of Test Drive, one of the longest running racing game franchises.
In the world of Test Drive Unlimited, the player is able to drive both on-road and off-road in free-roam mode, challenging any real life racers they encounter. The roads are modeled after satellite images of the island of Oahu. The terrain differs from rainforest and mountains to sandy beaches and Hawaii's capital city, Honolulu. It is worth noting however, that other built-up areas on the island are not represented. It is possible to drive on small islands outside of the main island, and even drive underwater. The latter requires the use of a known exploit in the game. The Xbox 360 version has supported steering wheel controllers since launch. Following the third free update, Test Drive Unlimited supports force feedback wheel controllers such as Microsoft's Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel.
Although advertising material for the game suggests it to be an exact depiction of the Hawaiian island, numerous government buildings (such as those on Pearl Harbor, Camp H. M. Smith, Hickam Air Force Base), commercial buildings (Ala Moana Center, the convention center, the entire commercial strip in Pearl City and the Pearlridge Center), and notable landmarks (statue of King Kamehameha I, USS Missouri, etc.) are not present in the game. Many roads and highways are also missing or placed far from their real-life counterparts. Also, in the game, all of the traffic lights are placed on the wrong side of the intersection. The ships docked in Pearl Harbor are also in very low detail and do not represent any active or retired USN vessel at all.
The game begins by purchasing a car and a house. The player is then free to explore the island; as this happens key locations on the map are revealed. These include a Car and Bike dealership, car rental agencies, tuning shops, paint shops, time challenges, courier, vehicle transportation, hitchhikers and more.
Success in challenges is rewarded with in-game money, or in the Hitchhiker and Top Model challenges, coupons. Using these coupons, the player can buy clothing for their character at the many branded clothes shops on the island. Money earned may be spent on buying new vehicles, renting cars, upgrading cars and buying houses. Players can acquire sports cars from various manufacturers, including a Ferrari 575M Maranello, the AC Cobra 289, the Maserati 3500 GT and the Pontiac Firebird. The megapack adds more than 45 more cars, including the Efijy Concept, the McLaren F1 and the Nissan Skyline GT-R, and an extra motorcycle.
The PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable versions of Test Drive Unlimited are missing the following features:
The overall visual and audio quality is also lower due to hardware limitations. It is unknown why the content is missing.
However, the PS2 and PSP versions also contain features that the Xbox 360 and PC versions do not have such as Master Points (points awarded for drifts, slipstreaming and airtime) and Auto GPS (which automatically directs you to a new challenge). Additionally, several cars that are only available in download packs for Xbox 360 and PC are available from the start in the PS2 and PSP versions. There are also more radio stations in the PS2 and PSP versions as they feature many exclusive instrumental tracks in addition to the licensed music.
The multiplayer component (branded as M.O.O.R. or Massively Open Online Racing) works as an extra layer on top of the single-player game - that is all activities available in single-player are also available in multiplayer. The following challenges are also available in multiplayer only:
Racing against other players works by using the player match/ranked match system employed by Xbox Live, while the Microsoft Windows version uses the GameSpy network. It is also possible to create an immediate, ad-hoc race against another player by flashing headlights at their vehicle.
Players may create and join "clubs" which help organize player events. Vehicles may be traded between players through a central "clearing house"-style interface that lists the vehicles for sale along with class, mileage, specification, and price information.
It is also possible to play online with the addition of a network adapter to a PS2 and via Infrastructure Mode on the PSP
On the Xbox 360, new cars can be downloaded via Xbox Live, similar to Project Gotham Racing 3 and 4's Booster Packs and Midnight Club: Los Angeles "South Central Vehicle Packs". Some individual cars are available to download for free, while others must be purchased with Microsoft Points as part of a pack. All downloaded cars still need to be purchased with in-game money at their respective dealerships before they can be used in the game. There currently 8 Car Packs and 8 Free cars.
There is also a downloadable mode called "hardcore mode" which makes the game experience more realistic. It was designed for players with a Xbox 360 Racing Wheel controller, and is available for 160 Microsoft Points. The hardcore mode is free however in the PC-version, and can be unlocked by achieving a higher specific rank.
There has been one patch for the PC version of Test Drive Unlimited. As part of this patch the Nissan Skyline GTR R34 and Audi RS4 quattro Saloon (B7) cars were released for free. Windows Vista users who have the 32-bit platform installed will have fewer issues with freezing during saving points. The 64-bit platform invariably creates conflicts despite the 4gb system memory that most users have (as recommended by the Atari manufacturer of TDU) as the game tends to draw from the users RAM as opposed to dedicated video card memory.
Moreover, there is a 'Megapack' DLC which PC users can purchase, featuring 45 cars, 1 bike and some fixes. These include the limited edition 'exclusive' cars available for the Xbox-360 version as well as the contents of the first 5 DLC packs previously released over Xbox Live. It is, however, incompatible with localized versions but as for today it is released in Russia as an add-on and also it is included in a TDU Gold Edition.
There are modifications that can replace old cars by new ones, such as a Lamborghini Murcielago LP640, which replaces the Lamborghini Murcielago Coupe, a 1999 Ford Mustang GT, which replaces the 2006 Ford Mustang GT and a Porsche 911 GT2, which replace the RUF RT12. Whoever installs new cars for TDU must take notice that a special file is needed. This file removes the filesize check for carfiles. If the player does not modify this file, the game will crash or might not even start. This file is needed as nearly all downloadable cars have more detail than the cars originally put in the game, which results in larger files.
Other modifications include a tool to modify the cameraview inside the car (for cars with a lower seatposition than the car they replace), and a modification known as the BlingBlingmod. This mod makes all cars in the game paintable at the Custom Painter near the south-east crater. What exactly changes is that the cars which were first unpaintable, such as the Maserati MC12 and the Mercedes CLK-DTM AMG Coupe, are paintable after replacing a specific file with the modified file.
There were 1500 total beta testers in Atari's closed beta for Test Drive Unlimited PS2. At the end of the testing period, Atari awarded 30 of the most active testers with "immortality" in the PS2 version of Test Drive Unlimited. These 30 beta testers were allowed to name one of the Non Playable Characters (NPC) in the game. Some chose to use their first and last name; others chose to use their screen names. These 30 special NPCs can be found spread throughout the virtual island of only the PS2 version. Atari and Melbourne House ensured the Beta Testers were given prominent positions as NPCs. Most were granted President or Vice President status in the car clubs around the island, and were put in highly desirable performance cars.
Test Drive Unlimited has garnered generally favourable reviews, with Game Rankings reporting an average rating of 82% as of April, 2007 for the Xbox 360 version, 82% for the PC version, 77% for the PS2 and 75% for the PSP.
Metacritic, a review averaging site, also reported "generally favourable reviews" on the Xbox 360, with an average score of 82, and an average user score of 8.2 out of 10. The PC version averaged 79 and a user score of 8.4 out of 10.
A sequel, Test Drive Unlimited 2, is in development.