The Test Drive franchise has pretty much played second fiddle to EA's Need
For Speed series since that said franchise debuted in the mid 1990's. While the
Test Drive franchise has been around longer, it never seemed to be a "premiere"
arcade racing franchise. There's ususally a better arcade racing game that's released
within the next installment of a TD game. This is still the case with the new
Test Drive for the current generation consoles. Although it tries to make some
strides into trying new gameplay elements, such as a "story mode", the mechanics
themselves, such as the driving model and collision models still suffer. While it
can be said that this is the best street racing Test Drive game made, it still
falls short of the competition.
Pitbull Syndicate tried to make Test Drive a more "underground" racing affair.
As far as I can gather from the story mode, you join an underground (and illegal)
racing club that basically races against competitiors for pink slips. But this
really doesn't make much of a difference in gameplay, as the racing events are still
pretty much the same as they have been in Test Drive 4, 5 and 6. You basically
are given different race modes to compete in, wether it be a point-to-point race,
a circuit race, a checkpoint race or a drag race. It's really this basic.
The racing in Test Drive is a mixed experience. While you have the OPPERTUNITY
to race in a selection of 20 or so cars, you only have 2 or 3 unlocked early in the
game. While many other racing games do this, like Need For Speed Hot Pursuit 2,
they give you a few more cars to chose from, and a chance to unlock vehicles faster
than you can here. For the racing itself, it's pretty unbalanced. While the car
handling is not as bad as previous TD games, the collisions are awful. Why Pitbull
Syndicate still feels the need to include the "spin out of control" crashes done
many times over is a mystery to me. And collisions happen often in this game, and
results in many lost races. The racing in this game becomes more aggrivating and
tedious (due to repeating some races 3 or more times), and after a couple of hours,
the game just isn't that fun. Plus, you never get the feel that this is illegal
racing other than the occasional cops that come around, and that really doesn't
confirm illegal racing, as cop cars have been in this series since Test Drive 5.
They're just there as an obstacle. Just like the traffic.
The game modes run pretty thin in this game. The Story mode is a pretty large mode
with over 40 stages to play through, and depending on how good you are, you may spend
about 5-7 hours here. But the rest of the game is basically single races and a
multiplayer mode. The single race events are nothing more than arcade races or
a time trial, and the two-player mode is pretty much a head-to-head duel. When you
compare what is here to NFS Hot Pursuit 2, NFSHP2 comes out on top, because there
are two championship modes on top of arcade races.
The visuals are decent but not terribly exciting. The city models, such as San Francisco
look pretty sharp, but also seem a bit sterile and devoid of life. Sure, there's
traffic, but that's not what I'm talking about. The game has some pretty muted color
palattes, and the textures really don't stand out. There are some good lighting effects,
but that's about as much "pop" as you're going to get out of this game. The framerate
is solid and smooth, and that is a plus. But there is something irritating in this
game. For some reason, the whole picture seems a bit jittery, like there's a video
problem. It's not my PS2, as other games don't really do this, but it's in this
game. Every once so often, the screen will jitter a little. It doesn't affect gameplay,
but it is noticeable.
The audio is equally unimpressive. The voice acting ranges to mediocre to just plain
terrible. The terrible comes from the character you play as, Dennis Black. The delivery
from whoever voiced Dennis is stilted and lacks character. He's almost robotic.
I'm not sure if this was supposed to sound like Vin Diesel (I wouldn't be the least
bit suprised if that was the case), but the acting sucks. The engine noises are not
very distingushable from one vehicle to another, which leads me to belive that
we were given generic sound effects here. The soundtrack is hit and miss, mostly
miss due to the inclusion of the grating and annoying sounds of Ja Rule, who not only
has one, but two songs of his featured here. Other artists include Moby, Junkie XL
and others, and they are not as bad as the Ja Rule songs, but there is quite a
bit of repetition due to a small playlist.
Unless if there's another developer that comes in and creates the next installment
of the Test Drive series, the franchise might as well call it quits. While this
installment of Test Drive isn't a total bust, you can still see the refusal of the
franchise to totally evolve into something new. On top of that, the physics and
handling models haven't changed all that much, and it still feels like we're playing the
same game from 1998. When compared to other arcade racers such as Burnout 2 or Need
For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2, Test Drive falls behind. Sure, this game would have been
great in 1999, but in today's market, TD seems to be another average entry into the