We take a Infogrames latest racer (released under
the Atari brand) for an *ahem* Test Drive.
At first glance, Test Drive seemed promising. In fact,
to me it looked more than just promising, it looked exciting. The trailers
I was witness to showed off fast cars, fast races, beautiful cities and
graphics. Test Drive looked worthy of my money, however, as it turned
out the game is better off as a three day rental.
Let's not confuse Test Drive with terrible, because it's
not. The game has its strong points and a style that makes it feel very
arcade-like. Infogrames put a very strong emphasis on speed, insane jumps,
and some collisions that make your sister's wedding look meager. Whilst
playing, you can expect every one of those to occur during each race.
Luckily for you, the insane jumps add more time on the clock (yes, there's
a timer) and collisions won't affect you as much as the opposing vehicle,
which will literally fly into the air like a quarter. Although not realistic
and sometimes frustrating, these challenges will leave you on the edge
of your seat.
Traffic's not the only challenge you'll face in Test
Drive. The real competition is the racers you'll be challenging. I'm
not sure, however, if it's correct to say your opponents are the challenge
or the rubber band artificial intelligence (A.I.)? Basically, rubber
band A.I. means that no matter how fast or slow you're going or the quality
of the opponent's car, their speed will vary closely to your own. Crawl
to a halt and you can see the other cars slow down at nearly stop as
well. Infogrames chose this to ensure that each race will always be a
The finish line is never too far off, but the A.I. can
cause a lot more trouble for you than a close race. They will force you
off the road; bumping and slamming to make sure that the road to victory
won't be an easy one. With the combined traffic and sharp turns, you'll
have a lot to worry about. I can understand the reason behind such brutal
opponents, but some times too much can be frustrating.
But wait, there's more! Just when you thought that there
could be no more boundaries, one just happens to throw itself in your
way. You do realize, after all, that these races aren't legal, right?
That's where the police step in, speeding their way to hunt you down
and throw you in jail. They're easy to outrun, but one wrong move and
you could end up losing the race.
Of course what you really want to know about is the cars,
all 40+ of them. Included in the long list are Concept Vipers, GTO's,
Chevelle's, Mustangs, Corvette's and a lot more. They're cool to play
as but even cooler to look at. As you can see from screenshots, the cars
are fairly detailed and full of reflections (although not real time).
To win them, all you have to do is place third or better in the main
Underground Mode or take pink slips from challengers. As you progress,
you'll be able to play with these new toys in other modes as well.
The Underground Mode, which in some ways resembles the
story of The Fast and the Furious, is where you'll spend most of your
time. Your name is Dennis Black, a racer who's having troubles of his
own. However, your luck changes as an employer recruits you to race for
him in illegal underground racing circuits known as Test Drives. Your
employer, who can't race himself due to injury, will lose a lot of his
money without your help. You accept and are soon on your way to winning
your first race and cars.
There are also other modes that include several different
kinds of racing. Quick Race is your normal "choose a car, track, and
go" while Single Race has several types of races to choose from. Included
are; Linear Race to take your ride in a Start-to-Finish-Line race, Circuit
race through looping courses on city streets, Drag racing using manual
transmission on a straight strip, Navigational Challenge which you are
given on-the-stop directions instead of the course layed out for you,
and Cop Chase in which you play the role of a cop. Multiplayer Mode,
which is actually quite fun with a group of buddies, includes all race
types but Navigational Challenge and Cop Chase.
The circuit takes you around four beautiful locations;
San Francisco, Tokyo, London, and Monaco. The tracks feature amazing
scenery filled with traffic and other means of transportation seen in
that area. You will also recognize buildings and landmarks, such as the
Golden Gate Bridge and famous London towers. The locations were well
made, enough to be mistaken for a simulation, but gameplay still has
the feel of an average title and can dry after a number of races, hours,
or days. At least there's a mini-game of ping pong during loading times.
The sound is also dry if several areas, particularly
the voice acting. Although not as bad as other titles, it is bad nonetheless.
Taunts from other racers, for the most part, sound over-the-top. More
so are the effects of the cars themselves. Engine noises sound fake and
the collisions sound as if the developers crunched a Pepsi can with their
foot. Even the music can be a disappointment if you dislike rap, because
you can expect to hear a good share of it.
Like most racers, the controls are fairly simple. The
controls for automatic are as follows; right trigger for acceleration,
left trigger for braking/reverse, black button for rear view, Y button
for change camera view, and the B button for emergency brake. The controls
for manual transmission take use of the X and A buttons for up and downshifting.
Test Drive is fun for a while, but prolonged play ends
up in putting the game back on its shelf. The crashes and A.I. can lean
more towards frustration during some races, so if you have a temper you
may not wish to play Test Drive for too long. Overall it's not a bad
game, but it's not a great one either. Save yourself 50 dollars and rent
the game before you do anything else.
Is the moon really made out of cheese?
If you're looking for something with an arcade feel for
the weekend, rent Test Drive before you buy it. It's
a fun game, but definitely not for everybody. This may
only be for those that need a new racing game in their
collection after having played some of the other (and
better) titles available.