This one is great! It is very different from every other racer that I've played. They have mapped out Oahu in all its digital glory. Okay... well, the graphics could be tuned up to take advantage of the 360, but the game does look really good. And they have the whole island in here. It will take you at least an hour to circumnavigate the whole thing.
Test Drive: Unlimited is an attempt at an massively multiplayer online racing game ("MMORG"). There are lots of cars to unlock, houses to buy, clothes to purchase, and several hundred races and missions to perform. This is all done very well, with a good progression of gamepoints to score as you're playing the game.
What completely and totally sucks, though, is the difficulty of playing with your friends. Yeah, you read that right. This is an MMORG yet it is practically impossible to play with a friend... and I'm not talking some random Joe, but a person marked on your Xbox Live Friends List. What makes it so hard? At any given point in time, the servers select up to 8 people near you on the island and links you together in your own little pocket universe on the island. 8 random people. No preference whatsoever to the folks on your list. None. Your only hope is to go to some remote location and wait for the server to link you up. You can then do a little trick to lock in your friend so they won't suddenly disappear in a regrouping by the server. But this is hit or miss and can take a while.
But it gets worse. Now that you're all linked up, you pop open the map to see where to go. Say some remote location, or a multiplayer race so you and your buddy can race some opponents. Whoops!! Opening the map disconnects you from other players. Yeah. You spend 15 minutes trying to get sync'd up with your pal, and you cannot touch the map. Fuckin' ludicrous.
Okay... now past the suck part... this game is fun. The driving physics are working towards "realism" rather than "arcade". However, I do find that the cars can do donuts way too easily... like the programmers included angular momentum, but forgot that a tire skidding sideways is a huge source of friction and should slow the spin. In this game, if you try to drift around a corner, then you better have a really good car and be able to hold it in the proper line. The cars are beautiful looking and will they have a little bit of damage modeling. I've put some truly kickass dual-color pearlescent paint on some of my cars. There is a little bit of tunability, but nothing to the extent of the Need for Speed series.
The other night, I linked up with a couple people from the UK, and we simply hit the gas. Just started driving down the highways, with each of us taking a turn defining the lead as we zoomed about the island at high speed. Invariably, one of us would go careening around a corner, lose it, and crash in some horrendous way. The others would slow until the other caught up, and off we went again. Lots of fun with all the open space on the island.
I am hoping they will issue a game patch to fix the friends thing at some point. I just can't see how they could call this an MMORG with the current nastiness. But despite that, I do recommend this game. The openness, the unlocks, the cars, and the modeling of Hawaii... all excellent. And at just $40 for the game, this game is a bargain... it has given me lots of hours of fun.