Test Drive Unlimited 2 starts in a weird place. A rooftop dance party near the coast of Ibiza. Normally that would an annoying way to start a game based on driving. But you’ll come to realize this is a game based on two core concepts: driving with friends, and expressing your inner douchebag.
After the jump, the douche-doo that I do
With the beats still pounding you get the chance to select your avatar. I chose the default white male, enticed by the fact that his dancing ability mirrored my own lack of groove. You’re then ushered over into the house and given a birthday gift: a very expensive Ferrari. Take it out for a spin and you’ll soon find out this is nothing but a charade and you haven’t actually bypassed the early game money grind. It’s all just a stupid dream sequence. In truth you’re a valet about to get fired. But that won’t do. So in a most abrupt volte-face, your boss offers you a place in the Solar Crown championship. All you have to do is chauffer her around, only to realize later that she’s a competitor and should be able to damn well drive herself. Internal consistency isn’t a core concept in Test Drive Unlimited 2.
But this contrived starting point provides a car, a house, and a small amount of money. Then after gaining your race license, you are basically let loose on the roads of Ibiza and Oahu. You’d think you’d spend all your time on the open road, but you’d be wrong. The game rewards active customization of your avatar and interaction with others. You are encouraged to buy your avatar new clothes, get him haircuts, and inflict upon him expensive plastic surgeries. Sure, it’s fun to dress up and make your avatar as goofy as possible. But as soon as I bought enough clothes, got enough haircuts, and mucked up my face enough to get all the collection points required to level up my character, the douche simulation looses a lot of its charm. The story characters you meet ratchet up this aspect of the game, so much so that they might remind you of Jersey Shore cast members. Without getting together with friends, I found being a douche a little boring after awhile.
Every so often I’ll encounter others from the unwashed masses when I go to purchase a car or go to one of the few driving schools on Oahu. At various points they surprise me with just how creative they are at looking like the dregs of society. I’m saddened that I have so few friends playing. That isn’t to say I don’t have friends who have the game. I’ve played with Tom Chick, but he’s too busy racing some newfangled Shift game. My other friends would rather play NHL 11, and considering the broken state of the social gameplay in Test Drive Unlimited 2, I can’t exactly blame them.
The main way you get together with friends is to join a club together. Sounds simple enough but it isn’t. Let’s say you want to join the Quarter to Three club and you’re eager to get into some club races with me. Well, you can’t right now because the club is full. We have all of eight members. Eden Games thinks that number is about right. They will consider my request for more spots, but not until I and the other seven members of the club cough up five million dollars and spend a few hours together racing.
Therein lies the rub. The game wants us to get together and interact, but what it really means is that it wants us to have shallow interactions with the wider gaming proletariat. It’ll let you do any number of shallow interactions with others. Want to have an impromptu drag race with xxGiUsEpPe420xx? That’s fine. Want to get into a completely random police chance against some lout who just so happened to hit a cop car too many times near you? That’ll also go down fine. But, wait. You want to get twenty friends together, create a club, and then start racing together? That just won’t do.
I want a group of friends together so we can play like we are the Top Gear crew on assignment to find the best road on Oahu. When I tell the game this, it tut-tuts and instead sends me out to play with The Situation. What Test Drive Unlimited 2 just doesn’t understand is that while I appreciate looking at and laughing about the latter I’d much rather hang around with the former.
CSL, known in real life as Andrew Dagley, lives in Manitoba, Canada. In between sleeping he occasionally writes about history, after-action reports, or the adventures of Twilight Sparkle.