Say aloha to fun on the road

If you have never been to Hawaii and dream of a tour of the island of Oahu for less than NIS 200, this computer racing game is for you.

October 18, 2007 10:27
3 minute read.
test drive disk 88

test drive disk 88. (photo credit: )


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Test Drive Unlimited, a DVD-ROM in English by Eden Games for Atari, distributed with a Hebrew-language user's manual by Atari-Israel, requires Windows XP and above and a 2.4 ghz Pentium 4 PC or better, age 3 and above, NIS 199. Rating: **** If you have never been to Hawaii and dream of a tour of the island of Oahu for less than NIS 200, this computer racing game is for you. Unlike others in this genre, from Need for Speed to Grand Theft Auto, this game does not encourage illegal behavior such as running over pedestrians and smashing police cars on your trail. Its GPS system, which tells you where to turn and advises you to backtrack if you're driving in the wrong direction, almost makes you feel as if your mother is sitting in the back seat. But despite this guidance and lack of violent mayhem (which explains the minimum suggested age of three years, although I don't know many toddlers with the eye-hand coordination skills to play), there's still plenty of fun in it. You begin by choosing the character you want to represent you from among a handful of characters, including a young white woman, a white man and a black man. If you don't like any of them very much, you can easily make them over instantly at any time by changing their facial features, bodies and apparel. The game begins with your character stepping on a Hawaiian jet at a US mainland airport and landing in the 50th US state's Honolulu Airport. You are treated like royalty, offered a fancy rental car (choose initially among a Mercedes-Benz, Audi S4, Chevrolet or Lotus); just step into a real estate office to rent a beautiful villa with a two-car garage and a giant plasma TV. (Just think how many immigrants would come to Israel if this were the way they are greeted at Ben-Gurion Airport!) Some 1,000 miles of Hawaii roads are there to explore. The constantly flowing scenery, with authentic looking homes and greenery that realistically turn fuzzy on the sides when you speed, is a pleasure to view, as you feel you are really getting to know Oahu; in most other racing games, the scenery quickly repeats itself. The weather, as one can expect in Hawaii, is sunny and bright, and the water looks so welcoming you'll want to change into your bathing suit. Players earn "dollars" when they excel in races, time trials against the clock, missions (such as giving an ungrateful hitchhiker a ride, being a courier or delivering a car safely from one point to another), challenges and tournaments. Monetary success will qualify you for a fancier home and a Lamborghini, Aston Martin or even a vintage car in the garage. The vehicles are beautifully authentic, and each one seems to have a unique engine noise. The bigger the house, the more spaces in the garage, and when your garage is full, you'll need to buy another house, collecting them like car models. There are five ranks of reputation on the roads of Oahu, from 0 (novice) to 1 million points (ace), and each new rank unlocks new challenges and prizes. You can drive carefully if you wish, but if you decide to reach the maximum speed and care little for others' property, crashes will leave your vehicle momentarily in a cloud of white smoke but without a scratch on the paint job, while what you bang into will have plenty of dents. If you have a special racing steering wheel to attach to your computer, use that, but you can also use a gamepad or your keyboard. Memorable experiences can be saved in a virtual photo album. If you tire of the missions, you can try to go on-line for the multiplayer mode, which offers a club, drive-in, custom challenges and other features unavailable on the single player game. But several times that I tried, other players were simply not out there in cyberspace to compete against. Test Drive has more than a dozen games in the series, and this appears to me to be the best, even though the graphic engine could be somewhat improved; there isn't much of a storyline; car handling is sometimes shaky using a keyboard; and the on-line multiplayer game optimally should be accessible for play at all times. However, if you can't afford a Hawaiian vacation, this is the next best thing.

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