I really have developed a loathing for Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit. No, not the 1998 original or even the 2002 sequel. The 2010 Criterion game. The 2010 disappointment. It feels too much like Burnout 3 and Paradise mixed with NFS Most Wanted, and not in the good ways. The two biggest problems with it: the rubber-banding (opponent catch-up/slow-down in relation to your position) and the handling model. It’s just garbage to me. And then when I think I have it figured out, it’s an entirely different handling model for the next race! That pisses me off.
But the newest Test Drive game, TDU2, came out yesterday. And man, is it a breath of fresh air in comparison.
If you haven’t played the original, shame shame. It was a somewhat of a sleeper hit it seems but it was pretty frigging awesome. It’s an open-world driving game with slight role-playing potential — think of a graphically updated Test Drive III: The Passion. Just a massive open world to explore, no need to do anything but drive cars if that’s all you want. Stick to the highways, drive off-road, chase random AI, bother pedestrians, enjoy the weather, it’s great. I’ve often referred to it as a car collector’s game, or a car porn game. It’s all about the cars and your experience with them. You, the open road, and a sexy vehicle. This one is more of the same, for better and worse. And that’s fine by me, because the original from four or whatever years ago was great, if slightly flawed.
As seen in the photo above, the game looks quite nice on both PC (shown) and 360, and looks even better in motion. I assume PS3 as well. There are full day and night cycles as well as dynamic weather which looks amazing, to be honest. The location of Ibiza (as well as Hawaii, revisited from the first TDU) provide the perfect backdrop for your car lust. You choose an avatar, customize them with all the hair, clothing and plastic surgery you could want, and even buy a house. And in this one, you don’t start off with a kick-ass loft. Nope, you start right in the trailer park. Whatever, at least your trailer has a garage(!) so you can still place cars and ogle the rich detail, opening the doors, sitting in the seats, screwing with the convertible roofs, revving the engine. And you can now customize your cars further than simple tweaks and stock color options, so you have very NFS-like decals and paints. Well, NFS before Criterion’s NFS.
There’s also this new “F.R.I.M” system, which adds some stuff to do while you’re just cruising. It’s somewhat of a gambling system for driving dangerously… think of the “near miss” mechanic of Burnout, among other things, and then combine that with a way to earn cash. Basically, if you think you can keep pulling off “stunts” without actually crashing, you keep earning more money. You can “cash out” at any time, or keep racking up the potential money earned. Very fun. Combine that with the awesome setup of races and events, as well as multiplayer and social features, and this is one fine game thus far.
There are some negatives though. There is actually a story this time, which is 100% laughable. I mean, this is cheesier than a… cheese… farm. It’s bad, and the voice acting? ACK. But that’s okay. I dress my avatar as a complete buffoon and I don’t take anything seriously from then onward. I don’t think you’re supposed to anyway. Also, what’s with the hairdresser guy? I swear, he sounds just like Postal Dude from Postal. Creepy. “Your hair looks great. NOW SIGN THE F***ING PETITION.”
The handling model is mostly unchanged from the first, which is both good and bad. Good because I got used to the first one and this was a breeze to pick up. Bad because the first one wasn’t the greatest to begin with. But hey, I got used to Test Drive III, so in unfair comparisons this is just fine. There are many several options for assists should you so desire, which makes it even simpler to adjust to. The last main “addition” is the fact that there are now classes of licenses you must earn before competing in certain races. This kind of irks me, as I hate license systems in racers (GT, I’m looking at you) but thankfully they’re few and far between and are simple to pass compared to games like GT and… what was that game back in the day? Oh well. Yeah, it’s not too bad yet so I can deal. I still prefer the original TDU openness to do whatever the nuts you want in that regard.
Just let me roam free, racking up the miles on the odometer and filling every last inch of my lots of real estate with classic and exotic cars and I’m happy. The rest is just icing on the cake. It’s got its flaws to be sure, but so far it’s nothing I can’t deal with.