By Dan Zuccarelli . April 19, 2007 . 8:44am
Having never played Test Drive: Unlimited for a home console I was able to step into this portable racer with a clean mind. I’ve played more than a few Test Drive games in my time, stretching all the way back to the 1st game on my PC that ran in 16 colors (EGA for the kids to young to remember). Since then the game has gone though quite a few changes, appearing on just about every game system since. With this newest version the big change is the perpetual online world you can race in (A system they’re calling M.O.O.R. – Massively Open Online Racing). Almost like an MMO game, you exist in the world with other racers. The problem with the PSP version is finding those other people.
I suppose it’s less of an issue with the console versions (especially the live-enabled 360 version) but for the PSP I had a hard time even finding people to connect with, which was a bit of a downer. Luckily the off-line racing was adequate and worked well, even though it really doesn’t try and break the mold at all.
You begin the game boarding a plane to Hawaii. Once there, you find a low-budget car and a lower-budget house. From there you can use the GPSD system to find races, other car dealerships and rental car lots. The rental car lot was a very interesting touch. You can rent the higher end cars in the game for a much lower price that buying them, giving you limited access to the superior cars early on in the game.
Time Trials and regular races against 3 other cars are the basis of the game, with some driving in between to get from place to place. The entire game takes place on the island of Oahu, which was much less exciting that I thought it would be. The road system (if accurate) doesn’t make for exciting racing. Too many 90 degree turns and lackluster highways. And another thing, I’m convinced that this is a limitation of the PSP hardware, but skies were ALWAYS overcast. It doesn’t seem like a big deal but it’s pretty tough to pretend you’re in Hawaii when all you ever see is gray skies.
The interesting thing with all this that even though it’s a pretty generic racer I kept coming back to it. While it doesn’t try to do anything new, it’s takes the standard formula and does a damn good job of entertaining you. It’s not the kind of game you’ll play for months (like Gran Turismo) but for an on the go racer is will get the job done.
Of course, there’s one problem that has nothing to do with the game even though it sill has an adverse affect on your enjoyment. It seems that almost without fail I have the same complaint about every PSP game I’ve ever played, the loading screens come around often and stick around way to long. This always make it tough to just pick up and play a quick race or two, but if you’ve got the time to spend the game does its job.