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Test Drive Unlimited 2: More new ideas than GT5?

The totally tropical (acquired) taste...

To know Test Drive Unlimited was to know the kind of cruel, bitter love which eats at a man's soul and shrivels his member to the size of a tiny pickled gherkin.

If you loved it, you loved it in spite of an epic list of faults because it had more creativity in its first fifteen minutes than three Forzas sandwiched between five Gran Turismos managed in a whole decade.

Test Drive Unlimited's Hawaii was loaded with long roads, mountain climbs, city streets, things to see, things to buy, places to stay, and thousands of people playing in the same world at the same time.

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It existed in a parallel universe where there was sunshine all day and daytime forever. But it was a universe where cars were made from concrete and girders, and bikes were made from Steve McQueen's nightmares.

To love Test Drive Unlimited you had to embrace one unfortunate fact: you would never have fun driving in Hawaii. Once you got over that little hurdle, there was - and still is - no better racing game on 360.

The first game had Eden's driving model from V Rally 1, 2 and 3,*" says Test Drive Unlimited 2's Executive Producer Vince Farquharson. "There was nothing more that old one could give; we couldn't get any more flexibility.

It had been built upon and built upon and it really made sense to build from scratch for Unlimited 2."

So when you play Test Drive's long-time-coming sequel the first thing you'll do is put your foot down and feel good. The new handling still has elements of the original's slot-car-style model - it wants to cling to
the road, even with all the assists off - but it's lighter, slippier, and much more dangerous.

You can drift more easily, react more quickly, and even flip the car end over end if you lose control.

HAWAIIAN CRUNCH
Actually, that's not the first thing you'll do in TDU2. In our playthrough from the start, the first thing we did was pick our avatar from a selection of pretty boys and girls of various races, then sit behind the wheel of our brand new Ferrari given to us by our disgustingly wealthy friends.

Hurrah! But just as you turn the key, you wake up. Oh no! It was all just a beautiful dream!

You're actually a valet, you see, entered into a televised and somehow legalised street racing tournament by your total bitch of a boss and sent up against filthy rich bastards of the most ghastly variety.

There are Paris Hilton dog-in-a-handbag types, toothless offroading hick types, snooty trust fund daughter types, and a bunch of other awful people to defeat.

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"Yeah, it's tongue in cheek," says Farquharson. "I mean the game's modelled on real islands and there's a certain reality to the cars and environment, but if you've been playing for a while you know Test Drive Unlimited doesn't take itself too seriously.

I mean, the absurd levels of opulence are ridiculous! One of the garages is bigger than this building! It's a garage with its own lounge with a telly! It's just crazy."

As Farquharson has it, TDU2 needed a story. "In the original we had this big open world and a big open world mentality - you could do what you wanted, when you wanted, and how you wanted. Some people loved that and other people didn't understand what they were supposed to do next.

So now we have a whole narrative - traditional cut-scenes, a bit of gameplay, a cut-scene, gameplay... it goes all the way through.

But you can still just go ahead and do your own thing if you'd prefer." The game's new career mode is structured around those bastardly racers, each one making their home in a different part of Ibiza and each one the hub for a series of events - time trials, speed challenges, circuit and point-to-point races.

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