|Can you remember
playing Test Drive Off-Road for the Playstation? I cant either! Okay, okay, I may
remember it a little (thats right . . . I play all the driving games). Im
almost ashamed to admit it, but I did play TDOR. The game was not much fun and did nothing
exceptional. It was just another ho-hum, forgettable driving game, except that the draw-in
was so bad that it nearly made the game unplayable. Trees, rocks and barrels would
miraculously appear out of nowhere. A mad scramble to avoid these obstacles would usually
result in failure, allowing the computer vehicles enough time roar past and never look
back. This was very frustrating to say the least. But enough about the original, since the
second title in the series bears little resemblance to its predecessor.
Test Drive Off-Road 2 comes with a variety of different vehicles; Accolade signed companies like AC General, Land Rover, Jeep, Ford and others to have their vehicles included. There are at least twenty rides, ranging from buggies to Police SUVs, and this wide variety of vehicles both increases replay value and allows you to get behind the wheel of a Hummer, which most of us will never get to do in the real world.
TDOR2 builds on last years Test Drive 4 engine and improves upon it in almost every way. The game engine has been tweaked to get the off-road look and feel that last years lacked. The biggest improvement is probably in the graphics department. For example, the colors used in the game are now earth-toned and have a much more realistic look to them. The detail given to the track and the surroundings are better, too. Dirt and mud get thrown from each vehicle on the track, and driving through a large pool of water results in a drenching spray of liquid to anyone close by. The clouds look very convincing, and when it is rains, the course gets slipperier and muddier. The frame rate is also very fast, running around 25 to 30 fps. But even though most of the graphics are good, some havent changed for the better. Bystanders, trees, animals and shrubs look pixely and flat, and the sprites could have had more detail. The vehicles themselves could have looked a little more like the real-world counterparts. They are often boxy and ill-proportioned. For instance, the Dodge Ram has a steeply slanted front end pointing toward the ground, and looks like it has rear-ended another truck before the race. The models also dont have enough little details. For example, the Explorers grill doesnt look right. Another thing that gets me is the size of the tires on the vehicles. Some look proportioned to the vehicle, yet others look huge and out of place. Some people might call this nit picking, but to me its important.
The tracks are point-to-point based with checkpoints in-between, and are long and well designed. Each course has is share of big jumps and hills which drivers can catch "huge" air, and if lucky, drive away intact. There are giant mud pits, streams, and other hazards strewn through out each track. The courses offer a variety of styles, too, since there are six different locales to race in--from rocky trails of Morocco to the beaches of Hawaii. Each locale has two tracks to race on. The courses are wide and have no invisible barriers, which means you can drive almost anywhere. The tracks, however, are sometimes filled with too many obstacles. The Morocco course, for instance, is littered with old building supports that significantly reduce the driving area. This makes it very hard to finish the race without running out of time. In the World Cup mode, if you fail to finish any of the last races, you will have to go back and start all over at the 1st track again. This is a big pain in the you-now-where if you ask me.
The sound effects are average, about what youd expect in an off-road game. You hear the squeaks of the suspension when the vehicle lands on the ground, and driving through water and mud sounds very realistic. The music is also done well too. Accolade hired bands like Gravity Kills (they were on the original TDOR) and Fear Factory to handle the music chores. Everything sounds good, especially in surround sound .
TDOR2 can use Sonys Dual Shock controller, which like most driving games makes use of the analog and shock feature. You will feel every little vibration coming from your vehicle. After a few races, though, your hands start to tingle and hurt, and I felt like turning off the vibration only after a few laps. On the other hand, the analog sticks can be set according to your taste, so if you want touchy analog controls, the option is there. The buttons can also be changed to other pre-set combinations.
Unfortunately, there are some major control problems in this game, mostly having to do with the way the game feels and controls. The vehicles respond slowly and almost have a two-wheel drive feel--it is easy experience rear slide around sharp corners. If this really is a 4x4 game, the vehicles back end should never break out. There is also a problem with collision detection; sometimes your vehicle will drive right through a tree, and at other times objects it will reach out and grab your vehicle, resulting in your vehicle abruptly halting. Another problem with the games control is how the vehicles interact with their surroundings. The off-road vehicles are stiff and lack different animations; they dont bounce or bottom out after big jumps, and always look the same. I could drive up a steep rock face and the vehicle never felt like it might even roll over. I was really disappointed with how the vehicles handled. It seemed like they couldnt get the TD4 race car feel out of the game. The game is still playable, dont get me wrong; it just could have been much better.
The games biggest downfall is that its only a one player game, with no option for two player support. This totally limits the fun you can have with this game, as your friends can only sit there and watch while you race against the computer drivers. I still cant believe that companies still put out racing games that dont support two players. . Companies, follow this rule! Games are not as much fun unless you race other human opponents.
Overall, TDOR2 is an average racing game that some off-road fans will enjoy. The only question is how long will they enjoy it. I lost interest in the game only after a week and a half. It doesnt do anything horribly wrong, but it certainly fails to break any new ground. There are so many better driving games on the market that its tough to get excited about TDOR2 , which is just an average off-road game. But it is a whole lot better than the original TDOR . . .I think . . . if I can remember back that far!