News of Test Drive Unlimited 2 has caught me by surprise, despite its having been announced in March. I'm so good at my job. The original, released on PC in 2007, was an unfairly overlooked driving game set on the Hawaiian island Oʻahu, with 1,000 miles of roads to race about on. What made it so interesting was the population of this island: other players. It was so casual about being an MMO - not shouting and screaming about it, but rather just letting you take part in the many races available, and then on a whim see another car coming toward you, flash your lights at it, and then begin a frenzied race with them for glory. And for money. So much money. Below is the first-look trailer of the sequel, along with Game Trailers' interview with senior producer, Nour Polloni.
Rather than a Hawaiian island, Test Drive Unlimited 2 (is that title tautological/oxymoronic? I can't decide) is set on the thumping hellhole of Ibiza. Wait, sorry, the beautiful Mediterranean island of Ibiza. (Yes, of course, I know that the bit the Brits take over is not representative of the whole island.) Right up until you unlock the airport, when you can fly to Hawaii!
If you're anything like me, and I hope to all that's pure that you're not, the first thing you do in a driving game is see if you can get off the track and explore the nearby scenery, ideally taking out half the viewing crowd on your way. TDU doesn't have crowds, but it did let you go wherever you wanted. TDU2 acknowledges this desire, and has accordingly added off-road vehicles for rebellious types who can't agree with the direction a road has decided for them.
Inevitably the MMO features are being more emphasised here. It's probably not a bad thing - you could almost forget it was there in the original, and it was a mighty fine feature. This time there's more customisation, and what looks like a simulacrum of social networking to keep in touch with other players. There's also co-op features, and of course pissing off the po-po.
And once again it really is all about the accruing of bigger and better stuff. Gaining new cars, new houses, and all the other empty, meaningless Capitalist lies that we use to try to fill the holes inside us will measure progress, along with more emphasis on being in clubs with other players, and taking part in the multiplayer aspects. Oh, and looking at the videos it looks absolutely beautiful.
It's due out this Autumn, and this time on PC and consoles simultaneously (unless they pull that old chestnut and delay the PC version). It's being published by Atari (and not Namco Bandai). Atari is like some sort of publishing hydra - no matter how many times its head is sold or rescued by another publisher, it seems to grow another one. It's definitely worth keeping an eye on this - the first game was really fantastic (here's Alec's review of it) and didn't get nearly enough attention. Here's some footage: