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reviews >> playstation 2
Test Drive

written by Shaun McCracken

Game Information
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Pitbull Syndicate
Year Released: 2002
Players: 1-2
ESRB Rating: Teen

Visuals 7.75
Solid, but sterile. Some screen-jittering may annoy some, but it doesn't get in the way (it's not like it's a framerate problem).
Audio 7
I'm not afraid to say it, the Ja Rule songs are awful, grating and just don't belong. The other songs in the soundtrack work pretty well. Average sound effects and some pretty bad voice acting, especially from the main character. Lacks surround sound.
Gameplay 6.5
The game has really shown no real evolution from the last installments, and problems such as poor collision detection and reaction make this game a bit frustrating to sit through.
Replay Value 7.75
The story mode has a lot of stages to play through, but when you're done with that, there's not much else.
Reviewer's Impression 6.75
Altough I'm happy that this wasn't as sloppy as previous TD games, this new TD really hasn't done anything new, and really has nothing to compete against the bigger players in this genre.
Overall 7
This could have been worse, knowing that this franchise has had a history of control problems. Now the problem is the fact that the game really hasn't changed at all, and falls behind the competition. It's worth renting or picking up on the cheap, but it's not really an experince you can live without.

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.

Final Thought

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 overcrowded genre.