Let's talk about Test Drive

What is Test Drive?

Racing games have existed for a long time. Starting from Atari’s Gran Trak 10, released in 1973, racing games have evolved in many different ways, and several franchises, each with their own unique characteristics, have become extremely successful at entertaining players and car enthusiasts all around the world.
Today, we can count three particularly famous racing games series: Gran Turismo, Need for Speed and Forza. Everyone knows or has atleast heard about them, but they’re not the only racing franchises to have existed. Up until not too long ago, there was another racing franchise famous enough to worry the aforementioned ones, which has since been forgotten by most people. That franchise was called Test Drive.

The Origins

The Test Drive series has been around for a very long time, since the late ‘80s to be exact, thus making it one of the longest-standing series of racing games ever, and so far a total of 20 games have been released, with various degrees of success. Now, we’ll take a look at the past games, as well as the future of this once famous racing franchise!

Test Drive (1987)

The first game in the series, Test Drive, was released by Accolade way back in 1987. It was developed by Distinctive Software and was available for Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and MS-DOS, with Apple II and PC-98 ports being released later.

In this game, the player chooses one of five exotic supercars to drive it on a twisty canyon road. The objective was simply to reach the finish line (a gas station) in the shortest amount of time possible, while avoiding traffic, trying not to get pulled over by the police, wreck the car or blow the engine.
The game was a critical and commercial success and was praised by critics for it realistic (for the time) graphics, sound and physics.

The Duel: Test Drive II (1989)

Two years later, in 1989, Distinctive Software developed the 2nd game in the series: The Duel: Test Drive II, also published by Accolade.
While the core gameplay is the same as its predecessor, TD2 gave players the option of racing against the clock or another car controlled by the CPU. Different courses were also added.

TD2 was available for Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple II GS, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, MSX, ZX Spectrum, Atari ST, Sega Genesis and SNES. Non-console versions later received data disks which included more playable cars and scenery.

Just like its predecessor, TD2 was well received by both critics and players alike.

Test Drive III: The Passion (1990)

Unlike the previous titles, Test Drive III: The Passion was not developed by Distinctive Software. Instead, it was developed in-house by Accolade and released exclusively for MS-DOS in 1990. Because of this, TD3 was radically different from the previous games in the series.

It was noted for using a combination of bitmapped and polygon-fill 3D graphics and digitized car interiors instead of its precessors’ 2D sprite graphics. Racing options include nine skill levels, head-to-head competition against two computer-controlled drivers, time trials against the clock, and race against 1–3 other players, one at a time, on the same computer. The game was also among the first to have the concept of a free landscape, meaning that the player did not have to follow a preset road, with each section containing alternate routes and shortcuts for reaching the finish line. An add-on package, Road & Car, was available as a separate purchase and featured an additional road course and two new cars.

TD3 received good reviews and was regarded as a fine driving simulator and a well-designed package, with particular praise being given to the aforementioned Road & Car expansion.

Taking a break

Following TD3’s release in 1990, the Test Drive series went on a 7-year hiatus. The series returned in 1997, and not one, but two games were released that year.

Test Drive: Off-Road (1997)

Test Drive: Off-Road was the first spin-off from the Test Drive series. It was developed by Elite Systems and was published by Accolade (U.S.A.) and Eidos Interactive (Europe) in 1997. It was available for PC and PlayStation.

As the name implies, this game focuses around off-roading. The players are given a selection of off-road vehicles and tracks, as well as two different play modes: Class Racing, in which only vehicles of one type race, and Unlimited, in which all types of vehicles compete.

This game was met with a more mixed reception, but was nevertheless seen as the most acceptable of the “Hordes of mediocre off-road racing titles” that had come out at the time and, as of March 1998, it sold over 500,000 copies.

The Pitbull Era

Test Drive 4 (1997)

Test Drive 4 was released by Accolade for the PlayStation and PC in 1997, shortly after TD: Off-Road. It was the 1st game in the series to be developed by Pitbull Syndicate.

In this game, players have access to 14 exotics and muscle cars, of which only a few are available from the start, and their objective is to beat CPU-driven cars in point-to-point races set on several tracks based on existing locations. The players must also reach every checkpoint before the Checkpoint Timer expires, resulting in extra time. Additionally, police cars can pull over the player for speeding. In singleplayer, the player can participate in a Single Race, a Cup, or a Drag Race. The game also offers multiplayer.

Prior to TD4’s release, Accolade spent about $2,000,000 on a promotional campaing for the game. This huge investment eventually paid off: despite receiving mostly average reviews, TD4 sold over 850,000 copies as of March 1998. This, combined with TD: Off-Road’s 500,000 sold copies, made Test Drive the top-selling racing series at the time. Additionally, TD4 was republished under the Greatest Hits label in 1999.

Test Drive 5 (1998)

Test Drive 5 was pretty much the same as TD4, only with more cars, more tracks, circuit races and several improvements. It was developed by Pitbull Syndicate and published by Accolade in 1998 for PC and PlayStation.

TD5 received mixed reviews from critics and wasn’t as successful as its predecessor. In particular, the AI and the unbalanced gameplay were the most criticized aspects of the game.

Test Drive 4X4 (1998)

Test Drive 4X4 (sold as Test Drive: Off-Road 2 in the U.S.) was developed by Pitbull Syndicate and published by Accolade in 1998 for PC and PlayStation.

TD 4X4 used the same engine used by TD4 and is the sequel to TD: Off-Road.

It received mixed reviews, and was the last game in the series to be published by Accolade. In April 1999 Accolade was bought by French videogame company Infogrames Entertainment SA, and was renamed Infogrames North America.

Test Drive 6 (1999)

Test Drive 6 was developed by Pitbull Syndicate and published by Infogrames North America (U.S.A.) and Cryo Interactive (Europe) for PC, PlayStation, Game Boy Color and Dreamcast in 1999.

TD6 was the direct sequel to TD5, from which it inherited all of the tracks and game modes and most of the cars. However, it also featured new cars and tracks and, for the 1st time in the series, a proper Career mode with in-game currency.

TD6 received very mixed reviews on all platforms, with the sole exception of the PC version, which received mostly unfavourable reviews, and it’s easy to see why: the game was full of bug and errors that made it overly frustrating. The biggest problem was, however, the graphics; the cars’ modelling quality ranged from ‘ok’ to ‘awfully bad’, with some cars that barely resembled their real counterparts.

Still, despite its many problems, TD6 was a commercial success and is still loved and fondly remembered by many who grew up playing it.

TD Overdrive: The Brotherhood of Speed (2002)

The last Test Drive game developed by Pitbull Syndicate was TD Overdrive: The Brotherhood of Speed (simply called Test Drive in the U.S.), which was published by Infogrames for PC, PlayStation 2 and Xbox in 2002.

Just like the previous Test Drive games, TD Overdrive focused on illegal street racing, dodging traffic, and evading the police. However, compared to the half-disaster that was TD6, TD Overdrive is a lot more solid and polished.

This was the first game in the series to feature a proper story mode, in which players took control of a street racer known as Dennis Black who finds himself racing in an exclusive street racing club on the behalf of a fellow racer named Donald Clark, who had been injured during a race.

TD Overdrive was well received, with particular praise being given to the graphics, the sounds and the physics, and most fans still consider it as one of the best games in the series.

The End of the Pitbull Era

In 2003, Infogrames Entertainment SA officially reorganised its Infogrames Inc. U.S. subsidiary as a separate Nasdaq listed company known as Atari Inc., named its European operations as Atari Europe, renamed Infogrames Interactive, Inc. to Atari Interactive, Inc., rebranded Infogrames Australia Pty Ltd as Atari Australia Pty Ltd, renamed Infogrames Melbourne House Pty Ltd to Atari Melbourne House Pty Ltd, Infogrames UK became Atari UK, while Infogrames Entertainment SA became a holding company.

Test Drive: Eve of Destruction (2004)

Test Drive: Eve of Destruction (sold as Driven to Destruction in Europe) was radically different from the previous titles in the series, due to the fact it was based on the U.S. demolition derby circuit. It was developed by Monster Games and published by Atari for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 in 2004.

In this game, players compete in multiple racing events based on standard American demolition derby shows, such as standard demolition derbies and races. The game features an Action Mode, where players can choose what car they use and which kinds of race they want to participate in, as well as a Career Mode.

In the Career mode, the player starts as a new racer on the demolition derby circuit, and must work their way up the rankings by competing in Eves, events with scheduled races at one of the game’s venues. As the player progresses through the Career mode, they are able to purchase new cars and sell off old ones at a scrapyard; this is required as cars that are frequently destroyed during races have permanent penalties to their maximum health and stats, making them harder and less practical to drive. As the player progresses through the Career, new venues and events become open, which feature more races and harder drivers; the player’s final position in an Eve affects how much prize money they receive and how they rank on the circuit leaderboard.

Reinventing a genre

Test Drive Unlimited (2006)

In 2006 the Test Drive series went on to revolutionize the racing games genre, by incorporating MMO elements in an open world racing game for the first time.

Test Drive Unlimited was released in 2006 by Atari for the then-new Xbox 360, with PC, PS2 and PSP version following the next year. The X360 and PC versions were developed by French developer Eden Games, whereas the PS2 and PSP version were made by Australian developer Melbourne House, which resulted in the X360/PC and PS2/PSP versions being very different.

TDU was set in a vast open world, which consisted of a mostly accurate depiction of the real Hawaiian island of O’ahu with over 1600 km (1,000 miles) of drivable roads. Players could also, however, drive off-road, climb up mountains, etc.
The map featured many different accessible driving locations. Most notably:
•Car/Bike dealerships: One of the game’s many unique features, this is where players buy their cars. You can choose the rims, the color of the body and the color of the interior, but you can also take a look at the cars by opening their doors, starting their engine and even taking them for a test drive before purchase.
•Car rentals: Here players can rent a car for a limited amount of time, allowing them to take part in specific races without having to buy the required car.
•Houses: Another unique feature of this game. Players need to buy houses where to park their vehicles. There are many kinds of houses in the game, with various amounts of garage spaces. The bigger the house, the more expensive it is. Inside their houses, players could also access to the Trade menu, where they could buy/sell their vehicles to other players.
•Real estate agencies: This is where players buy, exchange or sell their houses. Players can also take a virual tour of a house before buying it.
•Tuning shops: When players need to upgrade their vehicle’s performance, they can go here. There are many tuning shops spread across the island, each specializing in specific brands.
•Paint shops: If you want to change your vehicle’s paintjobs you can go here. Tere are several paint shops spread across the island, and most of them only allow you to choose an official paintjob. The PC/X360 versions, however, also have a special paint shop, where players can paint their car in a completely custom color.

At launch, the game featured over 90 exotic cars and bikes from brands such as Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, Ducati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Spyker and many others, which are divided in groups ranging from A-G depending on their performance. The PS2/PSP version didn’t have any bikes, and also lacked some manufacturers, most notably Ferrari and Maserati.
Later on, the Xbox version received additional cars that could either downloaded for free or purchased as part of a pack, while the PC version benefited of a free patch that added two cars as well as the “Megapack” DLC, which added 45 cars and 1 bike to the game. Some cars remained exclusive to the Xbox version, though.

But the most important part of TDU was its multiplayer. TDU was considered a M.O.O.R. (Massively Open Online Racing), and it was the first game of this kind.
Players could meet thousands of other players in freeride, cruise alongside them, challenge them to a race, as well as create and join clubs.
In freeride, players could also turn off their car’s engine and/or roll down the windows. Players were also allowed to customize their avatar by modifying not just their clothing, but also their facial features and hairstyle.

There were various types of races in TDU:
•Race: Either a point-to-point or circuit race against other cars. Might include traffic and police.
•Lap knockout: A circuit race where the last car to cross the finish line at each lap gets eliminated.
•Time trial: Either a point-to-point or circuit race against the clock. Might include traffic, police and/or penalties.
•Speed: Players have to drive in front of several speed cameras at a certain speed. Might include traffic, police and/or penalties.
•Extra: These are only available on the PC/X360 versions of TDU. They can be either hitchikers, top models, vehicle deliveries or courier missions.

The X360 and PC servers were shut down on 29 September 2012, while the PS2 and PSP servers were shut down on an earlier date. On 28 September 2014, however, the TDU community launched a private server for the Microsoft Windows version of the game, called Project Paradise, which allows players to freely cruise around the island. Last year a mod called TDU Platinum was launched, adding over 800 new cars to the game.

TDU received very good reviews, with The Times stating that it came “closer than most games to re-creating the freedom of real life”, and is considered by many as a milestone in racing games history, with some even considering it the father of games such as The Crew and the Forza Horizon series.

"It comes closer than most games to re-creating the freedom of real life" -The Times

Test Drive Unlimited 2 (2011)

The sequel to the first TDU from 2006, Test Drive Unlimited II was released in 2011 for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Like its predecessor, it was developed by Eden Games and published by Atari.

TDU2 expanded over the first TDU’s concept in many ways. First of all, an entirely new island, Ibiza, was added to the game, along with a full 24-hour day-night cycle and dynamic weather; Furthermore, players were now allowed to literally walk inside their houses and customize them to their liking; Proper off-roading and off-road races were also added. TDU2 also added cosmetic damage to the player’s cars, which was absent in the previous game, as well as functional car washes and a vinyl editor.

Compared to TDU1, TDU2 also features a ‘story’ which sees the player take part in an international racing championship/TV show called “Solar Crown”, which takes place on Ibiza and O’ahu. During their career, players now also had to earn special licenses in order to take part to the races.

TDU2’s freeride mode received a few tweaks. First of all, a new system called F.R.I.M. (Free ride Instant Money) was added, allowing players to earn money during freeride by either drifting, jumping and dodging other cars. Secondly, players were now allowed to use their car’s indicators and open up/close off the car’s roof.

The online mode was also updated. When waiting for every player to be ready to race, cars of the other players can be examined. Additionally, players can ride shotgun in another player’s car.
But the biggest addition was the Casino DLC. TDU2 had a fully working casino, where players could play poker or use slot machines, with the prize being an Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI quattro or a Spyker C8 Aileron Spyder.

Unfortunately, due to either budget and/or time restrictions, a large chunk of the vehicle list and some planned features had to be cut. Among those features were the bikes, off-road bike races and, possibly, Dubai, as well as brands such as Maserati and Lamborghini. Eventually, three bikes were later added with the Bikes DLC. Due to licensing issues, the Ferrari 458 Italia was only available on the PS3 version.

The Exploration DLC added the ‘69 Dodge Charger R/T and the Lancia Stratos HF Gr.4 to the game, along with 20 new missions.

TDU2 was met with a very mixed reception. Some were enthusiastic of its many interesting features and huge amounts of content, as well as its vast open world; Others heavily criticized the game’s many issues, such as the cars’ unconvincing handling, the bad voice acting and, most importantly, the many bugs and technical issues which plagued the game at launch, especially in multiplayer. Despite numerous patches being released, these issues were never fully solved.

However, despite all of its problems, TDU2 was still a commercial success, and there are still lots of fans who regard it as one of the best arcade open world racing games ever.

TDU2’s online services were shut down in February 2018.

Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends (2012)

Developed by Slightly Mad Studios and published by Atari in 2012 for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends was another radical departure from the series’ original formula. Instead of focusing arouns illegal street racing with exotic cars on public roads, TD: FRL focused around racing on closed circuits with Ferraris.

This game focused on Ferrari’s history across almost all of the racing disciplines, including Formula 1, rally racing and sports car racing. Over 50 different Ferrari vehicles were available to drive, and each showed off extremely realistic and well-made interior and exterior models, as well as damage effects. The game was released in celebration of the 65th anniversary of the first Ferrari ever built, the 1947 Ferrari 125 S.

A total of 36 tracks appear in TD: FRL, both real and fictious, with some of them appearing in various historical configurations.

The game’s campaign mode is very reminescent of NFS: Porsche Unleashed’s career mode, spanning three eras in Ferrari’s history. The player can start their career in any era they want.

Perhaps predictably, TD: FRL didn’t perform exceptionally well, receiving mostly mixed reviews, with reviewers particularly criticizing the unbalanced and punishing campaign.

Ferrari Racing Legends was also the last Test Drive game ever made. Ever since its release way back in 2012, the Test Drive name has never been used again and what was once a famous series has slowly fallen into obscurity. Until now.

The Future of Test Drive

In December 2016 French company BigBen Interactive SA bought the rights to the Test Drive franchise from Atari, announcing their plans to reboot the franchise and release a new Test Drive Unlimited game. In 2018, BigBen also acquired French developer Kylotonn (KT Racing),with Roman Vincent, president of Kylotonn suggesting they were working on the next installment of Test Drive.
In 2020 several rumors started spreading about a possible TDU3. It all began when a French user uploaded a possible “leak” on Reddit. Around that same time, BigBen merged with sister company Nacon, adopting the latter’s name.

On March 3, 2020, Nacon’s head of publishing Beonit Clerc stated that KT Racing was working on their biggest project by far, which is, you guessed it, the next Test Drive Unlimited!

"We bought five companies. But they represent eight studios. The first company is KT Racing, Kylotonn. They’re based in Paris and Lyon. They’re specialized in racing. They’re doing off-road racing with WRC (World Championship Rally), and they’re doing two-wheel racing with Isle of Man TT. They’re currently working on our biggest project by far, which is the next Test Drive Unlimited game” -Benoit Clerc

On April 9, 2020, Nacon filed a trade mark to the Intellectual Property Office for Test Drive Solar Crown, suggesting that the new Test Drive game’s name might be Test Drive Solar Crown.

Finally, on July 1, 2020, a short glimpse of the new Test Drive game was seen during the Teaser Trailer for Nacon’s online event Nacon Connect, scheduled for today, July 7, at 7:00 pm CEST, suggesting that the new TD might be revealed there.

Two days later, on July 3, the official TDU Twitter account posted a 13-second teaser, confirming that the game will be indeed revealed today during Nacon Connect.

So it is confirmed that, after 8 long years, the Test Drive series is finally making its comeback! Hopefully, Kylotonn will be able to deliver a great game, capable of effectively bringing the series back on the radar, while also keeping the unique vibe that made the past TDUs soo good and enjoyable.

In just a few hours, the next Test Drive game will be finally revealed to us. Whether its name is Test Drive Unlimited 3, Test Drive Solar Crown or something completely different doesn’t really matter. If it has a large open world, a good selection of exotic machinery and everything that made TDU great i’ll be happy.

What is your opinion?

Below, you’ll find a link to the Nacon Connect event. Don’t miss it!


Myrmeko (#CTSquad)

My opinion is that this is so well written that i dunno why you don’t have a pro job at a gaming magazine.
Test Drive is definitely an interesting series.
I first came in contact with the series on the PSP, and i was quite blown away by the MMO capabilities of the PSP.

07/07/2020 - 12:48 |
3 | 0

I agree. The single fact that they managed to fit such a big game in such a small console is downright impressive

07/07/2020 - 13:04 |
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Regular Bloke

First of all this is a very professionally made article, so huge props to you for doing a wonderfull job.

Imo slightly mad didnt use the ferrari license to its fullest. Yes it features 50 cars from ferrari, but alot of them are cars you can find on other games…and sometimes thoose games are more enjoyable. There are alot of concept cars, coachbuilt cars and one offs that ferrari made, yet i barely see it in the game. You have cars like the f60 concept, mythos, rossa, 512s modulo, P4/5, 599 gtz. Those are cars thats not featured in your average racing games, so why not use it. With licensed racing games, most of the time its not about the racing itself but the car collecting. And i think slightly mad didnt really understand that…..or if they do, they just didnt do a great job at it. Other than that and the points you mention above, TD : ferrari racing legends is an okay game. Physics are very similiar to the shift series. And i dont think the campaign is too punishing, its just either boring or utterly random. The change of pace is sudden, one minute your driving the slowest car in the game, next minute youre thrown into the seat of a le mans racer. The visuals are good, nothing to write home about but its pleasing. And thats all i have to say.

07/07/2020 - 15:48 |
0 | 0
Mr. Kei (A Random Corolla) (ZoomZoomer32) (Käfer für i

Complimenti per l’articolo! Ho TD Eve of destruction (Driven to Destruction) ed è fantastico, specialmente da giocare con qualcuno in locale

07/07/2020 - 17:29 |
0 | 0

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