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Test Drive Unlimited 2 gameplay preview

Hands-on: We go MMO racing in Ibiza (and - surprise - Hawaii)...

Test Drive Unlimited 2 - sequel to the underrated 2006 original - is an impressive game to watch. Occupying the front row of a packed Barcelona demo room, you can feel the excitement rise as developer Eden games slips into an immaculately-rendered Audi TT RS and speeds off into the open-world Ibiza sunset, before zooming up to the heavens with the touch of a button to ponder which Balearic street corner to skid up next.

A combination of scope and technology make Unlimited 2 a racer well worth looking forward to. Eden's version of Ibiza is massive - the developer told us it's got more than 20 hours worth of content - and as annual fist-pumping White Isle residents ourselves, we can tell you it's pretty accurate as well (Eden claims the roads are 100% authentic).

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Veterans of the first game will know what to expect; a London A to Z's worth of sunny roadside covered with various racing challenges, social centers and landmarks which you can discover roadside at your pace. Basically, it's the original Burnout Paradise - and we'd even argue that it's more dazzling too.

What fans won't recognise is the sequel's new night and day cycle - which was demonstrated fully in 5 seconds during our demo - and a weather system that spoils our sunny clubbing island with hails of rain. Elsewhere on the addition list is a completely re-done physics system, improved car damage and off-road racing (we saw one section featuring a 4x4 doing it rally car-style up a hill).

One particularly welcome feature is Unlimited 2's new reward system, which gives you a pat on the back for simply cruising about - something you'll be doing quite a lot of. Once you start speeding about San Antonio in search of larger louts and drugs, a HUD item appears at the top of the screen, chaining up combos of near misses, top speed and James Bond-esque motor moves and rewarding you justly with cash.

Conversation driver
But it's clear that Test Drive's focus is firmly on social splendour rather than the art of perfecting even more realistic wheel spins. Eden showed us one of Unlimited 2's new car dealerships, which switches the player into a first-person view to get a proper close up look at the array of Footballer-worthy super cars. It's very immersive; you can climb inside a potential purchase to eye up the interior, open the windows and even honk the horn.

The game changer though is when you invite a bunch of friends over. If you walked in mid-way through our Test Drive Unlimited 2 presentation, you'd have sworn you'd stumbled into the PlayStation Home room by mistake. In Ibiza's interiors you can step out of your motor and walk around, performing emotes (wave hello, dance) and generally having a chat.

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Once you're outside you can even offer to give another player a ride, while they dish out directions via in-game HUD arrows.

Unlimited 2 is a social beast. The entire objective of the game is to skank money off of other players (who if you're connected online, you'll bump into around the island); challenging them to races, putting a bet on the leaderboards to top your best lap time etc. Naturally this leads to you spending it all on a flash pad to put your cars in - and you'll be spending plenty of time in it.

While not quite as deep, Test Drive again broadcasts boot-loads of PlayStation Home vibes in the housing department, with customisable furniture, wallpaper - even different types of flooring to lay out in your abode.

Mates can come over for a chat and a dance off, but luckily Eden hasn't missed the potential hear to introduce an entire guild/clan 'Club' system. Unlimited 2 lets you clan up with mates and form your own club house from which you can hang out at the bar, setup a clan league table or challenge rival groups to a race on your very own course, pre-designed by dragging waypoints around the world map.

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