As my car hurtles over the tallest cliff in Hawaii, I take one last look in the rear-view mirror. How did it come to this? For the longest time I was just another loser, content with a mundane life and those brief moments of escapism. Somehow over the course of nearly 30 hours in Test Drive Unlimited 2, I became a monster.
Sometimes when people play videogames, it's to get away, like a virtual vacation. But there are those times, where I don't want to be a plumber, a rodent with an attitude, a criminal, or Laura Bailey. I just want to drive around in expensive automobiles. In the real world I own two cars, one of them has a busted alternator. The other? No brakes. Despite being unable to start or stop, I've maintained the same driving job for the past decade. I'm always driving through the same neighborhoods meeting the same people every moment of every day. On top of all that, if Florida is considered America's ♥♥♥♥, I live in one of its hemorrhoids. But hey, all I need is an hour or two a day of wonderfully escapist adventures and I'm golden.
I was a fan of Test Drive Unlimited 1 on the Xbox 360. The handling wasn't particularly good, but the atmosphere and sense of exploration was excellent. With a few fixes, better graphics, and more content, it could be my ideal driving game. I'm not sure what I was expecting with the sequel. I read all the reviews, noted that there are major problems such as Securom, dysfunctional servers, and so on. I considered the possibility that this game might not even work. But I gave it a shot anyway...
...I'm at a party...alright..cool I guess. Apparently I'm a woman now. It's just like Skyrim except I'm wearing clothes and I don't think I have a six-foot-long p-.
"PepsimanVsJoe! Enjoying your birthday party?"
Oh It's my birthday? I had no idea. Apparently I'm a silent-protagonist so all I can do is smile.
"Come check out your gift! It's a brand new car!"
No way! This is one of those end-game vehicles, I must be dreaming. This is so totally meta.
Sure enough the real game begins, I lose my job, only to get an offer to join a racing group for some show called Solar Crown. This is so ridiculous. I head to the used car dealer for my first actual virtual vehicle.
"HOLY ♥♥♥♥!" I say to myself.
The dealer? He has small hands. The driving school instructor? A regular Alex Smith. It's no wonder none of them have gone for a handshake, it would be like if I held up my finger so a baby could grab it. After sleep-driving through my first test I say "Thank you very much." to the instructor. Apparently I'm a very-thankful-and-not-quite-silent protagonist. The only words I ever say are to express gratitude.
On the road, the handling is...well it's about as bad as TDU1. In my mind that's good enough, because I'm finally living the dream again, cruising through hundreds of miles of beautiful Ibiza, and eventually Hawaii. As with the previous game, everyone needs help getting around the islands. There's the drunk guy who wants me to speed, the sick girls that throw up if I slam on the brakes, the random woman who always calls me adorable, and...wait a minute. It's happening again isn't it? The same people, requesting me to do the same favors for them over and over. Don't they have anything to say? While I'm driving we could discuss those bonus features on DVDs, or what tiny-handed men are good for aside from making origami birds out of starburst wrappers. Instead it's always "I'm going to be late!" or "I just broke a nail" or "Whoa ho! Look at that speed!"
The people I compete with are slightly more developed, but it's also a facade. Miami Harris is little more than an untimely Paris Hilton joke. Then there's the Wilder brothers. Oh look at us! We're so extreme...ly shallow! Tess Wintory never figures out her daddy issues. Her dad Stuart, he's just a useless old prick. If I'm expected to race against these jerks all the time, at least a little effort could have been expended to develop them. But who am I to talk? I have the least character development of all. Oh sure, I've bought several houses, over a dozen cars, and a couple wardrobes. I've also gotten plastic surgery so many times I've forgotten what I originally looked like. In fact I just got some work done earlier today. The nose wasn't right.
Aside from a few minor changes and additions, TDU2 isn't really much of a sequel. In some ways it's even a step back. Motorcycles are locked behind a DLC wall. The races are organized in a Grand Prix setup, with the winner being the one who attains the most points. However that model is dumped for the major championships races because....???? It doesn't make any sense. A casino would have been nice to hang out at, but that's also DLC. All of the other additions seem to be multiplayer-centric, which is pointless when half the people that buy this game can't even get it to work.
But does any of that truly matter to me? I got what I wanted right? My virtual fantasy of owning expensive cars, several houses (that I can't interact with), and free reign over a beautiful...but lifeless island. Lifeless except for the same 12-15 idiots who sit around impotently while I drive them around or beat them to the ground in the championships. Nearly 30 hours of this dream has become a nightmare, and I suspect that it won't end anytime soon.
So where we did leave off? Oh right...I was hurtling over the tallest cliff in Hawaii. Yes, I'm throwing it all away. Soon it will all be-
I hit the rocks, then the water...suddenly I'm back on the road again...my car is a little scratched but it isn't even wet. I knew it wouldn't work anyway, but can you blame me for trying?
It's that time again. I remove the bandages from my last trip under the knife and check the rear-view mirror.
The nose still isn't right.