Cult Classics – Test Drive Unlimited 2
It's hard to imagine what to do in a car game except race other cars, and yet with Test Drive Unlimited 2, developer Eden Games found a way to expand the genre's horizons enough to offer an experience that's slightly different from your average racer. Eden's ambition came with a cost, but Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a game that I remember fondly and appreciate for the chances it takes.
TDU 2 is set on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and the Spanish island Ibiza, and blends typical racing competitions with a lifestyle component complete with the ability to own houses, customize your avatar, and even gamble in the game's Casino DLC. These somewhat disparate elements give more breadth to your progression beyond just unlocking more races or collecting cars.
By divvying up the XP you earn into the Social, Discovery, Competition, and Collection categories, the game compels you to explore, rewards that natural feeling to accumulate items, and lets you invest in the areas that are important to you. It also allows you to step off the race-to-race treadmill and progress as you see fit. I spent a lot of time simply driving around getting Discovery points for finding new roads, shops, and even abandoned cars in the environment. This made buying new shirts for my avatar or buying a new house that much more fulfilling.
The deemphasizing of a traditional race structure gives you more freedom, but there's no mistake that the racing itself suffers a little as the cars themselves aren't the tightest things on four wheels. And while the scope is an advantage for the game, TDU 2 also suffered from plenty of bugs and problems with multiplayer (which I didn't experience in our pre-release review).
Unfortunately, Eden Games never got the chance to improve and evolve the series. The developer's relationship with publisher Atari was rocky, including a day-long symbolic strike before the studio was eventually closed earlier this year. However, that shouldn't diminish the accomplishments of Test Drive Unlimited 2 – a game that has influenced titles like Forza Horizon – nor prevent you from experiencing it yourself.
Take a look at this trailer covering the game's customization options