I'm a little schizophrenic on this one. On the one hand, Test Drive Unlimited 2 is the ultimate car lover's fantasy. It has a huge roster of realistic cars, a solid driving model, and absolutely gorgeous locations. On the other hands, it's a wreck, burdened with a laughable economy, too much irrelevant content and weak multiplayer options. When you add up all the good and all the bad, you're left with a game that's inconsistent. At one moment, you're having the time of your life and at the next you're bored out of your mind.
Even though the game's content is battling against you, you can have a good time here if you're resolved to focus on the positives. The cars themselves are the real attraction, and you can have tons of fun just shopping for the right vehicles, customizing their appearance and performance, and driving them all around town. The sheer range of vehicles is the first thing that really impressed me. You can drive everything from piece of crap $15,000 hatchbacks to high-end Ferraris that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Each car is rated in a number of performance areas, so you really feel the difference when you switch to a new vehicle. The weight of the Hummers, the loose steering of the Mustangs, and the tight acceleration of the Audis all lend substantial credibility to the game.
The driving model has some funny bits, like the appearance and disappearance of other cars, or the finicky collision models, but overall it's very enjoyable. The cars here feel like real cars should and respond very naturally to your touch. Spinning tires, drifting, overtaking, off-roading and everything else you'd like to do with these cars just feels right. You can even customize your cars with various performance enhancements to get them driving as good as possible. The only hitch is that the various challenges around the islands of Ibiza and Hawaii require specific classes of car, so you'll have to have a large roster if you want to get the most out of the game.
The places you drive are also fantastic. Featuring two entire islands filled with realistic scenery including cities, highways, forests, mountains and coasts, Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a game where you can have fun just driving around, at least for a while. The realistic weather and day-night cycles add to the experience, but you'll still notice an unrealistic absence of life in the cities. There are a few drivers on the roads, but that's about it. Still, it's amazing to just get in the car and see what you can discover as you make your way around the islands.
While there's a lot to discover here, there's just not enough compelling content. It might be fun for a while to go get your haircut, or own a nightclub, or redecorate your apartment, but the game is called Test Drive after all, so all this lifestyle stuff tends to obscure what the game ought to be delivering. Picking out fabric for your new couch or shopping for sneakers might be compelling in the real world, but it just seems like so much wasted effort in this game. None of the options seems to have much, if any, practical benefit, which makes you wonder why you're sitting at home watching the weather channel on the TV when you could be out driving. I get that the developers wanted to embrace the larger culture of car ownership, but there's simply not enough compelling gameplay to make all that window-dressing worthwhile.