A Test Drive

Video Games

Test Drive is the name of one of the longest-running racing game franchises ever. Originally published by Accolade, which was later bought by Infogrames, the first title saw the light of day in 1987 and has since been followed by a stream of sequels. The Test Drive games are now published by Atari, the name which Infogrames renamed itself in 2003.

In Test Drive, the player typically uses one of several exotic performance cars and must race to the finish line against opponents or the clock, whilst avoiding traffic and the police.

Test Drive (1987)

Test Drive was a car game released in 1987 by Accolade. It is the original that created the sub-genre of racing hot cars while outrunning the police, a concept successfully copied by newer franchises such as Need for Speed. In fact, Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit pays homage to Test Drive: one of the tracks, titled Rocky Pass, consists of roads along the side of a mountain. Test Drive was released in 1987 for DOS, the Atari ST and Commodore 64. The game was the first real racing game for DOS. In 1988 it was released for the Apple II and Amiga.

In this first version of the game, the player is given the choice of a variety of different sports cars such as Ferrari Testarossa, Lotus Turbo Esprit, Porsche 911 Turbo, Lamborghini Countach and C4 Chevrolet Corvette. The player then must race up a narrow mountain highway, avoiding the oncoming traffic, police and the guardrail-free cliff. If the player successfully makes it to the top within the time limit, they are given the (virtual) car for free to keep. The game's graphics were considered as impressive by contemporary standards, with the Atari ST and Amiga versions particularly standing out.

Test Drive II: The Duel (1989)

In the sequel to Test Drive, the player doesn't just run away from the police and try to reach the finish line as fast as possible - they must also beat an opponent to the finish line. While the first Test Drive had only one type of scenery - brown rocky cliff - the second Test Drive contains many different types of scenery.

The cars featured were the Ferrari F40 and Porsche 959. The Musclecars add-on added the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray, 1968 Shelby GT500, 1967 Pontiac GTO, 1969 COPO 9560 ZL-1 Camaro and a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona. The Supercars add-on added the 1988 Lotus Turbo Esprit, Ferrari Testarossa, Porsche 911 RUF, 1988 Lamborghini Countach 5000S and a 1989 Corvette ZR1.

Due to its popularity, there were a host of add-on disks released for Test Drive II:

Test Drive II: The Duel Add-on Scenery Disk: California Challenge
Test Drive II: The Duel Add-on Scenery Disk: European Challenge
Test Drive II: The Duel Add-on Car Disk: The Supercars
Test Drive II: The Duel Add-on Car Disk: The Musclecars
Test Drive II: The Duel: The Collection

Test Drive III: The Passion (1990)

The third game in the series, released in late 1990, was completely new, featuring 256-color VGA graphics and a true 3D environment, albeit with simple objects and no textures. TD3 presented five sections of a California course, and each section offered multiple routes to the finish line. In addition, the player could drive off-road anywhere on the course map, as long as they didn't crash. Scenery additions included rain and snow, hills, farms, traffic lights, billboards, ponds and rivers, livestock, and cul-de-sac. Three cars were featured: the Chevrolet CERV III, Lamborghini Diablo, and Pininfarina Mythos. Only the Diablo was ever available in the real world; the other two were show cars.

While the environment in TD3 was far more realistic than the previous Test Drive games, the driving experience was notorious for being unrealistic and often uncontrollable. The speed of the game was dependent on the speed of the PC, with the intended speed exhibited on an 386 processor. Running on anything faster, the game clock would speed up - as fast as ten seconds game speed to one second real speed on a more modern PC. TD3 offered "radio stations" for the driver's listening pleasure, a concept revived in modern games like Grand Theft Auto III, but the music in TD3 was composed of MIDI instruments rather than digitally recorded soundtracks.

TD3 was only released on the PC; there were no other platform conversions. There was one add-on released, titled Road & Car. It added two cars: the Acura NSX and Dodge Stealth, and a New England course: Cape Cod to Niagara.

Test Drive 4 (1997)

The re-launch of the franchise came seven years later with Test Drive 4. TD4 was the first Windows game in the series. Unlike TD3, TD4 returned to linear, closed tracks where the player was no longer free to drive off the road. Test Drive 4 received the "Best in Show" award at E3, 1997.

Test Drive 5 (1998)

Hot on the heels of the success of Test Drive 4 came Test Drive 5. It was very similar to its predecessor but much more polished. It had a wider selection of cars, and although it sold over one million units, it received low ratings. It also featured a soundtrack including groups such as KMFDM, Fear Factory, and Pitchshifter. This soundtrack is still very popular and acclaimed among fans, making one of the better rock soundtracks in video game history. As in TD6, the console versions featured both instrumental and lyric versions of almost all tracks (as well as a hidden music video, Replica by Fear Factory).

Soundtrack Listing

01. Gravity Kills - Falling
02. KMFDM - Anarchy
03. Pitchshifter - Genius
04. Pitchshifter - WYSIWYG
05. Junkie XL - Def Beat
06. Fear Factory - 21st Century
07. Fear Factory - Genetic Blueprint
08. Gravity Kills - Falling (Dub)
09. KMFDM - Megalomaniac (Dub)
10. Pitchshifter - Genius (Dub)
11. Pitchshifter - Microwaved (Dub)
12. Pitchshifter - WYSIWYG (Dub)

The PC version of Test Drive 5 is multi player capable on a TCP/IP network.

Test Drive: Le Mans (1999)

For full article please see Test Drive Le Mans
This game focuses on the 24 Heures du Mans, the famous 24-hour race in the French city of Le Mans. The game was considered the best in the series so far, with colorful and detailed graphics, smooth frame rate, tight controls, good sound and audio, and enjoyable game play.

Test Drive: V-Rally

Originally, this title was first released for the PlayStation as Need for Speed: V-Rally 2 in the US. It was later ported over to the Sega Dreamcast as Test Drive V-Rally in the US. This title is a rally racing computer game and sequel to V-Rally. It was developed by Eden Studios and Atari Europe, and published by Atari Europe and Electronic Arts. However the European version of the Dreamcast game retained its original name V-Rally 2.

Although not directly affiliated to Electronic Arts, the game is incorrectly regarded as part of the Need for Speed series due to the use of the "Need for Speed" prefix, and Electronic Arts' effort to publish the American PlayStation version of the game. The following installment of the series, V-Rally 3 (2002), dropped the "Need for Speed" branding from its name altogether and is no longer tied to EA.

Test Drive Overdrive (2002)

Released as "Test Drive", this release kicked off the Test Drive series' life on next-generation consoles. It differed from its predecessors in that it featured a storyline. The game dropped the old techno rock selection from the older Test Drives and went to more of a rap orientated sound track featuring songs from artists such as DMX and Bubba Sparx. The intense crashes were almost taken away and there was a lot of slowdown even on the legendary San Francisco Hills from Test Drive 4 and 5.

Test Drive: Eve of Destruction (2004)

Eve of Destruction is reminiscent of the Destruction Derby games. The game is called Driven To Destruction in Europe. Players use a variety of visually recognizable vehicles (notably cars similar to a late-70's Chrysler LeBaron and Ford Maverick) in several methods of destruction derby-style racing. Included in the two-player mode is "Attack", where two players face off in a field or track in cars that have special ammunition: chickens with explosives tied around them, which can be fired at the opponent.

Test Drive Off-Road

A spin-off from the original franchise. Four installments have been released thus far:

  • Test Drive Off-Road (1997)
  • Test Drive Off-Road 2 (1998)
  • Test Drive Off-Road 3 (1999)
  • Test Drive Wide Open (2001) (played on three different locations: Moab Deserts, Yosemite and Hawaii)

Demolition Racer (1999)

A spin-off of the Test Drive franchise. Based on the Test Drive 5 engine, "Demolition Racer" is a destruction race with fantasy named-cars and wild in-game music. The game was released for the PC, PSONE and the Sega Dreamcast.

Test Drive 4x4 (1999)

Offered 21 vehicles including 10 licensed off Road giants: Land Rover, Dodge RAM, Jeep Wrangler, Ford Explorer and others, racing on locations including Hawaii, Switzerland, Morocco, and Wales. For each wining race, the player was awarded with points, later used to buy vehicle upgrades.

The game was denounced for its poor graphics and very unrealistic vehicle handling.

Soundtrack Listing:

  • Alive - Gravity Kills
  • Shock - Fear Factory
  • Black - Sevendust

Test Drive Unlimited (2006)

Released for the Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable, the new Test Drive features more than 125 licensed cars, including classic and modern cars, along with motorcycles. The game allows you to explore a fully-modeled version of the Hawaiian island Oahu. The game play is based around an MMO (also called MOOR, Massively Open Online Racing) style; each server has hundreds of players, free to create street races, buy cars from each other, or just roam at will around the island.

A free demo, playable for 15 minutes, was available for download on the Xbox Live Marketplace beginning May 8, 2006, to coincide with E3. The demo features 3 drivable vehicles to choose from: a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, a '67 Shelby GT500, and a Lotus Exige. The player is free to roam around a small portion of Oahu, practice racing, or challenge other online players to a race.

A second free demo was released on August 25, 2006. The demo offers a 60 minute time limit and offers four vehicles, a Ferrari F430 Spider, a Ford Mustang GT Coupe, an AC Cobra and a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. As well as offering new offline challenges, the new demo offered two multi player modes, and access to the MOOR system for free ride. The area of the demo has not changed. The previous demo is no longer available.

The full game was released on 5 September 2006 in North America and 8 September 2006 in Europe, on the Xbox 360. It received considerable critical acclaim and has proved to be an enduring favorite among many Xbox 360 players, despite occasional issues with its online server and trading systems (now resolved). Several downloadable car packs have been made available since the game's release. It also won fan support in North America for releasing at a price of $40, instead of the $60 that most Xbox 360 games cost at launch.

The Playstation 2 and Playstation Portable versions of the game were released on March 20, 2007. However, the PS2 and PSP versions have been reported to be missing many of the features of the Xbox 360 version. The PC version has been pushed back to March 29 in America due to many bugs.

Information Courtesy of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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